John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).
The unblemished lamb is the animal that is sacrificed at the Passover meal, commemorating when the angel of death passed over the Hebrews whose doorposts were marked with the blood of the lamb. The next day they were freed from their slavery under pharaoh, and the exodus event began culminating in their passing through the Red Sea to freedom.
The Son of God became the Lamb of God as he became human. He experienced laughter, pain, suffering, love, tears, and temptation, but he did not sin. The only one who can take away sins is God. The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, while remaining fully divine, became human so that what he took upon himself in his human condition, he redeemed. As the Lamb of God, Jesus approached John for baptism. He took upon the sin of the world and submitted his divinity to his humanity and was willing to be baptized as a foreshadowing of his crucifixion on the Cross, the Lamb slain in atonement for our sins.
The act of the Incarnation, becoming fully human while remaining fully divine, was the premiere act of mercy, in that Jesus entered the chaos and woundedness of our lives. He did so for each and every one of us, to be one with us, to understand and experience our struggles, our temptations, and to lead us to freedom from our sin, from our turning away from his Father who only wants the best for us, who loves us so much he is willing to let us reject him.
Alone we cannot be redeemed, we cannot be fully healed or restored to who we have been created to be. We need a savior. Jesus is more than a model to follow or a teacher to guide us, he became one with us in our humanity to lift us up out of our brokenness. In saying yes to his invitation, we can say with Paul, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is the gift we have received again this Christmas, access to the divine power of the Love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus holds his hand out to each one of us today. May we receive his hand in our own, and as our fingers touch his palm may we feel the wound there, embrace the remembrance of the nail that pierced his flesh, the pain that he endured, so we could have this very moment with him. Even in our brokenness, anxiety, confusion, fear, and sin, may we resist pulling away. May we feel the warmth of his hand grip ours, let his wound heal ours. Let your gaze be drawn up to see his face, his smile, his forgiveness, his love.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Behold the Lamb of God who takes away our sin and restores us to life.
Photo: Statue of Mary and Jesus on the front grounds of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, CA