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January 2017

Following the Lamb

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture Reference: John 1: 29 -42 

1929 Illustration by Clara M. Burd

1929 Illustration by Clara M. Burd

Preparation: Be ready to sing, with or without accompaniment, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” You may also bring an illustration of a lamb or a stuffed animal.

How many of you know the old nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb?” Can any of you help me sing the song? (Let children join in if they know it.) “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went… Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.” In the song, the little lamb follows Mary into the schoolhouse, the teacher makes the lamb wait outside and then the other students start asking questions. They want to know why that lamb loves Mary so much and follows her everywhere. And the answer is, of course, that it’s because Mary loves the lamb. This little song reminds me that we love God, because God first loved us. God’s love puts love into our own hearts.

In the Gospel reading for today, John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” And then, two of the first disciples, Andrew and Simon Peter, start to follow Jesus. It’s sort of funny when you think about it. Usually, a lamb will follow other sheep or the shepherd, or someone named Mary who loves the lamb very much. But here we have two men following the Lamb. Jesus, of course, is a grown man, not really a small sheep, but there are some important reasons why John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” And Jesus is called both the “Lamb of God” and the “Good Shepherd” because they both describe who Jesus is and how much Jesus loves us.

Here is one reason why Jesus is called the “Lamb of God.” In Old Testament times, before Jesus was born, people would take a lamb and they would make a sacrifice with the lamb to show God how sorry they were for their sins. They would go to the temple with a lamb and at the temple, they would say to God, “God we are sorry for the wrong things we have done. We place these sins on this lamb. We know that we should be punished for our sins, but we will allow this lamb to take the punishment instead.” And though it was very sad, they would kill the lamb and burn it on the altar. In this way, they were showing God that they wanted to get rid of their sins and be free from sin again. They knew that God did not want humans to be killed when they did something wrong; none would survive, after all. So a lamb was killed for the sins of a human.

This is why Jesus was sent to earth. He was sent to save us from our sins; sent to die in our place on the cross. And this is why John called Jesus, the “Lamb of God.” Even though John the Baptist did not know exactly what was going to happen to Jesus, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to call Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus came to save us from death and to bring us to eternal life. We follow a Lamb who saves us.

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