In 2007 there was an attempt by a group of rabbis in Israel to bring a lamb to the temple mount in Jerusalem and sacrifice it for Passover. (Link) This was an effort to revive the ancient practice of sacrificing the lambs for Passover in the temple precincts, something that was going on at the time of Jesus in Herod’s temple. Josephus estimates that one Passover in this era 100,000 lambs were sacrificed, both big business and a blood disposal problem.
The Gospel of John portrays Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” There is some debate among scholars as to how this should be understood, but it seems clear to me that this is the Passover Lamb. There is irony in this view. The Passover Lamb was originally slaughtered in order to protect the first born son of a household from the last plague, the death of all first-borns. Jesus was the First Born Son of God. His blood was shed for us. So God did not spare or protect His first Born Son but spared us by having Jesus be the pure sacrificial Lamb and our Passover Lamb.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World!
John was a witness to the death of the Lamb of God, Jesus, on the cross. About sixty years later, John was on an Island called Patmos. He was all by himself one Sunday morning, praying and singing, and Jesus came and visited him. John received a vision that helped him understand completely what had happened in Jerusalem that afternoon when Jesus died. Jesus had died on Friday, but he had risen from the dead on Sunday morning.
That morning on Patmos, the Risen Lord visited John in all his glory. He spoke to John in a voice like a trumpet blast, and he said,
Do not be afraid;
I am the first and the last, and the living one.
I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever;
and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.
Later this same John was given a new vision. This time he was in heaven itself, before the throne of God. It was a grand scene and the magnificent creatures of heaven were praising God with full voice. Yet there was something new on the day John visited heaven. The one seated on the throne, Holy God, had a scroll in his hand. It was a scroll written with the destiny of the world, the things yet to come. There was great anticipation for the scroll to be opened, but there was no one found worthy to open what God had sealed. None of the angels were worthy. None of the archangels were worthy. None of the glorious elders were worthy.
Then John heard that one was coming who was worthy. He was called the “Lion of Judah,” the “Conquering King like David.” He was coming, and he would open the scroll.
But John saw neither a Lion or a King. He saw a Lamb, a Mighty Lamb, a Wise Lamb full of God’s empowering Spirit. He could see this Lamb had suffered a mortal wound, a cut throat. But he was not dead, he was standing tall, taller than any of the creatures of heaven. He took the scroll from the hand of God, for he was worthy. And we are told that some of the worshipers of heaven began to sing a new song, a song never sung before:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered
and by your blood you ransomed for God saints
from every tribe and language and people and nation …
John then turned around and he saw an even greater worship chorus and heard them break into this song:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory and blessing!
As we begin the season of Eastertide and look forward to Pentecost, may we, too, give glory and honor to the Lamb who was slain for our sins, who loved us so much that he endured the shame and pain of the cross, and rose triumphantly to never die again.
Nebraska Christian College