Beginning to Encounter Christ
In the Gospel readings at Mass for the first three days of the year, we do not encounter Jesus speaking any words.
Then on January 4 we have the reading of John 1:35-42 where Jesus both appears and speaks for the first time in the Holy Gospel according to John. Several persons in the reading have their first encounter with Jesus.
John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
We have opened the New Year as disciples who are also following Jesus. The first thing he says to us for the year is, “What are you looking for?”
Then the two disciples in the Gospel asked him where he was staying. He responded as a commander.
“Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
Jesus did not say, “I want to stay with you,” nor, “I’m staying with so-and-so.” Rather, he commanded his would-be disciples to follow him, to stay with him. They stayed with him that day, but later the Gospel shows they stayed with him until the eve of his death.
We disciples can take Jesus’ command as a plan for us as well, a plan for the year, a lifelong plan, a plan of going with him, being with him, staying with him.
Of the two who were disciples of John but are now following Jesus, one was the brother of Simon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.
Simon the son of John comes before us for the first time in the Gospel, for the first time this year and for his first encounter with Jesus. Straightaway, Jesus changes the man’s full Hebrew name, “Simon the son of John,” to one new name, “Peter.”
In the Scriptures, only God, a king, or a person’s father bestows or changes the names of others.
In this Gospel reading, in this our first encounter with Jesus and his own words, he is already fulfilling the roles of commander, God, king and father.
Two other titles of his appear in this Gospel reading: Messiah or Christ (both meaning “anointed one”) and Lamb of God.
God, Commander, the Anointed One, King, Father and Lamb of God. All but the last of those titles name privileged and powerful roles. The last one, Lamb of God, foretells undergoing slaughter.
In the Gospel reading we are presently chewing on, John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God” [Jn. 1:36]. The day before the setting of this Gospel reading, John had seen Jesus approaching him at the Jordan River, and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” [Jn. 1:29].
Jesus the Lamb of God will take onto himself the sin of the world, undergo slaughter to atone for the sin of the world and redeem the world from its sin.
He is God, Commander, the Anointed One, King and Father to his disciples. Yet he is also the sacrificial victim animal willingly enslaved to redeem all the world.
In this our first encounter with the grown man Jesus this year in this Gospel, we already have both ends of the full span of his roles in our lives: God and slave.
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.
Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Dear Readers of “Turn. Love. Repeat.”
California where I reside had a new law go into effect on January 1. California Assembly Bill 5 forbids freelance writers, editors and photographers from providing more than 35 content submissions to a media organization per year unless the organization hires the freelancer as a salaried employee. Patheos is a media organization, and I am a freelancer. So now I must limit my posts to 35 per year, or 1 post about every 10 days. So as not to exceed my limit here at Patheos, I will post my “extra” pieces at my own blog, Monk Notes.