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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today’s Reading | John 1:29–34

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! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (NRSV)


There is a lot of strife and ugliness in our world. Suffering is not limited to only bad people who commit violence on others. “Bad things happen to good people” is trite but, unfortunately, true. I do not believe that our misfortunes or pain result from inherent sinfulness. So what does John mean by “the sin of the world?” Perhaps the answer is as simple as “all the ugliness and strife” that happen or that we humans inflict on one another. If so, John also hopefully asserts that the Lamb of God “takes away [all of this] sin of the world.”

“Takes away the sin of the world?” Really? Obviously ugliness and strife still abound, but God has offered amelioration, compensation, or a substitution through the Lamb of God, whom John also identifies here as the Son of God. The imagery the Gospel writer uses of a dove descending as he envisions God’s presence through God’s Son comfortingly evokes gentleness, purity, and peace.

There is another subtle but related point in the passage, contained in verse 31: “I came baptizing with water that he might be revealed to Israel.” Israel, of course, is God’s covenant people, whom God chose, nurtured, guided, and treasured over the centuries. Jesus represents God’s new covenant for and with all people. Lent is an opportunity to reflect on that covenant and to renew our relationship with God.


God, help me to confront the sin of the world with an image of your Spirit at work, as a dove of gentleness, purity, and peace. Thank you for the new covenant. With the help of your Spirit, deepen it. Amen.

Written by Rebecca Dixon, member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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