241. The First Step (John 1:29-34)

“Today the Holy Spirit floats over the waters in the form of a dove, so that by this sign it might be known that the world’s universal shipwreck has ceased, as the dove had announced to Noah that the world’s flood had subsided.” St. Peter Chrysologus

John 1:29-34   The next day, seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

Christ the Lord
 John the Baptist’s favorite title for Jesus is “the Lamb of God.” Clearly it also became one of John the Evangelist’s favorite titles, since he used it twenty-nine times in the Book of Revelation. It brings together three images that would have been familiar to the Jews of that time, and by being applied to Christ indicates that in him those images find their full meaning.

  1. God required the Jews to sacrifice a lamb twice a day to expiate the sins of the people (Cf. Exodus 29:39). Thus the lamb symbolized the price to be paid for sin.
  2. The primary holy day of the Jews was (and remains) the Passover. In the Passover ceremony, each family sacrifices and eats a lamb to recall their liberation from Egypt in the days of Moses. On that night, God killed all the firstborn children and animals of the Egyptians, but spared those of the Hebrews. In order to indicate which households the angel of death was to skip over, God commanded the Hebrews to kill a lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood. Thus the Passover lamb signified God’s merciful and saving love.
  3. Finally, the Messiah announced by the Prophets was described as a lamb who went silently to the slaughter, to take the sins of his people upon himself and wipe them away.

adam_elsheimer-st_john_the_baptist-lamb-of-god for post on John 1:29-34John proclaims: “Behold the Lamb of God,” and we turn our eyes to Christ, the real lamb of God, the incarnation of God’s desire and power to free us from the slavery of selfishness, vanity, lust, and greed, and lead us to the promised land of joyful friendship with him. So apt is this title that the Church repeats it every time Mass is celebrated: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”

Christ the Teacher

John tells his disciples about Jesus. Some of the future Apostles were originally John’s disciples. They were there with him on the banks of the Jordan, helping him baptize, when he first pointed out who the Master was. They heard his testimony about Jesus, and it sparked their interest, so they went to meet the Lord for themselves.

Jesus chooses to use the testimony of those who believe in him to draw others into his friendship. If John had kept quiet about what God had shown him, his disciples might never have found the Lord. Likewise, Christ is counting on us to introduce him to others.

That takes humility. John was not looking for his own glory, but for God’s. His own popularity and success didn’t go to his head. His mission mattered more. In our efforts to build Christ’s Kingdom, we can hardly choose a better model than John, who teaches us never to work merely for our satisfaction or for the esteem of our peers. Our goal is Christ and our path is his will, and in the end, nothing else matters.

Christ the Friend  John saw “Jesus coming towards him.”

Jesus: How much I love to do this. I never force my way into anyone’s life, but I come towards everyone. I want to attract their attention because I want their friendship and happiness. I am always taking the first step. Isn’t that what happened with you and me? Don’t you remember? I caught your attention. Even before that, I had been coming towards you in many ways. It’s like when you are in love, and you go out of your way to run into the person you love, just to get a glimpse of them, just hoping that they will stop and talk to you. I love you like that. I even come right up to your heart and knock, hoping you will let me in. I always have more to give you, more to teach you, more for us to do. My love never runs out of words, attention, encouragement, projects – my love never runs out, period. Keep welcoming me, keep looking out for me. I am still coming towards you and I will never stop coming towards you.

Christ in My Life

  • You are the Savior of all people. You are the light of the world. You are the Lamb of God. I don’t want these words to become meaningless phrases in my heart. Keep my faith fresh, Lord. Just because I sometimes get tired or fall into routine, that doesn’t mean that you have changed. You are still God, the Lord, the Teacher. Open my eyes to see all the wonders of your love…
  • I think of all the people in my life: family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. You have a mission for each one of them. You are calling each one of them to be saints. And I can either help them discover and fulfill that mission, or hinder them. I want to help them. I want to encourage them in whatever way I can to hear and heed your call in their life. With the zeal of your heart, set my heart on fire…
  • Thank you for coming into my life, Lord. Before you came I was like an unlit candle. Jesus, never let me be separated from you. O Lord, what would I do without faith in you? How vulnerable I would be to the lies and destructive seductions all around me! Keep me faithful to your will, Lord, and make me an instrument of your peace…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.


Art for this post on John 1:29-34: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Partial restoration of St John the Baptist, Adam Eisheimer, 1605, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

Profile photo of Fr. Bartunek

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage