In the words of John the Evangelist: “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14)
There is a lovely painting by seventeenth-century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán that never fails to move me. Called “Agnus Dei”—meaning Lamb of God in Latin—this painting depicts a spotless white lamb, with all four legs tied together, calmly awaiting his death.
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist spots Jesus approaching him along the Jordan River and interestingly exclaims: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NKJV). His words were undoubtedly purposeful and dense with meaning—a meaning that would change the course of history forever.
Come along with me as I explore why this messianic title is important to our faith. Be enriched and uplifted as you discover the boundless love of Jesus, whose sacrificial offering has made us right with God.
The Sacrificial Lamb: A Biblical History
In the Book of Exodus, God commands the Hebrew people to brush the blood of a lamb above their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over their homes. If they did not, God warned, they would incur His oncoming wrath on Egypt’s firstborn sons—the infamous tenth plague of Egypt.
To commemorate that fateful day, Jews would make a yearly sin offering to God, befittingly referring to it as “Passover.” This sin offering, most commonly a lamb, had to be perfect—that is, without spot or blemish. If it was not, the lamb would not be considered an acceptable sacrifice to God, and their sins would consequently remain unforgiven.
Jesus ultimately becomes humankind’s sacrificial lamb when He gives up his life on the cross during the Feast of Passover. Like the spotless white lamb, He is sinless, perfect, and innocent, and the shedding of His pure blood makes atonement for our sins:
“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 its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth … Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him … and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, … the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:7,10-11
Wow! Isaiah 53 never fails to touch my heart. Just imagine: God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, did not open His mouth to defend Himself. Instead, He remained quiet, “like a lamb to the slaughter,” calmly accepting His fate.
“Why would He do such a thing?” you wonder.
God surrendered His life because He loves you.
I adore what nineteenth-century English preacher Charles Spurgeon has to say about Jesus as the Lamb of God:
“There was nothing of greater wonder ever seen than that God Himself should provide the Lamb for the burnt offering, that He should provide His only Son out of His very bosom, that He should give the delight of His heart to die for us. Well may we behold this great wonder. Angels admire and marvel at this mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh; they have never left off wondering and adoring the grace of God that gave Jesus to be the sacrifice for guilty men. Behold and wonder, never leave off wondering; tell it as a wonder, think of it as a wonder, think of it as a wonder, sing of it as a wonder at this glorious Lamb of God.”
The Precious Blood of Christ
According to Christian theology, Jesus’ blood cleanses us of our sins and makes us right with God. He is, as Paul the Apostle explains in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “our Passover lamb,” the One who has been sacrificed for us.
The concept of blood offerings is found throughout the Bible, particularly in the Book of Leviticus. As God explains in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
God thus requires His people to make blood offerings—by sacrificing certain animals, like the lamb—to expiate their sins. And Jesus makes the ultimate blood sacrifice when He dies on the cross. As Peter the Apostle explains in 1 Peter 1:18-20:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
In this passage, Peter articulates the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, noting that Jesus redeemed us “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus’ blood is ultimately the price for humankind’s sins and allows us to attain forgiveness from God.
I love how the writer of Hebrews puts it: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). He drives this point home in Hebrews 9:14: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Worthy is the Lamb!
In the Book of Revelation, John the Evangelist paints a glorious picture of a victorious “Lamb” that has sacrificed Himself for His people and has been raised up in glory: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,” he hears heavenly elders shout, “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength."
The lamb John describes here is none other than Jesus. In fact, the very last image of Jesus we have in the Bible is that of the glorified Lamb of God:
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27
John thus concludes the Book of Revelation with a promise of hope: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3). In other words, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the powers of sin no longer have a hold or claim over us. Their curse has been broken—by the power of the Lamb’s blood—once and for all.
Let us rest now easily in the knowledge that ours is a Lamb that is always victorious—a Lamb that will love and protect us no matter what. In the words of John the Evangelist: “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Jorisvo
Roma Maitlall fancies herself a bit of a logophile (from the Greek, meaning “lover of words”). Her lifelong passion for writing—combined with her love of Jesus—inspired her to study English and theology at St. John’s—a university located in Queens, New York, her hometown, where she always dreamed of becoming a writer. Now a full-time writer, Roma enjoys spending time with her wonderful sisters and family, learning everything there is to know about history, literature, art, and Christianity, and using her words to give glory to Jesus.