John the Baptist sees Jesus, and instead of saying “Yo!” he rather strangely announces: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Anyone who heard him must have thought, “What’s that strange guy talking about?”
Bible scholars would tell us that John’s saying is more theological than literal – it’s meant to convey one of the meanings of Jesus as Savior. But how does anyone – even Jesus – take away the sins of someone else? Much less the whole world?
Last week I asked the congregation about hard knocks you have experienced in your life. There were many responses, one of which was “losing a friend.” We all know what that’s like. Loss can come through death or geographical separation, or it can come through conflict, betrayal, and hurt. This latter cause brings us back to sin. What if someone does something that hurts us, that we can’t let go of?
Sin and bad actions have lasting effects, on the hurt party, the offender, and sometimes the world – sometimes irreversible consequences. The relationship certainly suffers, and can trap us in a prison of resentment and bitterness. The only solution to this comes through forgiveness. When we’ve been hurt, forgiveness can seem to be asking too much – letting the offender off the hook! Why shouldn’t he suffer as I am suffering?
Yet forgiveness is a central message of Jesus, in his life and teaching, and even when he was dying an agonizing death on the cross: “Father, forgive them….” Jesus did not want us to get stuck in the grudge trap, and forgiveness is the only way out. Think about times you’ve had to forgive, or needed to be forgiven. We’ll talk about it on Sunday. JBM