Apr. 7, 2014
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin!”
One of my favorite parts of spring are baby lambs. While my sisters and I were growing up, we raised sheep. When the lambs were born, we knew that we would become attached to them. We also knew that often they would be sold; either as breeding ewes or lambs to be slaughtered for meat. I know. It seems cruel to kill a cute baby lamb. But this was part of the deal in raising our lambs.
My sister Debbie and nephew Kevin continue the Deaton tradition of raising lambs. This year, they have a couple bottle lambs. This means the lamb’s mother died shortly after giving birth. Now, Debbie and Kevin have accepted responsibility to feed the girl and boy several times a day. When Rick and I were there recently, the lambs came running to the gate as soon as the door opened. They knew it was lunch time. They drink like there is no tomorrow. Even though it had been just a few days since losing their Mom, they already considered Debbie their Mom. They followed her around the pens, pleading for more milk and attention after their meal.
Lambs were an important part of the Jewish culture when Jesus lived. Many Jewish people earned a living as shepherds. It wasn’t a glorious job but someone had to do it. Because of their intimate knowledge of sheep and shepherding, Jesus often used sheep as a metaphor to help the people understand who he was.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus has barely begun his ministry when John the Baptist sees him and calls him the Lamb of God. This was a terribly profound statement. The Lamb of God is the one who takes on the sins of all the people. Before Jesus has performed a miracle, healed anyone or began to explain the Kingdom of God, John sees who he is.
Just like the orphaned lambs see who Debbie is. Their pseudo Mom. Their caregiver. Their source of nourishment. Their safe place in a world that turned out differently than anticipated when their Mom died. Yes, Debbie has limitations on just how much she can provide. But she is doing everything possible to make sure they grow up and become useful.
Jesus does everything possible so that we can grow up in our faith and become useful for God’s kingdom. Here’s the question: do WE see him as the Lamb of God? Do we follow him looking for regular nourishment? Do we stand at the gate, just waiting to see what Jesus will do with our lives? Do we see him as a safe place in this cruel world? I pray so.
Oh Lamb of God: thank you for taking away my sins. Thank you for wanted to nourish me, care for me, love me. May I see how you never leave me as an orphan. Help me see just how much you want to be my shepherd this Lent. Amen.
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The orphaned lambs.