Isaiah 49.3,5-6 I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth
1 Corinthians 1.1-3 May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace
John 1.29-34 ‘Look: there is the Lamb of God’
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’. (John 1.29)
Come and see; see then go.
The Christian life is the response to the invitation to ‘come and see’ and the commission to ‘go and tell’.
This dynamic lies at the heart of today’s gospel reading.
We come to see Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God; we go and tell of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
John the Baptist announces his presence.
Jesus issues the invitation, ‘come and see’.
Andrew, the disciple, goes and tells, and extends first to his brother, Peter, the invitation to come and see.
John the Baptist says it: ‘Look. See. Behold. Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’. (John 1.29)
What an amazing, rich, pregnant phrase.
To John’s first hearers, as to us, there is a lot going on there.
First, there is the shock that God can be seen; it’s scandalous, a stumbling block to some of Jesus’ hearers.
In the Old Testament, and to Jewish people of the first century, God cannot be seen; or at least no one lives to tell the tale.
But the desire to see God is still there, and articulated in Psalm 27, ‘My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’. (Psalm 27.8).
This desire is satisfied in Jesus Christ, who is ‘the likeness [εἰκὼν (eikōn)] of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1.15) who says of himself, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14.9)
The second shocking thing to his contemporaries is John’s use of the term ‘Lamb of God’ for a person.
The lamb in the Old Testament is the sacrificial animal slaughtered in the temple.
The blood of lambs is marked on the doorposts of the Israelites on the night of the Passover.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant who is led ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’, a text that Christians have identified with Jesus Christ from the very beginning (cf Isaiah 53, esp. v7).
So, two points for us now.
First, that we see the image of the God we cannot see made visible in the face of Jesus Christ.
Second, Jesus comes to us as the one who takes away our sins, not through the sacrificing of the lambs but through his own, life-giving, death.
This mystery lies at the heart of the Eucharist; the bloodless sacrifice.
We ‘come and see’ the Lamb of God; and – meeting the Lamb of God - we ‘go and tell’.
The words at the very heart of the Eucharist touch on this, ‘O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us’.
Those words are sung when we have heard Jesus’ own words - ‘this is my body; this is my blood’ - and we are invited into the life-giving mystery of his sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
And then the invitation to come, and taste, and see.
Holding the consecrated host, the Bread of Life, the priest declares: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb’.
What an invitation.
An invitation to share in the inner life of God the source of life.
So we respond, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed’ (cf Matthew 8.8; Luke 7.6).
‘Behold the Lamb of God’: it is so much more, even than seeing or looking.
‘Behold’ is such a rich word.
If you were looking at your phone, not that anyone would be now – I hope! – or watching TV you would not be beholding.
Beholding is not just gazing at something; it also means taking hold of what you see, literally and figuratively.
We see Jesus, the Lamb of God, in his broken body; we receive Jesus, the Lamb of God, in our hands; we hold and behold him.
‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory’ (John 1.14)
The Word, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, lies in our hands and we see his glory. We cradle him. We cherish him. We behold him.
Seeing Jesus Christ improves our beholding of the creation: the people, the creatures, the landscapes and oceans that God creates.
We come to see the world as a gift to us, itself to be cherished.
Good beholding means we pay attention.
The evangelical call to see, to look, to behold is so relevant today.
But we say ‘come and see’ in a world full of visual distractions.
Heads are buried in phones and tablets; people fail to look up and see.
When we behold, then we come nearer and see deeper.
As Jesus says to Nicodemus he says to you and me, ‘You will see greater things than these’ (John 1.50b)
Can you say with John the Baptist: ‘Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God’ (John 1.34)?
Will you go, like Andrew, and tell of what you have beheld in Jesus Christ?
‘And we have seen his glory…’ there is the invitation; there is the commission.