The second thought of my reflections from reading Scripture the other day is this: Jesus is the Lamb.
In Revelation chapter five, when the elder directs John to see the “Lion of Judah” who is alone worthy to open the scroll of God, John sees something quite unexpected. He does not see a lion at all.
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center before the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. (Revelation 5:6)
The victorious lion is none other than a bloodied and slain lamb. What is this? For those of us who are familiar with the Scriptures, our minds race back to the lamb of the Passover in Exodus. The lamb was killed and its blood wiped over the doorposts as a sign for God’s angel of destruction to pass over the Israelites during the final plague against Egypt. The entire sacrificial system of ancient Israel returned to this Passover action.
Our minds may rush to the words of the prophet Isaiah about the promised Servant-Messiah who would come:
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 her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
And if we know the gospel stories well, we will likely remember the echoes of Passover before, in, around, and after Jesus’ death on the Cross.
The writer to the Hebrews draws together these Old and New Testament concepts with a few clear statements:
But now he [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. (Hebrews 9:25-27)
Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb who stood looking like He was slain.
But here is the wonderfully mysterious tension that John encounters in Revelation chapter five. The victorious Lion is the slain Lamb. The roaring Conqueror is the voiceless Sacrifice.
And so, strength and weakness meet in Jesus. Power and humility collide in His death. The unending victory comes through the magnificent defeat (to borrow a phrase from Fred Buechner).
For Jesus is both the lion and the lamb.