Those of us who have the grace to recognize Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” must humbly acknowledge that we did not become Christians on our own, but that God leads us to him through the community of those who are created in his image and who strive to live according to his likeness. We find this reality wherever we encounter genuine human community, but we find it in a special way in God’s chosen people, Israel, onto which the Church is grafted.
Today’s gospel indicates how the earnest striving of Israel is present in the Church from the very beginning. John the Baptist—whom Jesus calls the greatest of the prophets—having called Israel to repentance, points to Jesus and says, “behold the Lamb of God!” Two of his disciples, Andrew and (perhaps) John the beloved disciple, hear the Baptist’s words and follow Jesus, who invites them to come and see where he abides. In John’s gospel, these are the first two disciples to follow Jesus. Unlike some other disciples whose call contains a command to leave behind what they have known (the radicality of Paul’s much later call comes to mind), these two are called by Jesus through an invitation more than a command. Through their time with the Baptist, these two disciples have already begun to abide in the covenant relationship that God offers his people; Jesus does not turn them away from this abiding, but invites them to deepen it with him.
For the Baptist, losing these two—who may have been his best disciples—is undoubtedly a sacrifice, but perhaps also a joy. The Baptist himself indicates the Lamb of God, and so rejoices that those who have abided with him now abide with Christ, who will teach them to abide in the Son as he abides in the Father.