In the book of Revelation, filled with its rich symbolism and figures, a number of creatures appear. Most imposing is the great red dragon, Satan, and all the imagery that goes with it in our fertile imagination: a gigantic, fearsome, awe-inspiring, thickly-scaled, fanged, clawed, fire-breathing, machine of destruction, that, according to myth, could incinerate and ravage whole villages. Then there is the beast which arises out of the sea, an imposing multi-headed, ten-horned, creature whose heads bear blasphemous names. Others may be seen, some typical, some threatening, but all giving the appearance of power, majesty, deserving of our respect and fear.
And then there is the Lamb. I remember one of my instructors, Jim McGuiggan, state that, as we behold that awesome, wondrous, majestic throne of God, at the heart of it, resting serenely therein is what? – “Ah, a little lamb!” I am so grateful he pointed that out. Isn’t that striking? Many of the other creatures in the book are fearsome, frightening, threatening – things that we all had best tread quietly around. But no, not the One who is truly the most formidable of all – Jesus, that little lamb. Of all the amazing things God wants us to take in about Jesus His Son is that we are to view Him, to see Him, as we would behold a little lamb. Not as a dragon, a beast, a monster, a mighty superhero-warrior of legend – not anything one would imagine for a Being who holds all authority and power, but as a little lamb. There has to be a good reason why.
Vikings had their gods, Odin, Thor, Freya, Loki, who thrived on warfare, carnage, and battle. One look at the ancient walls of Assyrian and Persian temples and we see their fanciful imaginations of semi-human beasts with wings and claws. Even the things represented in Revelation can be a bit frightening, dangerous-looking, and scary. And, yes, Jesus is called in that book the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). However, when He becomes visible to the onlookers He is a mere lamb (Revelation 5:6). Some of us need to get over the intoxication with super-hero icons, maxims, and the rest of it. None of them, not one, compare to Christ Jesus. You want a real hero? Look no further. Jesus is the real man, the real God-man. All others are imposters, figments of overactive imaginations; at best, very pathetic imitations.
Many religions depict their gods, demigods, and human icons as beings wielding deadly power, giving the impression that, “you’d better do as I tell you, or else!” They want you to view them as beings who will hurt you if they do not get their way. They promote fear as a means to enforce subservience. Observe the artwork in Hindu temples – elephants, multi-limbed beings wielding swords and the like. According to the Quran, Islam is to hold sway over the earth by forcing others who disbelieve to accept Islam’s rule of Sharia Law or else pay tribute and stop promoting their own religion at the point of death. One could claim that Christianity does the same with threats of damnation and hell-fire upon the world and unbelievers, but it is not by threat nor even the promise of eternal reward that puts teeth into the message of Christ – it is through sympathetic appeal for what Jesus, God in the flesh, did for us to make it possible to avoid hell and experience life with God. It is through a gospel, a message of divine love toward us, that compels us to take note. No other religion offers this. They only peddle fear, making people slaves of fear.
God greatly desires our love and devotion. He is deeply unhappy when sinners die lost. Jim stated quite emphatically on another occasion, “God is not in the damning business!!” He is dead-on. “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). This messed up world is not what God wanted, but is the result of what humanity chose and chooses. We are like His wayward, idle, bored, children waving loaded guns, wanting to play God, smug in our smartness, clownish in our cleverness, shameful in our sophistication. Jesus came to help us out of the mess and lead us to something far better prepared for those who love Him. And He did not arrive on the scene to accomplish it as a raging dragon, a murderous beast, or a blood-drenched Viking warrior. He came as a lamb, of all things.
Upon seeing Jesus coming toward him John the baptizer announced to those around him and to the world: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He knew what Jesus came to do. He understood His mission.
Consider some attributes of lambs from the Word of God that fit the description of Jesus Christ:
A lamb is benign. Nobody has nightmares about rabid, bloodthirsty, lambs running amuck. In a fantasy “zombie apocalypse” nobody would run from a zombie lamb. Lambs do not attack or harm people unlike their goat cousins. This is the image of Christ. He is not intent on hurting people. He loves us. He wants what is best for us now and later (John 10:10). It is illogical and inconceivable that He would die for us in such a horrible, excruciatingly painful way only to laugh at our own pain while He inflicts it upon us. Satan is the bully, not Jesus. People who blaspheme Jesus as evil are Biblically ignorant, likely willfully so. But He died for them too, whether they, or we, like it or not. Jesus is sinless and harmless.
