January 19, 2020, Second Sunday of Epiphany. A reflection on John 1:29-42.
“The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” (v37)
It is the second Sunday of the Epiphany and we are still discussing and reflecting on things about the introductions and proofs that Jesus who was born in the manger on Christmas day, visited first by the shepherds and then by the wise men from the east is the messiah, the anointed one. That Jesus is one whom the Jews were waiting to come and save them from the bondage and oppression and poverty caused by the Roman Empire represented by the puppet rulers in Jerusalem, the Judea and whole of the region.
They followed Jesus, the Lamb of God.
A lamb is a sheep that is typically less than 1 year old. There is little fat on lamb, and the meat can vary in color from a tender pink to a pale red. It has been a traditional springtime food in the Middle East since Biblical times. It is appropriate to serve lamb for Passover, but rules govern the preparation, and are subject to various interpretations. On the other hand, the ancient custom of sacrificing lambs on the eve of Passover and eating the meat to begin the festival ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. Though as a mark of respect for the memory of the temple sacrifices, the eating of a whole roasted lamb on Passover is forbidden by the code of Jewish law called Shulhan Arukh, which was first printed in Venice in 1565. (Wikipedia and Florence Fabricant)
We read in Exodus 12 about the Passover meal with the lamb as the main dish for dinner in that night when God saved the people from the angel of death that took the lives of the firstborns of the Egyptians as part of the whole salvific act of God to His people Israel from the bondage of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Specific instruction and assurance is found in verses 7, 12 and 13 “to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs… On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
In this account in Exodus 12 we can immediately observe the meat or flesh and the blood of the lamb and the roles these two have had in that Passover night. Take note that in the next day they started to travel out of Egypt. The meat make them full and bodily ready for the journey. The blood of the lamb saved them from death and make their children, who will soon become the beneficiary and the next generation who would worship God and participate in the building up of the Israelite society, lived free.
When John proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God he was actually announcing and prophesying, before Jesus could announce it to his apostles and disciples, that He will be killed, slaughtered like lambs to save the people from sin and bondage of slavery from the Roman Empire. When Jesus during His Passover meal with the disciples broke the bread and said that it was His body and the wine to be His blood, He was actually claiming that he was the lamb – like the lambs of that Passover meal of the Israelites in Egypt. And truly enough, Jesus the lamb (of God) was slaughtered and His body was offered in the altar of death and his blood was poured out to the fertile soil of the liberation for the slaved people of Israel especially the anawim.
The disciples of John followed Jesus the lamb. Together with the apostles that Jesus called out they formed the band of men and women – the disciples who would later announce the good news of salvation, of liberation, of the revolution that Jesus started. Later on the disciples were also slaughtered like Jesus.
As a response to the manifestation of Jesus, as the epiphany emphasizes, the early converts and disciples followed him that way, the way of the lamb upon the cross. In the midst of the situation of humankind of today and in our individual and collective situations are we ready to respond to the epiphany of the Lord? Like the early disciples are we ready to follow Jesus, the lamb? I can still remember the song and the dance performed by Bishop Santiago Azaula after each Sunday mass that goes, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” Have we? Can we?
Until next for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
My reading includes https://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/23/garden/a-tender-lamb-dish-for-a-passover-seder.html, A Tender Lamb Dish For a Passover Seder, By Florence Fabricant