Introducing Jesus: Reflections on John 1:29-34

The lamb is the Suffering Servant. The title of Jesus as Lamb of God is reminiscent of one of the ways the Servant is described in the Servant Songs of Isaiah (42:1-9, 49:1-13, 52:13-53:12). There is debate over whether the Servant is an individual (Moses or Jeremiah), the nation of Israel, or a corporate personality (Brown, p. 60). However we identify him, Isaiah 52:7 tells us that the Servant, in his acceptance of his sacrificial death, is "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter." Craig R. Koester in Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community writes, "The repeated reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God (in John's Gospel) indicates that comprehending the significance of Jesus' sacrificial death is basic to understanding his identity" (p. 157)

The lamb is the Passover lamb. John is fond of Passover imagery in relation to Jesus' death. A number of details in his passion account seem to parallel the details of paschal lamb and Passover.

The time of Jesus' death corresponds to the time the priests began to slay the paschal lambs in the Temple for Passover (Jn. 19:14). The sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop raised to Jesus' lips corresponds to the hyssop smeared with blood of the paschal lamb to be applied to the Israelites' doorposts (Ex. 12:22). The detail that none of Jesus' bones was broken (Jn. 19:35) connects to the stipulation in Exodus 12:46 that no bones of the paschal lamb should be broken. As the Passover lamb, Jesus is the means by which we move from bondage to liberation as individuals and communities.

I suspect Susan's husband is not the only one who utilizes the "this is my wife Susan" social technique to get somebody to reveal his or her identity to them. I admit to having used the "this is my husband Murry" approach on many an occasion. It worked for John the Baptist, as he introduces Jesus: "This is the Lamb of God." It motivated two men wandering around looking for something, unaware they were looking for something, to follow Jesus and allow him to give them an identity as more than wanderers.

This is the one who will shape our identities if we choose to follow him. This is the one who is working against injustice and brutality in our world and in our lives. This is the one who was willing to sacrifice his life that we might have a new life and who calls us to sacrifice selfish aims and comfortable goals. This is the one who opens a path to that new life through choppy seas and roaring waves.

"Look! Here is the Lamb of God." And you are . . . ?

1/11/2011 5:00:00 AM
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  • Alyce McKenzie
    About Alyce McKenzie
    Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
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