Upon seeing Jesus in John’s Gospel (1:29-42), John the Baptist says, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The phrase “Lamb of God” echoes throughout our worship and rolls off our tongues with ease. But does it stand the scrutiny of our intellect?
When John called Jesus the Lamb of God his disciples would have, no doubt, thought of the story of Exodus and the sacrifice of sheep so that the blood could be painted on the doorposts, tricking the soldiers into thinking they’d already been and done their worst at that household. Thus, what’s remembered at the Passover. John’s disciples might have thought of the daily sacrifice in the temple of a sheep for the sins of the people.
One thing that would not have occurred to John’s disciples is that God would require a human sacrifice. In fact, many would have doubted that God required animal sacrifice at all. Yet, hardly a Sunday goes by that we don’t sing (or say) the Agnus Dei.
The sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, is not a requirement of God, nor some necessary thing to achieve salvation for us humans. The sacrifice of Jesus is not desired, nor required, by God. Neither is it inevitable. Yet, we humans put God, in Jesus, to death. How odd it would be if this act achieved salvation. It does not. God’s love brings our salvation. God’s emptying of God’s self brings us salvation. God’s willingness to die for (an because of) us, brings salvation. This is good news.
But-you-know, Jesus continues to die a little every time we choose something other than love and forgiveness, something other than mercy and justice. And-you-know, Jesus is born fresh in us every time we choose love, forgiveness, mercy and justice. This too, is good news and stands the scrutiny of our intellect.