The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, 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 before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jn 1.29-37
Behold, the Lamb of God
By Jim Hagan
Throughout Holy Scripture we see pairs of characters where the younger excels beyond the older. To name just two such pairs: Abel offers a better sacrifice than his elder brother Cain and the latter kills Abel in a rage of jealousy. Jacob, born seconds after Esau, seeks to maintain God’s covenant while the latter is led astray by his wives and despises his birthright.
John the Baptist is forever paired with Jesus and, though his older cousin, John embraces his role as the last prophet of the Old Covenant and graciously makes way for the Lamb of God who will surpass him. Though later, when in prison, he has a touch of doubt (Luke 7:19), during his ministry John serves as the faithful herald of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. With the advent of the Messiah, John bows out as he declares, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30). Though John the Baptist is older, he recognized Jesus was before all as deity. (John 1:30)
John puts his money where his mouth is. He introduces two of his disciples to Jesus, the “Lamb of God,” and they transfer from John’s ministry to become disciples of Jesus. Jesus, in turn, gives much honor to John. He declares John is the “Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:14) prophesied in Malachi 4 and states “among those born of women there is none greater” than John. However, Jesus reveals the magnitude of the coming of His kingdom when he declares “yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater” than John. As we read further in the gospel narrative we see Jesus self-consciously declaring who He is. He is the “way, the truth, the life.” He is “the door,” and the “bread of life.” John knew there was nobody greater than Jesus and declared Him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This Christmastide may we echo John’s prayer that we decrease and let Jesus increase in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the world.
Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent, boldly rebuke vice, patiently suffer for the sake of truth, and proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord; who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen