|Baptism of Jesus (Ende c. 937)|
Over the Christmas season and into the first weeks of Epiphany, the Lectionary readings bring to our attention a deep connection between Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. The readings for this week continue to build this bridge between Old and New Testaments. The passage from Isaiah sets out a much larger divine plan than previous prophets proclaimed. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations”. God’s love is no longer to be confined to the Children of Israel. He has called Isaiah to a far more ambitious prophecy, so that “My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
|Apostle Andrew -- De Zurbaran|
In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and declares “Here is the Lamb of God”. The expression 'Lamb of God' is now so well-worn, it is easy to miss the religious implications of this extraordinary metaphor. It too forges a connection between past, present and future, and it does so by means of two powerful resonances deeply engrained in the consciousness of the Jews. One is the memory of the Passover Lamb, the sprinkling of whose blood on the doorposts played a key part in the Israelites' liberation from slavery. The other is the Suffering Servant of the book of Isaiah, who is led like a Lamb to the slaughter. Thus with the use of this single image, John the Evangelist conveys the spiritual intensity that enables John the Baptist to penetrate the true significance of Jesus long before others manage to do so.
This Gospel passage takes the bridge building a step further, however. Among the first to hear John’s metaphor are Andrew and Simon. It is given to the otherwise undistinguished Andrew to grasp the truth and tell his subsequently much more distinguished brother “We have seen the Messiah” – the “Anointed” for whom, as devout Jews, they have been taught to yearn since infancy. Together they take the first hesitant steps on a new spiritual journey. It is a journey that will bring them first to the disillusionment of Passiontide before the total transformation of Easter that equips them both for martyrdom.