After we give the sign of peace and before we kneel for communion, there is a beautiful hymn called the Agnus Dei. “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”
When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he knew what was to come for Jesus. When he called him the Lamb of God, he wasn’t saying that Jesus was gentle and humble. He was proclaiming that Jesus was destined to be sacrificed as an sin offering.
To understand what exactly John was talking about, we have to go all the way back to the time of Moses, when the feast of the Passover was established. The last plague that God brought upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt was the death of all the firstborn sons. The ritual of the Passover called for a male lamb without blemish, killed in the evening. The people would then feast on the lamb’s flesh and the blood of the lamb would be sprinkled all over the doorposts so that the Angel of Death would pass over and leave the firstborn sons of that household alone.
There are many instances where Jews would offer lambs and other animal sacrifices in atonement for our sins. The lamb is unique because lambs don’t resist, run away, or cry out in pain. The problem, however, was that even with all these sacrifices, humanity was still separated from God. The sacrifices were imperfect because the sin was caused by a human being and only someone who is both a perfect human being and a divine being could bridge that gap. No human alive could work as a perfect sacrifice, so how can man ever be reconciled with God again?
The answer, of course, is Jesus. Take note of where the verse from the Gospel takes place. It’s out in the river Jordan, out in the desert, but also, more importantly, outside of the temple in Jerusalem. By preaching outside the temple, John is establishing that the animal sacrifices in the temple will become a thing of the past. Then comes Jesus, who John calls the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice.
How can this be, you ask? Jesus is both God and Man. He is fully human and fully divine. Crazy, I know. And definitely mind-blowing, in my honest opinion. As someone who is human in all ways except sin, Jesus can share in humanity’s sufferings and sins and take them with him as he carries his cross. As someone who is also fully divine, Jesus is able to forgive sins and also acts as the priest who offers himself as the sacrifice. Like the Passover lamb, he was killed under a darkened sky, his blood was shed so that we may not die for our sins, and we feast on his flesh to honor his sacrifice. Like the priest who offers the sacrifice, Jesus asks for the forgiveness of all those who sin.
When Jesus gave his life up on the Cross, the temple veil that covered the Holy of Holies, the presence of God within the Temple, was torn from top to bottom, symbolizing the fact that man and God are no longer separated.
For this Bible study, I have a challenge for you: Spend some time with the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. Whether it’s for five minutes, fifteen minutes, or a whole hour, I want you to take what you’ve read and meditate on it in the presence of Jesus.
God bless, my sisters in Christ!