One of the common questions we ask and hear asked is – “What time is it?” or “what’s the date today?” Sometimes we ask that out of simple curiosity – at other times its a very import question that can even have life changing consequences. If you arrive a week late for a vital operation having got the date wrong – it can even be a fatal mistake!
A couple of weeks ago I was reading at the beginning of John’s gospel when something that I had never fully considered before struck me. It was how John the Baptist recorded his first sighting of Jesus during his public ministry –
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
The next time, recorded a few verses further on, we read again –
“As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”
When we advertise a ministry or event we speak normally about the prowess, the gifting, the anointing, the power and popularity of the speaker or evangelist.
I’ve also noted recently that the image of a lion is popular in christian advertising – but rarely, if ever, a lamb. A lamb is powerless, vulnerable, dependant, timid and easily defeated. A lamb is not warlike in the slightest. Have you ever heard of an army going to war with a lamb as its mascot?
So what time is it? I ask that question because I believe it is very important in a spiritual sense. And I ask it particularly today because there is a movement in Christian circles that promotes power over weakness – the lion over the lamb – war over peace and the sword over sacrifice. So do we live in the year of the Lion or the year of the Lamb or, perhaps, both?
I remember many years ago now being astounded when someone told me that Jesus had split a sentence of scripture in such a way that the first part was for the now – but the remainder for the future. We find the incident in Luke 4: 16 – 21 –
“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.”
Then, in mid sentence, we are told –
“He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
The words Jesus omitted were –
“And with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”
The Lamb is anointed to – “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord …” (AV). This is important and, in our context, very significant!
So I ask again – “What time is it?” I respectfully suggest we live in the the year of The Lamb! I would further suggest that it is The Lamb that symbolises the Kingdom of God – not the Lion. Ah but I hear someone say – “He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!” We’ll come to that in a moment so please be patient!
The first mention of a Lamb in the Hebrew scriptures is in Genesis 4:4 and it is a picture of sacrifice –
“Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift …“
Jump forward to the hymnbook of the Jewish people – Psalm 78:71 –
“He (God) took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants— God’s own people, Israel.”
God chose David – not because the killed a lion – but because he had the heart of a shepherd. He who has ears to hear let him hear!
Isaiah then foretells of the One who –
“Was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.”
We have already seen Jesus introduced as The Lamb in the gospels. Now look at the Epistles. 1 Corinthians 5:7 –
“Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”
Peter then reminds us (1 Peter 1:19) that our redemption was accomplished by –
“The precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
Then we come to the book of Revelation where the lamb is mentioned 36 times! In contrast the lion is mentioned only 6 times – but only one of these has any connection to Jesus – and even then the lion is a lamb! Revelation 5:4-6 (NLT) –
“Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered ..”
The elder introduces a lion – but when John looks he sees a lamb! How can we understand that? The only scripture that connects the lion and Judah is found in Genesis 49 when Jacob gathers his sons to prophesy over them. He says this of his son Judah –
“Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The sceptre (a symbol of kingship) shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Shiloh means – “place of peace”. Jesus is the Prince of peace – his Kingdom is a Kingdom of peace and his people are called to be peacemakers.
One final thought. The following are the words of Jesus to his disciple and by default to those who seek to follow him –
“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”
Our calling is to follow The Lamb and to be lamblike in all our ways! I think this is where many of us go astray – especially regarding leadership in the church. We look for lions – God looks for lambs!