If you take a long look at this lamb, you will find yourself thinking all sorts of things. You might be struck by its innocence, its powerlessness or you may wonder about its future. This lamb has not done anything wrong, it has no defences or weapon and it may end up on someone’s plate as a favoured dish before it ever gets to be a mature sheep. Does it not strike you as extraordinary that the Most Mighty One to walk this planet Earth was called ‘The Lamb of God’? This lamb is associated with meekness not with majesty, with the Will of man rather than the Will of God. To understand why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is called ‘The Lamb of God’ it’s necessary to consult both the Old Testament and the New – once truly understood never truly forgotten. Why a lamb rather than a sheep? A sheep is reared for its wool but a tender lamb gives its life.
- ‘Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together’ – Genesis 22:7-8
- ‘”Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down”’ – Exodus 12:20-23
To comprehend the need for sacrifice, all we need to do is look in the mirror where we are reminded of our proneness to sin and weakness in temptation. In an extraordinary prefiguring, Abraham shows an astonishing willingness to give up his son but an angel of the Lord prevents this. When the Israelites tried to leave Egypt for freedom, the only way that Pharaoh would release them was when he lost his firstborn son. It was through the sacrificial blood of a lamb given in place of a household that mercy triumphed over judgement and God’s people were spared in the first ‘Passover’.
- ‘In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ – Hebrews 9:22
The method of atoning for sin through the sacrifice of a surrogate lamb was thankfully temporary. This old covenant was heralding the coming of the everlasting new covenant ushered in by The Lamb of God who would give his lifeblood to bring us into a new standing with God. If there was no sacrifice for our sin we ourselves would have to bear our own punishment. God was willing to give his own Son for our sakes.
- ‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me”’ – John 1:29-30
- ‘For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’ – 1 Corinthians 5:7
- ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake’ – 1 Peter 1:18-20
- ‘He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’ – Isaiah 53:7
Jesus Christ comes as Prophet, Priest, King and Lamb – Prophet to give us God’s Word, Priest to represent us to God, King to reign in righteousness. Yet none of these great roles could be fulfilled unless he was also the spotless Lamb of God for he alone is worthy to pay the price of our sin. Note that people had wanted Jesus to ride a white charger leading an army in his Messiah role but instead he came in meekness riding a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Revelation shows us that the Lamb of God now rides a white charger and leads the armies of heaven for we read that he is also ‘The Lion’ in Heaven (chapter 5).
- ‘Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him’ – John 12:14-16
- ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords’ – Revelation 19:11-16
Though the Lamb of God was slain, because he was worthy, he was raised to a place of power, honour, glory and is worshipped for his eternal worthiness. The climax of Revelation is when the search goes out to find someone who worthy to reveal the ending of God’s plans by opening a sealed scroll – it is the triumphant Lamb who alone is permitted to do so. There is an invitation and plenty of light provided:
- ‘Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God’ – Revelation 19:9
- ‘The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp’ – Revelation 21:23
Look again at the picture and let your mind wander and wonder! C S Lewis portrays these mysteries through the mighty Aslan Christ-like lion in his willingness to be shorn and sacrificed as ‘a lamb’ to bring freedom to those enslaved in darkness – then ‘dead’ statues ‘come to life’. Our human minds cannot grasp the wonder of this so we write stories but the simple truth is that we can approach the throne of God and be accepted through the worthiness of The Lamb of God. Next time you see a lamb, may it remind you of new life, short life, Spring, innocence, worthiness and the love of God towards you.
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