by John F. Klem
When we look into the eyes of a newborn child, we see helpless innocence. In response, all our protective and caring instincts kick into action. We hold the child so carefully. We make sure the child is dressed properly and fed sufficiently.
In the animal world, several species have a perception of helpless innocence. One such animal significantly featured in the Scriptures is the lamb. For this reason lambs, specifically lambs without blemish, are prized as a sacrificial animal. According to Anchor Bible Dictionary, lambs are mentioned in connection with sacrifices more than 80 times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
Images of a child and a lamb are historically prominent in the life of Christ and the outworking of our redemption. Combined, these images tell the gospel story in a powerful way. But separated, we merely have ineffective good intentions. Our hearts beat with joyful satisfaction when we read the declaration of Christ in John 1:29: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Old Testament prepares us well to see Jesus as the long-awaited perfect lamb of God. The fourth Servant Song of Isaiah, chapters 52 and 53, tells of a servant led as a lamb to the slaughter and a sheep that is silent before its shearers. In Acts 8:32 Philip explains to the eunuch that this lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The New Testament writers more fully develop this presentation of Christ across the Gospels and through the Epistles. Paul connects the Exodus events (Exod. 12) with Christ, spelling out that Christ is the Passover lamb sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). When Peter builds a foundation for exhortation to be holy as the Lord is holy, he does so by recalling the tremendous worth of our redemption provided by Christ, the lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:19).
But it is John who uses the epithet lamb as a reference to Christ about 30 times in his gospel and the book of Revelation. The lamb theology applied to Christ is especially interesting against the images of Him as a lion and a warrior. In the context of a whole-Bible theology, we are able to understand Christ as much more than an innocent victim. He is the lamb Who suffered vicariously in our place. The lamb references to Christ in Revelation are connected with worship, power and authority, and military victory. Revelation 21 accents God Almighty and the Lamb as the temple and the light.
Lamb imagery and theology enrich our Advent meditations. The Child miraculously born to Mary is not just an innocent victim with good intentions to address the darkness of sin and Hell’s domain. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John F. Klem is director of Regular Baptist Press.
Regular Baptist Press is committed to providing educational resources that point people of all ages to Christ not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. RBP offers a wide range of curriculum, VBS programs, Bible studies, books, and training seminars that are Biblically sound, cover the entirety of Scripture, and designed for spiritual growth.
- Read the entire series of Advent meditations.