Is 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34
Nicknames are popular with people. Some of them are given to individuals just for convenience or humor. But often a nickname is a condense description of one’s outstanding qualities. Jesus too has some biblical nicknames. This morning I wish to reflect with you on two of those names given to Jesus that are found in the first reading and the gospel: The Servant and The Lamb.
The Servant: Jesus is the servant of God. “you are my servant, Israel” said the Lord. This servant is a messianic figure referring to Jesus and what an all-out servant he was! When you are in some serious trouble, not many would come all out to serve you.
There is a story of a man who had fallen into a well and was crying for help. A passer-by seeing the man in the well, said, “Life is full of sorrow!” and went away. Another passer-by went a step further and said, “if you are able to spring up to me, I can try to get you out,” but the poor man could not spring up to him. A third man came by the well, and on seeing him, actually climbed down into the well, took him out and brought him to safety.
Jesus served us all in that manner. He got himself personally involved in our redemption even accepting death on the Cross. But the “Servant of God” is more than a nickname because it challenges us to serve others as Jesus did. To be able to give a large part of oneself to others is the most satisfying thing in life. It is not always the talented ones who serve best, but the consecrated ones. We were consecrated to God and his people at our baptism, but do we live up to our consecration?
The Lamb: When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him he says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Now what does this image mean? Why does John call Jesus a lamb? It seems like such a soft symbol. Is John saying Jesus is cute and cuddly? Not at all. Anyone at the time of Jesus would know immediately the significance of a lamb. Lambs were associated with sacrifice. In the temple of Jerusalem lambs were killed to atone for the sins of Israel. So when John calls Jesus a lamb, he is pointing to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. A sacrifice which we believe atones for our sins and reconciles us to God. But what makes Jesus’ sacrifice effective is not that it is bloody but that it is motivated by love. And so calling Jesus a lamb is pointing to Jesus’ sacrificial love by which we are saved. We are called to imitate Jesus action, to live with sacrificial love.
Jim, had trouble deciding if he wanted to retire from the construction field, until he ran into a younger man he’d worked with previously. The young man had a wife and three children and was finding it difficult to make ends meet, since he hadn’t worked in some time. The next morning, Jim went to the union office and submitted his retirement paperwork. As for his replacement, he gave them the name of the young man. That young husband and father has been employed ever since. Behold the Lamb of God.
You had a tough day at school and yes today you have homework. Before you get to it, you are spending some time at the computer surfing the net. You notice through the window that your mother has just pulled into the driveway and opened the trunk. The trunk is filled with groceries. The bags look heavy, and your mom looks tired. Exhausted would be a better word. She gets that way after running around for hours. You turn back to the computer screen, but then you stop and you make a decision. You put on your coat and go out into the driveway and help her carry the heavy bags into the kitchen. Then you say to her “I’ll put these away. I know where they go.” Behold the Lamb of God.
She was only 27 and in the last month lost both her father and her mother. Her husband and she did not know how to cope with the loss. They never faced anything like this before. She was devastated and found it difficult at times to make it through the day. Her husband for his part felt keenly inadequate. He could not figure out what to do to lift her grief. Then the evening came for them to go and see the musical Wicked. They had bought tickets months ago. Two of the leads sang a song that reminded her of her mother and she began to weep. Suddenly her husband realized what his role was—to hold her hand, to have the Kleenexes ready, and to let her know that he would still be there when the music ended and the lights came back on. Behold the Lamb of God.
Every day you and I have opportunities to act with sacrificial love, to set aside our agenda and our priorities and to reach out to someone else in generosity and compassion. Every time we take up one of those opportunities, the Lamb of God continues to walk in our midst. Christ uses our actions of sacrificial love to continue to bless and heal. When we seize the opportunities that are presented, Christ continues to save the world through us.