Monday, 28 November 2016

Jesus as Lamb of God

The Bible often calls Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’. Why?
     It starts with an annual Jewish ritual designed to remove the people’s sin. Once a year, the High Priest sought to deal with the people’s sins and thereby pacify God. He did so by sacrificing a young animal. He prayed, asking God to transfer his own sins to a young goat. The high priest let loose this, the 'scapegoat' into the wilderness but only after he had symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head (Lev 16:8, 10:26). This is where the phrase ‘scape goat’ comes from.
      Having made himself sinless, the High Priest was now sufficiently  clean in himself to bring about the bigger sacrifice. Therefore, next and in another prayer, he asked for the people’s sins to transfer symbolically to a lamb. The ‘Lamb of God’ had to be spotless and absolutely perfect. The High Priest slaughtered the Lamb of God, and poured its blood on the altar. He described its blood as an ‘atoning sacrifice’. This was the Jewish festival of ‘Yom Kippur’, the ‘Day of Atonement’.
      The Bible often describes Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. For example, in St John’s Gospel, the very first time we meet Jesus is when his cousin John the Baptist describes him as ‘the Lamb of God’. By calling Jesus the Lamb of God, the Bible means that our sins are transferred to him from us. In this way we become sinless because he accepts our sins. 
The concept of Jesus being the Lamb of God is mentioned often in each service we hold in Church:

(1) During the Gloria, we praise God together, listing his titles and the wonderful things he has done. Near its end, we address Jesus as:
 Lord God, Lamb of God …

(2) After the Eucharistic prayer and before the distribution of the bread and wine, we say (or sing) the ‘Agnus Dei’. This phrase is Latin, and literally means ‘lamb of God.’ The Agnus Dei has two forms. The shorter version says,
Jesus, Lamb of God: have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world: give us peace.
In this version, the second and third lines help explain the phrase ‘lamb of God,’ using the related phrases, ‘bearer of our sins’ and ‘redeemer of the world.’
The slightly longer version of the Agnus Dei says,
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.

(3) Immediately after we say the Agnus Dei, the priest holds up a piece of consecrated bread and says:
Jesus is the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world.
In these and so many other ways, we are saying that we need to be
forgiven, and that Jesus is the means by which that forgiveness is achieved.

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