Today’s passages: Isaiah, chapters 60-62; John, chapter 1
Scripture: John 1:29-37 (NRSV) – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Observations: There are a couple of things that catch my attention in this passage today. First, John identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This is a clear declaration, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, that Jesus’ mission is not to conquer the Roman government, restore the dynasty of David to the throne, or engage in any other such political activity. His mission is to take away the sin of the world.
We know that, of course, but what strikes me today is the combination of John’s declaration with Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 61 – a prophecy that Jesus later would apply to himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty for the captives, and to release the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1; see Luke 4:16-21 for Jesus’ application of this prophecy to himself). The reason that this strikes me is because there is obviously a connection between what Isaiah said the “good news” would be – the end of oppression, comfort for the brokenhearted, liberty for captives, and release for prisoners – and John’s testimony that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. We must not lose sight of the fact that the good news which Isaiah proclaimed must flow from the forgiveness of sin that Jesus came to bring. We cannot talk only about forgiveness, while ignoring God’s call to bring freedom and comfort and release and justice; nor can we be content to work for those things while ignoring the fact that sin is the overriding problem of our world. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the rest of the good news that Isaiah proclaimed only results from the forgiveness and cleansing that Jesus offers.
The other thing that catches my attention is that, after John makes his great declaration that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (vv 29-34), when he sees Jesus the next day, he again says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” It’s clear that he recognized that his calling as the “forerunner” did not end with one declaration; his call to announce that God’s Messiah had come would continue until the day he died. Even with his own disciples – presumably people who were close to him – it is almost as if he’s “pushing them out of the nest” and telling them to go follow Jesus. And that’s exactly what they did.
Applications: God is reminding me today how important it is to stay focused on and committed to our call to be witnesses to Jesus. It is easy for us to get distracted by other things – other causes and activities that may seem important, but which pale in comparison to the call to proclaim Jesus. He is also reminding me that the good news which we proclaim has some tangible results in people’s lives: the end of oppression, comfort to the brokenhearted, liberty for the captives, and release for the prisoners. It’s not enough to just “think good thoughts” for people; Jesus calls us to be his hands and feet in ministering to them in his name. Our lives must bear witness to the claim that the coming of Jesus is “good news.” Finally, God is reminding me that our call is not “satisfied” by proclaiming Jesus once; we’re called to keep announcing the good news, by our words and our actions, as long as we’re here.
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me that the call to proclaim the good news does not end; all of us are to be witnesses to Jesus every day. Help me today to live and to speak in ways that proclaim that good news. Help me to bring comfort to the brokenhearted, liberty for captives, and release for prisoners, so they may experience the good news the way that you intend. Guide me in your paths today, so I may be a faithful witness to Jesus. Amen.