John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
The Beholding Eye
by David Morrison
When John sees Jesus approaching, he uses the phrase, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” This word, “behold,” is a gentrified English word for “perceive inwardly,” “look and realize,” and “gaze upon and awaken to…” On one level, it’s connected to a wild and unprompted flash of epiphany: “Look! It’s him!” To experience the presence of God burning in the heart of all creation, we often need this kind of spontaneity to awaken our inner sight to Christ in our midst: in the breaking of the bread, as the image of God within everyone we meet, and especially in those whom the world (and especially the church) have cast out. This is what St. Paul called seeing “the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus” (2Corinthians 4:6) What is it about John the Baptist that enabled him to see the “Lamb of God” in his cousin with whom he was undoubtedly familiar? There’s a tendency to ascribe mystical experience and revelation exclusively to elite and special people, and we elevate them as “prophets,” “saints,” and “spiritual giants.” This conventional logic cleverly exempts us from taking responsibility for our own discipleship process. However, the major theme throughout the Scriptures is that everyone is invited to share in the celebrations of God’s presence. When Moses’ entourage complained that “outsiders” were prophesying, Moses said, “I wish that all of God’s people were prophets…”(Numbers 11:29). These sudden epiphanies of God’s presence in the mundaneness of our everyday lives can be perpetuated by an extended “beholding” of the “Lamb of God” in a contemplative sense. Simply sitting in the silence of prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our constant thinking into unceasing prayer, awakens our perception to what God is being and doing in our world. It awakens a deep, transforming love in our hearts. This kind of love isn’t about our own private sentiments toward personal peace, but it is the very love of Christ moving through us: being birthed into the craziness and violence of the world. It fills us with the courage to look at the conflicts of our lives and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This kind of “beholding” is mostly done in the secret of prayer’s solitude, but it births a reconciling community. Martin Luther King called it “the beloved community:” “But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.