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Gospel for Sunday, January 15: John 1: 29-34

II Sunday A

29The next day, John, seeing Jesus coming towards him, said: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold he who takes away the sin of the world! 30Here is the one of whom I said: After me comes a man who is ahead of me, because he was before me. 31I did not know him, but I came to baptize with water so that he might be made known to Israel.” 32John bore witness, saying: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from heaven and rest on him. 33I did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me: The man on whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. 34And I saw and testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 1: 29-34

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

In the Gospel of John the inaugural week of Jesus ministry is presented as a new creation.

The testimony of the Baptist marks the first three days (Jn 1,19-42). On the first day there is a negative testimony: the Baptist says that he is not the Christ but only the “voice of someone crying in the desert: «Prepare the way of the Lord!»” (Jn 1,19-28). On the second day he gives a positive testimony: who Jesus is (Jn 1,29-34). On the third day the Baptist sends the disciples to follow Jesus (Jn 1,35-42).

Dodd sees in this structure the explanation of what was stated in the Prologue of the Gospel: “A man came sent from God and his name was John. He came as a witness to bear witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he had to bear witness to the light” (Jn 1,6-8): first day: the Baptist was not the light; second day: he had to bear witness to the light, that is, to Jesus; third day: through him all could believe.

Some exegetes think that “lamb” in John is the erroneous translation of the Aramaic talyà (Hebrew: taleh), which would mean both “lamb” and “servant”. The Baptist would therefore have indicated the “Servant of God”.

But others object that Isaiah’s servant is the “ebed IHWH” (in Aramaic: abda) and there is no evidence of the use of talyà to indicate the Servant; nor is taleh ever translated amnos, lamb, in the Greek text of the LXX.

However, in Is 53,4-12 it is then said that the Servant takes upon himself (pherein/anapherein) the sins of the world. The LXX text translates the Hebrew nasà both with pherein (to take upon oneself) in Is 53, and with airein (to take away) as in John 1.29. The Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world by taking them upon himself.

So who is the “lamb of God” for John?

a) he is the suffering servant, according to the exegesis of the Eastern fathers.

1. Is 53.7 describes the Servant thus: “he was like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a lamb (amnos) before the shearers”. This text is applied to Jesus in Acts 8:38, and was well used in this sense in the early Church.

2. The Baptist has just used another text from Deutero-Isaiah (Is 40.5) to define himself.

3.In Is 61.1 the Spirit descends on the servant as in John 1.32. In Is 42.1 the Servant is “the chosen one in whom I am well pleased”, as in John 1.34.

4. Jesus is also described in terms of the Suffering Servant elsewhere in John (Jn 12.38 = Is 55.1).

b) he IS the Paschal lamb, according to the exegesis of the Western fathers.

John says that Jesus was condemned to death at midday on the eve of Easter at the time when the sacrificial paschal lambs began to be slaughtered in the temple (Jn 19:14). On the cross, a sponge soaked in vinegar is fixed for him on the hyssop (Jn 19.19): and it was the hyssop that was dipped in the blood of the lambs to sprinkle the doorposts of the Israelites, for their salvation (Ex 12.22 ). John sees the Scripture of Exodus 12.46 fulfilled in 19.36 which says that no bone of the Passover lamb must be broken.

In another Johannine work, the Apocalypse, Jesus is the sacrificed lamb (Rev 5.6-9; 15.3; 7.17; 22.1). Paul will say: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5.7), and Peter speaks of the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without blemish” (1 Pt 1.18-19).

In the Targum on Ex 1.15 Moses is compared to a lamb, as is Isaac (Gen 22.8: “God will provide the lamb”): and Isaac, according to the midrash, is sacrificed on Golgotha at the same time as Jesus.

c) The apocalyptic lamb.

The apocryphal “Testament of Joseph” speaks of a victorious lamb who at the end of time will destroy the evil of the world. Enoch 90.38 says that eventually a horned bull will turn into a lamb with black horns, over which the Lord rejoices. In the Apocalypse, the victorious lamb is the shepherd of peoples in 7.17, and crushes the evil powers of the earth in 7.14.

The symbol of the lamb is therefore full of meaning. Brother Francesco Bruno, Consolata Missionary among the Indians of the Raposa Serra do Sol in the State of Roraima, in Brazil, told me that when he wanted to translate the New Testament into the language of the Macuxì indigenous people, among whom are

I’ve been there several times myself, one of the most difficult problems was the translation of the term “lamb”. The Raposa people, in fact, have never practiced sheep farming, but only hunting and fishing. Brother Bruno had to have dozens of meetings with the tuxaua, the leaders of the various villages, to explain to them what a lamb was. And in the end the word was translated as a mild and non-violent person who sacrifices himself for others, canceling out sin, evil and the suffering of his brothers.

Pope Francis said: “The image of the lamb could be surprising; in fact, it is an animal that is certainly not characterized by strength and robustness and carries such an oppressive weight on its shoulders. The enormous mass of evil is removed and carried away by a weak and fragile creature, a symbol of obedience, docility and defenseless love, which goes as far as self-sacrifice. The lamb is not dominator, but is docile; it is not aggressive, but peaceful; it does not show its claws or teeth in the face of any attack, but endures and is submissive… What does it mean for the Church, for us, today, to be disciples of Jesus, Lamb of God? It means putting innocence in the place of malice, love in the place of strength, humility in the place of pride, service in the place of prestige. Being disciples of the Lamb means not living like a “besieged citadel”, but like a city located on a mountain, open, welcoming and supportive. It means not adopting closed attitudes, but proposing the Gospel to everyone, testifying with our lives that following Jesus makes us freer and more joyful.”

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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