Aloha Friday Message – January 17, 2020 – A Forever-First Ranking by God!

2003AFC011720 – A Forever-First Ranking by God!

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John 1:29-31 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb* of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
* Ἀμνὸς (Amnos) [am-nos’] a sacrificial lamb used for sacrifice; a young sheep without blemish, as a type of innocence, and with sacrificial connotation, especially a one-year old lamb.

May Peace always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd! Today’s message sort of picks up with the continuation of the story of the Baptism  of Jesus. You will remember (I hope) that last week we looked at the word Οὕτω[ς] (houtō and houtós) {hoo’-to[s]} like this, in this way, thusly. Today’s Key Verse happens shortly after that episode in Jesus’ and John’s life – perhaps as soon as the next morning after Jesus returns from the Temptation in the Wilderness. We are all also (hopefully) familiar with the expression, “The Lamb of God.” It is an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer. The expression is based on John’s proclamation and prophecy about Jesus in today’s Key Verse. Just before we hear the Lamb of God, the Priest breaks the Host and deposits a small piece in the chalice saying, “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to all who receive it.” Then all pray the Agnus Dei / Lamb of God. We can look at it in Latin to get a clearer idea of how the liturgical prayer is formed

Latin English
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
miserere nobis. have mercy on us.
Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
dona nobis pacem. grant us peace.

After we pray this together, the Priest elevates the fractioned host and chalice and says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to His supper.” If we look to a literal translation of the Latin Liturgy, it says “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi. Beáti qui ad cenam Agni vocáti sunt.” Directly translated, that means, “”Behold the Lamb of God, behold him, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

The use of a sacrificial lamb is described quite clearly in this passage from Leviticus 4:32-35 32 If the offering you bring as a sin offering is a sheep, you shall bring a female without blemish. 33 You shall lay your hand on the head of the sin offering; and it shall be slaughtered as a sin offering at the spot where the burnt offering is slaughtered. 34 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. 35 You shall remove all its fat, as the fat of the sheep is removed from the sacrifice of well-being, and the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar, with the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. (When the sin sacrifice is for a leader or a community, the animal used was a goat, hence the term “scapegoat” for atonement and acceptance – one to carry off the guilt of others.) This daily (morning and evening) sacrifice was for the atonement of the whole nation of Israel. In a way, it was a reinforcement of the Passover sacrifice which had procured Israel’s release from Egypt. Men carefully chose animals with specific characteristics – pure, without blemish, as one who is innocent – to be offered to God as a “sweet savor” before the Lord. (See Genesis 8:21) all of this prefigures the sacrifice of Christ as the Lamb of God; the Old Testament prophecies about him consistently point to his birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven at “the right hand of God ”

We find a prophecy about the Lamb of God in Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Reformatted for clarity. I urge you to see Isaiah 53 in its entirety, especially the Complete Jewish Bible [CJB]) In this passage, we learn two important aspects of Jesus’ life and mission. Jesus would be the Man chosen by God to be the sacrificial Lamb killed to atone for sin, and he would be the Suffering Servant as described in Isaiah 42:1–4, Isaiah 49:1–6, Isaiah 50:4–7, and especially in Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Who of us can read these passages and not weep with Love for the God who saved us through the death of his only-begotten Son?

    Now, it happens that this same passage is the one being read by the Ethiopian eunuch the Apostle Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to teach. You can find this story in Acts 8:26-40. If you’ll look at that passage you may notice that in some translations verse 37 is missing. In verse 36, the man says, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized? Some ancient manuscripts contain this for verse 37: 37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” This is sometimes cited as evidence one should believe before being baptized – Jesus’ message was indeed “Repent and believe the Gospel.

In Matthew 24:14 we read 14 And this good news [Gospel] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. In addition we read in the “Great Commission” (See Matthew 28:16–20), 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Being made Disciples means learning about Jesus’ life and learning about the Gospel.

There are more parallels that evoke this image of The Lamb of God in the Gospels about what God set forth in the Old Testament for atonement and what happened to Jesus in his Passion, particularly in the Gospel of the Apostle John. You may recall that when Jesus was condemned by Pilate, it was noon on the day for preparation for the Passover. (See John 18:28 and John 19:4) This was the same hour when the Priests would start the sacrificial slaughter of the lambs for the day of Passover. You may also recall that in John 19:36 we learn that Jesus’ legs were not broken. This parallels passages from Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 where God commands that the legs of the Passover lamb shall not be broken. More importantly, Jesus – as the chosen  Lamb of God – was chosen by God and not by men to be the sacrificial offering. Think back to Abraham, Isaac, and the trip to Mount Moriah. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son, reasoning in faith that God could even restore Isaac from death. As Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain, Isaac said “Father, the wood and fire are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” I recall once hearing that read in church, but hearing it differently. I heard, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering – my son.” Instead, the animal God provided was a ram whose horns were caught in a thicket. The Lamb that God provided was a Man who was fastened to a cross and held to it by LOVE. It was the LOVE of God that gave us the Son of God. It was the LOVE of God that gave us the Lamb of God. It is the LOVE of God that gives us Him “who takes away the sin of the world!” This Perfect, unblemished, holy, living, willing, innocent, venerable sacrifice was not sacrificed only for Passover, not only for Israel, but for THE WHOLE WORLD.

Now we have learned a little about John’s declaration, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John’s next statement is After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me. This almost sounds like a riddle worthy of Frodo Baggins, but it is, nonetheless, a profound theological statement. John knew that Jesus – Yeshua ben Joseph – was the Messiah, the Son of God, God made flesh. As God, Jesus was, and is, and will be eternal; therefore he existed – “came before” – John. He is ranked ahead of Jesus chronologically because he was – he existed, came into being – before John. This is a tricky phrase even in Greek because it’s in a weird tense: Second Perfect, Active Voice, Indicative Mood – γίνομαι (ginomai) {ghin’-om-ahee} → genonen. The best way for me to understand it is to think of it as meaning coming into being in a continuum of time, a manifestation that suggests motion from one state of being to another. Think of it as more than “to be” in the sense of “becoming.” Jesus is I AM. The Godhead all-inclusive is “always becoming Always.” I AM always is, always was, always will be I AM. Not only does Yeshua ben Joseph rank ahead of John chronologically, he also ranks ahead of John in acclamation of Glory. John had realized that this was his reason for coming to baptize for repentance, as well as his reason for announcing the imminence of the True Messiah, the Living Son of God. Jesus was the ONLY – and therefore of course first (and last) Son of God. The same can be said of our Mother, Mary – he was her first and last child. The Apostle Paul tell us he was the “firstborn of all creation” (See Colossians 1:15) “firstborn  from among the dead” (See Colossians 1:18) so that he might have “first place in everything.” Seen thusly (← Check it out!), Jesus is always becoming Always in All Ways and All things. He is God, revealed to us by the testimony – the martyrdom – of John. In God Eternal, he always ranks first among the Living because he creates the Living when creating Life which is the Way and the Truth.

Belovéd, is Jesus First always and all ways in our lives?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever

— at your service, Belovéd!
Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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