15 January 2011

Behold, the Lamb of God

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Baptism of Our Lord has manifested the Glory of God in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, conceived and born of Mary. It testifies who He is, and what He has come to do. This Self-revelation and Self-giving of God in Christ is the Lord’s divine glory, His gracious rescue of poor miserable sinners: For the Father’s Son has been anointed by the Holy Spirit in His own body of flesh and blood, for the sake of our salvation in body and soul.

The Lord Jesus is the Son of God from all eternity, begotten of the Father — God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God — of one and the same substance as the Father. But so is He now also the Son of God in His true and perfect Manhood; for He is the Image God in His flesh.

He thus establishes His divine Sonship in your place, in order to share it with you by His grace.

Likewise, He and the Holy Spirit are one God with the Father, from all eternity to all eternity, but now He has been publicly and bodily anointed by the Holy Spirit in His human flesh and blood. This anointing is His ordination as the Christ (or Messiah), whereby He enters upon His unique Office as your Savior and Redeemer. That is His vocation and His good work of faith and love.

As the Spirit rests and remains on Him, from the waters of His Baptism with the Word of God the Father, so does the same Spirit now rest and remain on you who have been baptized with water and the Word of God in the Name of Jesus Christ.

His Holy Baptism and His flesh and blood are the Anchor that bind His Spirit to your Baptism and to your flesh and blood through the Ministry of the Gospel.

This is how He reveals Himself and gives Himself to you.

Yet, He does so in such an unassuming form — in human flesh and by ordinary earthly means — in voluntary weakness and humility, unto His Cross and Passion — so that you are not able to recognize Him, nor are you able to receive Him and believe in Him, except by the Word and Spirit of God: the same Word and Spirit that sanctify the waters of your Baptism (and sanctify you).

It is by the Word and Spirit of God, attached and connected to the waters of Baptism, that St. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus for who He is, and knows Him and believes in Him. And so also, by baptizing in water with the Word and Spirit of God, St. John manifests Jesus to Israel — and you.

The preaching of this Holy Baptism is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; which is the preaching of Christ Jesus — and that is the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection: His Exodus out of Egypt into Canaan, out of slavery into freedom, out of death into life.

His Baptism puts Him into your tomb, in order that your Baptism would put you into His heaven.

To preach this Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified One, is to proclaim Him the Lamb of God: the true Passover Sacrifice and Meal; the firstborn, well-beloved Son of God, given as the substitutionary Sacrifice for the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also for all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. He is the Sacrifice for you, and for your sons and daughters, and for your grandchildren.

He is the Sacrifice of redemption and atonement, whose blood pays for your sins, cleanses you, and protects you from death and the devil; whose flesh feeds you, nurtures and sustains you, and fills you with Himself and His Holy Spirit.

He is the Sacrifice of propitiation for all sins, for the reconciliation of the whole world to God.

And as the Sacrificed One, His flesh and blood are the Meal and the means of fellowship with God, and so also of His whole Church with Him, with the Father and the Spirit, and with one another in His One Body: the Holy Communion.

By the Ministry of His Gospel, by those whom He calls and sends in His Name — as St. John the Baptist was called and sent in his day — by preaching and teaching, by baptizing, by absolving and communing, the Lord Jesus reveals and gives Himself to you. As the Christ, the Lamb of God, He takes away your sins, sanctifies you by His Spirit, and feeds you with Himself by this Ministry.

This is the special authority and teaching of your Rabbi, who gives you not only the knowledge of names and dates and facts and information, but the true and intimate knowledge of Himself — the way the Bridegroom and His Bride are given to know each other in their life together.

As you hear and follow His voice in the preaching of His Gospel and in the catechesis of His Word — as you are united with Him in Holy Baptism, and you are daily returned to the significance of your Baptism through contrition and repentance, through faith in His forgiveness — and as you abide in and with Him, and He abides in and with you in the Holy Communion — so are you with Him where He is. You live with Him, and remain with Him, and His Spirit rests and remains upon you, in all of your callings and offices.

That means that you share and carry His Cross, in faith and love, in whatever particular place He has put you, in relation to the people He has situated around and near you in your life on earth.

As a disciple of Christ Jesus, by virtue of His Baptism and ongoing catechesis, you are anointed by His Spirit to live with Him, and to live in love for your neighbor: on the one hand, by serving the needs of his or her body, just as you care for your own body, and as you desire others to love and serve you; and on the other hand, by confessing the Gospel to your neighbor, so that, like Andrew, you would bring your brother or sister to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the life that is in Him.

Does that seem daunting or impossible? Perhaps naive and unrealistic?

It is not.

In all that you do, wherever you are in the world, you live in the Body of Christ, in His flesh and blood, and His Spirit lives in you — by and with the Gospel. God is your dear Father, you are His dear child, and His Church is your true home and family — on earth now, and in heaven forever.

All of this under the Cross of Christ — in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection.

Your good intentions, sincere efforts and hard work may seem pointless, and often as though it were all for nothing. Your blood, sweat and tears may weary you to the point of giving up, and your suffering may tempt you to despair or to harshness and hardness of heart.

But what you do and suffer in faith and love is not in vain. Nor do your sins and failings rob you of hope. Because the Cross of Christ has borne all your griefs and sorrows, and His Resurrection is your forgiveness, your vindication, and your righteousness.

His Cross is your Atonement, not your damnation. As you are bound to Him in His Passion and death by your Baptism into Him, so is He bound to you by His holy Name, by His Word and Spirit, by His Baptism, and in His Resurrection from the dead. He has not left you, but He is your surety, your freedom, and the place where you belong.

If you seek Jesus and want to know where He is, and if you would be with Him where He is, come here, and you will see.

Not by accident do we sing the Agnus Dei at the heart of the Holy Communion. When the Lord Jesus has spoken — “Take, eat; this is My Body,” and “Drink of it, all of you; this is My Blood” — not only does He make Himself known as the Lamb of God, who takes away your sins and the sins of the whole world, but He actually gives you Himself, His flesh and blood, to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of your sins, and for fellowship with Him, now and forever.

In this free forgiveness and fellowship of Christ is the Glory of God: for you and your salvation. Here there is perfect peace and rest, in and with the same Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, your Savior; perfect peace and rest, such as the world does not know and cannot give — but He does.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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