By C. Robert Wetzel
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).
How strange it must have seemed to pagans when Christians described Jesus as the Lamb of God! This would be especially true when they heard Jesus described as the Word who was with God and who was God and who became flesh in Jesus Christ. God, a lamb? If the pagan were to use an animal metaphor to describe God, he would certainly choose some powerful animal whose image would strike terror in its worshipers.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the English skeptic, was only along the road to faith when he wrote Jesus Rediscovered. He tells about spending time at a Cistercian abbey. After a Communion service he went for a walk on a hill above the abbey. It was lambing season, and as he saw the young lambs frisking about he thought,
. . . words I had just heard—Agnus Dei—echoed in my mind. What a terrific moment in history that was, I reflected, when men first saw their God in the likeness of the weakest, mildest, and most defenseless of all living creatures!
I dare say that when he came to recognize Jesus was in fact God incarnate, he might have put it differently. After all, the historical event was God revealing himself, not humans discovering him. But the wonder is still there in his recognition. It was a terrific time in history when God revealed himself in the likeness of the weakest, mildest, and most defenseless of all living creatures: a lamb. Yes, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!
Although Jesus’ countrymen would have understood the imagery of the sacrificial lamb, they did not seem to associate their understanding of the promised Messiah with a lamb. Rather he was to be the Lion of Judah, the military chieftain who would restore Israel to the independence and glory of the reigns of David and Solomon.
As it turned out Jesus was paradoxically both the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah. In his death he would be the sacrificial Lamb that takes away our sin, and in his resurrection he would be the Lion King who conquers death and who rules as head of the church until all things come under submission to him.
In the Lord’s Supper we celebrate both the forgiveness we have received through the sacrificial death of Christ and our new citizenship as members of his body, the church, the redeemed of God who will reign with him for ever and ever. Amen!
C. Robert Wetzel is chancellor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee.