“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Sunday we see how deeply biblical our liturgy is. John the baptizer refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, a phrase we hear every week at Mass. Just before communion we say “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Moments later the priest says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” This image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is profoundly biblical and reveals dimensions of Jesus which we often overlook.
The primary reference for the phrase is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed and whose blood was spread on the doorposts before the Israelites fled Egypt (Cf. Ex. 12). The blood of this lamb saved the Israelites from death and began their journey to freedom through the Red Sea. Likewise, Jesus blood shed on the cross, frees us from death and initiates our journey as disciples.
Another reference to the “Lamb of God” occurs in the suffering servant songs in Isaiah. A mysterious figure, perhaps the Messiah, is described as bearing the sins of the people and being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Is. 53). Jesus, especially on the cross, bears our sins.
The image of the Lamb reappears in the final book of the bible, Revelation (5-7). This Lamb appears as the one who brings about final victory over evil in the world. “They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings… “ (Rev. 17:14). Jesus is the one who ultimately defeats evil and ushers in the Kingdom of God.
Every Sunday at Mass, this biblical image reminds us of who Jesus is as our savior and the Lord of history. Behold, the Lamb of God!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood