Week 2: Sunday

All the earth shall bow down before You, O God, and shall sing to You, shall sing to Your Name, O Most High! (Psalm 66:4).

Almighty ever-living God,
Who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of Your people
and bestow Your peace on our times.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will. (Psalm 40:8a and 9a).

“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched (ἐμβλέψας, emblepsas) Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold (ἴδε), the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard (ἤκουσαν, ekousan) what he said and followed (ἠκολούθησαν, ekolouthesan) Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” – which translated means Teacher – , “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see (ὄψεσθε, opsesthe).”” (John 1:35-39).”

The episode proclaimed this Sunday requires the context of the preceding verses. Following the Prologue (1:1-18), the Gospel presents John the Baptist responding to questions concerning his identity. Religious leaders certainly know his name, but the questions indicate that many people are beginning to think that there is more to John than what they see. John clearly knows who he is: a voice that prepares and baptizes with water. He clearly and confidently knows he is not a prophet, Elijah nor the Messiah. Yet in addition to the actions of “crying out” and ‘baptizing with water,’ John does something else: he recognizes Jesus (“Behold, ἴδε, ide”) and proclaims Him “Lamb of God (verses 29 and 36).” In verse 29, “Lamb of God” is equated with ‘taking away [literally, ‘lifting above and away from the ground’]’ the “sin of the world.” Prior to both proclamations that Jesus is “Lamb of God,” the biblical text says that John “sees (βλέπει) Jesus (29)” and “watched (ἐμβλέψας) Jesus (36).”

What does it mean “to see (βλέπω, blepo)” the way John the Baptist sees? The text is clear, John sees Jesus and sees Him as “Lamb of God.” To see (βλέπω, blepo) in this case means more than just visual correspondence. In fact, the Gospels often employ βλέπω (blepo) when “seeing” goes deeper than surface appearance and engages a gaze onto and into the deepest dimensions of life. This way of seeing then involves more than just human biology and the physics of optics. Gospel seeing, βλέπω (blepo), is a gazing that essentially is a gift and work of Grace. It is a seeing that can be expressed, ‘understanding as God sees.’ Interestingly, the Gospels do not employ βλέπω (blepo) prior to faith; βλέπω (blepo) appears as a way of acting following or building on faith. For John, this graced way of seeing or understanding is placed in the service of faith. John’s ability to see is not rooted in himself nor in his own skills. As a grace received, John is able “to see” Jesus in a particular way for the purpose of giving voice and announcing Who Jesus is that others may come to faith.

For a person ‘coming to faith,’ seeing is neither the principle activity nor the means of faith. If we take faith to mean ‘a relationship between and among persons sparked by an encounter,’ then “hearing” is the essential biblical activity that leads to and sparks faith. This is the pattern in the account proclaimed this Sunday. John, who is blessed “to see,” gives voice to Who he sees in such a way that the other disciples “hear.” When they “hear,” they follow. Jesus then promises to those who follow, “you will see (ὄψεσθε, opsesthe).” ὄψεσθε, from the Greek verb ὁράω (orao), is another of the many Greek verbs often translated "seeing." ὁράω (orao), similar to βλέπω (blepo) is a ‘seeing’ that involves far more than a physical deciphering of light's properties to form an image in the mind. ὁράω (orao) expresses a deep perception that ‘sees‘ not only life‘s big questions, but attempts to make connections on a level beyond mere human logical and practicality. Like βλέπω (blepo), ὁράω (orao) is not grounded in human initiative, technique or skill. ὁράω (orao) is a graced activity that comes only by “hearing” a Person Who does not give all the answers up front but simply invites all to “come and you will see.”