Gospel reflection for Jan. 17, 2021, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once again we hear John the Baptizer pointing to Jesus, this time using terminology we did not hear during the Advent Season, as he proclaims the familiar: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This adds yet another dimension to our understanding of Jesus by connecting him deeply with the Jewish tradition, identifying Jesus with the “Pesach” and the lamb of sacrifice.

Though John had countless numbers of followers in the wilderness, we hear about two who, understanding the message of John, follow after the one identified by John as the Lamb: Jesus Christ. These two men, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, and another disciple, presumably John the beloved/evangelist, will become disciples of Jesus.

We are not certain what Jesus is doing at this point. This is the second day that he was “passing by” and therefore near but not listening to John. Jesus is in the vicinity but seemingly unaware of John, while John is fully aware of Jesus. John does testify that he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus, and we presume this means at the point of his Baptism. We are left wondering when this event occurs.

At first it would appear that Jesus is not interested in the two men following him. He is curt and he challenges them as to why they are following him, asking what they are looking for. This might be reminiscent of any of us walking through the streets in an unfamiliar place and, realizing we are being followed, have the courage to confront the pursuer.

Their response was not to blame John for sending them, nor was it to try and dismiss their actions; rather they make the even bolder quest: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

Jesus must have been startled at their salutation being that “Rabbi” often rendered as “teacher.” This is an official title for a scholar of Jewish law and one who directed the synagogue discussion and prayer. Though often used in the synoptic Gospels to refer to Jesus, the use of this title by these two men shows an ignorance of who Jesus is. They know that the Baptizer pointed them to Jesus, they just don’t know who he is. Yet, their use of the title signifies that they are ready to follow him, to become his disciples.

This is further expressed through their question “Where are you staying?” This runs much deeper in meaning and immediately changes the demeanor of Jesus toward them. This seemingly ordinary question opens to the very meaning of life itself – the quest for eternal life. This they understood as they heeded the Baptizer’s quest to seek out the Lamb of God present in their midst, walking with them. They had yet to grasp what this could mean.

The evangelist also makes clear the time of day, about four in the afternoon. This is usually significant in John’s Gospel indicating that a revelation of God is immanent, Jesus is about to perform a sign or wonder that will point to the Divine Logos at work in the world. Here, it is seemingly less powerful. These men spent a few hours with Jesus, though John does not recount any of what they heard from Jesus that day. What they saw and heard caused them to go swiftly to Simon and tell him that they had found the Messiah. In doing so, Andrew already moved from seeing Jesus as another Rabbi, to the more exalted and specific term, “Messiah” or “Christ.” He has yet to understand what John meant when he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God.

John depicts Andrew then, not only as the first to follow Jesus but in a real sense, also as the first one to evangelize another. In bringing Simon Peter to Jesus Andrew shows the desire, a desire that all of us know, to lead those whom we love to eternal life.

Each and every time we hear the great liturgical proclamation “Behold the Lamb of God…” we, too, should desire not only to receive the Lord, but to know the desire to bring others to him, so that they also might know eternal life.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.