A Reflection on John 1:29-51
A very wise friend of mine told me of a habit he practices while reading scripture. He said that whenever he encounters the word “behold” he pauses. He closes his eyes or finds a way to stop from reading ahead and he prepares his mind and heart to behold what he will read next. It may sound like an odd habit, but it makes tremendous sense.
In our conversations today we rarely capture the concept of “beholding” something. According to the Webster’s Dictionary behold means “to perceive through sight or apprehension.” Now, we can call people’s attention to something by saying, “Hey, look over there!” We can let someone know something is important by using strong adjectives. But rarely do we capture the essence of calling someone’s entire attentiveness to something so that they can perceive it through apprehension, or in other words so that they may grasp or understand it. This is why my friend pauses before he reads past the word behold, because he knows that he is not just being called to notice something, but to grasp it, to understand it. Then to hold it, not just in his sight, but also in his heart. What a powerful command!
This powerful command is exactly what our disciples in this gospel passage heard. John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29 & 36). Can you hear it?
Behold! Look over there, and don’t get distracted. Listen carefully to what I’m about to say, because it will change the world as you and I know it. Behold …. the Lamb of God.
What I wouldn’t give to be standing on the shore of the Jordan, hearing John say that, as my head and heart raced to catch up with what John had just said about this itinerant rabbi.
Now, here is the kicker.
I can be there,
I am there,
And we can all be there.
I’m not just talking about allowing a prayerful mindset to take me into that scene, but rather I’m talking about when I’m kneeling in Mass and the priest commands the entire congregation, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” … Welcome to the Jordan, You are there, hearing John say “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World” (John 1:29) because Jesus is approaching.
Shortly after we hear that command we come forward to the Lamb, maybe just as bewildered and confused as the apostles. Maybe we’re wondering where He is staying, is it really Him staying in what looks like bread and wine. The answer to this question is still a call, “a come and you will see” (John 1:39). The answer we find goes further. It should change the world as we know it, because it is so radically simple and yet profound; so natural and so outlandish; so beautiful and yet so scandalous. Despite our failings, our weakness, our stubbornness, our proneness to sin, the answer is still this:
Behold, He comes to dwell and stay with us.
If we can just behold that long enough, maybe succeeding in righteousness and loving one another will be a little easier (cf. 1 John 3:10b).