A lamb is vulnerable. A lamb being harmless means it is a target ripe for destruction and abuse. They are a predator’s first target within a flock of sheep, no doubt because they are easily caught and make the tenderest of meals. Nobody I know of goes “Lamb hunting.” One would become a laughing-stock to brag to hunting buddies: “Hey, I went bow-hunting for lamb last week. Killed a hundred of ‘em.” Ah yes, big game hunter, are you?
All levity aside, Jesus was vulnerable. Read the Gospels. See how people used Him. They had no shame sometimes, no sense of common courtesy. He seldom got a moment’s peace from them. To say humanity, all of us, have taken advantage of Him is wildly understating the case. We still do it today, don’t we? When we partake of His forgiveness, grace, patience, and love, expecting it, counting on Him to palliate our guilty consciences when we have willfully, sometimes, let Him down by being far less than what we should be, are we not using Him? Are we not exploiting His vulnerability? Perhaps. Yet He forgives, lifts our load, carries our burdens, anyway. He can handle whatever we throw at Him or put on Him. And the beautiful part of this is – He wants us to. Rather, He begs us to! (Matthew 11:28-30).
A lamb is tamable. In the story that the prophet Nathan presented to King David, he used the image of a lamb, a “ewe” (a young female) the family’s beloved pet, very dear to them (2 Samuel 12:1ff). Neither sheep nor lambs are wild animals but docile, and hence, tamable. Jesus had to learn like the rest of us in God’s planet-earth training class, that “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). You heard that right. Despite being who He was, eternally or otherwise, He learned obedience through suffering just like everyone else. No exceptions. He had to put up with this seriously dysfunctional world being hungry, cold, hot, injured, thirsty, deprived, sick, despondent, etc. Those things taught Him (and can teach us if we let them) “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In so doing, getting through it with His integrity intact, He brought us and bought us, total victory. He overcame the world (John 16:33) for His Father, for Himself, and for our sakes. We just have to get through this thing with our mind, heart, and the righteousness He clothes us with, intact. He showed us the way. He shows us we can do it if we are obedient to the Father as He was, and follow Him.
A lamb is a sacrificial animal. The Law of Moses commanded a lamb be sacrificed morning and evening (Numbers 28:1-5). They had to be blemish-free, that is, no deformities or imperfections; they must not be less than the very best of the flock. God does not want nor appreciate “scraps” as worship, homage, to Him. Let’s remember that. He, through Christ Jesus, gave His very best to pay for our sins at Calvary. He did not demand our children, as many pagan cults did; He did not send an angel or someone else. He came Himself, in the flesh, to be our only atonement for sin. God gave His best and desires our best. That is what John the baptizer meant. Jesus is the One who, by His vicarious death, takes away our sins. All of them. Paid in full by His body and His blood, for all time (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Peter 1:17-20; 2:24). God wants us to partake of His fullness, bounty and glory so much that He did this for us. Not with a rampaging dragon’s beastly roars or berserker battle-cries – just a stunning, heart-rending, appeal for us to accept His sacrifice, shape up, and be shaped up by Him, to share the joys of eternity with Him like He always wanted. He calls us to be lambs also, just like He is (Matthew 10:16) so we will fit in when He comes back one day to take us home.
God always does things that don’t make sense to us. His ways are higher than our ways. When we think of power, majesty, what is fearsome, we think of beasts like dragons or beastly men, savage warriors. God has none of that; needs none of it. Oh yes, there will come a day when the Almighty will “judge the world in righteousness by the man He has ordained” Christ Jesus (Acts 17:31), and will come “in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). But He came first as the Lamb of God, to fulfill the righteous requirements of His holiness in paying for our sins, and in so doing, to woo us, to show us the side of God that mankind has been missing from the beginning of time – to our own desperate loss and His eternal sorrow on account of it. Only He could pull it off.
And He did – but as a lamb, Jehovah God’s precious Lamb.