Some people are lion-like. They are bold, steely and courageous. Others are like a lamb. They are gentle, meek and submissive. All of us are supposed to be a godly mixture of both, and know when to be like a lion and when to be like a lamb.
But how can one person be both the Lion and the Lamb?
In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, the lion, Aslan, represents Jesus. In the most famous of these books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan is slain:
‘ “Bind him, I say!” repeated the White Witch … “Let him first be shaved” … the shorn face of Aslan looked … braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever. “Muzzle him!” said the Witch … the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him … They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table.’
Later, ‘they heard from behind them a loud noise – a great cracking, deafening noise … The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end … There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.’ Aslan tells them that ‘when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.’
In this imaginative and powerful way, C. S. Lewis shows how Jesus can be both ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah’ (Revelation 5:5) and ‘a Lamb [that] had been slain’ (v.6).
In the book of Revelation we see Jesus is standing at the centre of the throne of heaven. He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is both triumphant (‘has triumphed’, 5:5) and slain (‘you were slain’, v.9). In the Old Testament passages for today we see hints and anticipation of what was to come.
1. Be cleansed by the Lamb who was slain
We need to be cleansed from our sin – our ‘filth’, as the writer of Proverbs describes it (v.12). This ‘filth’ of sin comes in many guises and disguises:
Failure to give sufficient blessing and obedience to our parents (vv.11–12,17)
Pride, which can come in the form of ‘haughty’ eyes and ‘disdainful’ looks (v.13). ‘Don’t be stuck-up and think you’re better than everyone else’ (v.13, MSG)
Failure to look after ‘the poor’ and ‘the needy’ (v.14)
Sexual sin, which justifies itself by saying, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong’ (v.20)
The worst state to be in is not to recognise the need to be cleansed (v.12). It is a wonderful thing to be cleansed of our sins.
In the New Testament passage for today we see the whole of creation worshipping the Lamb that had been slain because ‘with your blood you “purchased for God” members of every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Revelation 5:9). It is the blood of Jesus that ‘purifies us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).
May we be those who are cleansed from our filth by the blood of the Lamb, who purchased us for God. Amen.
2. Worship the Lamb who is also a Lion
Sometimes we find myself acting like a lamb when we should be a lion. We act meekly when we should be bold, steely and courageous. At other times, we act like a lion when we should be more lamb-like.
Jesus took on powerful opponents with lion-like courage, for example, throwing out the moneychangers from the temple. On the other hand, for example, with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11), he could have been steely but instead he was gracious and gentle as a lamb. The challenge for us is to follow the example of the one we worship.
What is going on in heaven right now? John tells us that when he glimpses into heaven he sees millions worshipping Jesus: ‘the Lion’ who is also ‘a Lamb’. Jesus is the key to understanding history and salvation.
On earth, we find it so hard to understand what is going on. What are God’s plans and purposes? The scroll ‘sealed with seven seals’ (Revelation 5:1) probably represents God’s plans and purposes for history and salvation.
No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is found worthy to open the scroll or event to look inside it, except for Jesus: ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah’ who ‘has triumphed’. He is able to open the scroll with its seven seals (vv.2–5).
Here stands Jesus in all his majesty and kingship. Only Jesus can open the secrets of history and God’s plan of salvation. Hallelujah!
The Lion is also a Lamb. ‘A Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall … He came to the One Seated on the Throne and took the scroll from his right hand. The moment he took the scroll, the Four Animals and Twenty-four Elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb (vv.6–7, MSG).
The Lamb is worshipped by the whole created order and the entire church falls down before him.
Here is an amazing fact. The prayers of God’s people on earth affect the worship of heaven: ‘Each had a harp and each had a bowl, a gold bowl filled with incense, the prayers of God’s holy people’ (v.8, MSG). Our prayers fill the golden bowls of heaven. Our prayers really do make a difference.
‘They sang a new song … “with your blood you purchased for God members of every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” ’ (vv.9–10).
There are more than a hundred million angels worshipping Jesus. There is something extraordinarily powerful about large crowds worshipping Jesus together. ‘Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand’ (v.11).
‘The slain Lamb is worthy!
Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength!
Take the honour, the glory, the blessing!’ (v.12, MSG)
Here we see that the activity of heaven is the worship of Jesus. We will sing songs of redemption. The whole of heaven bursts with praise (v.13). There is a great orchestra and a magnificent choir and all types of music in harmony. You were created for the worship of God’s glory, which was revealed in Jesus Christ – the Lion who is also the Lamb.
3. Celebrate the triumph of the Lion of the tribe of Judah
Jesus is the Lion who turns the tables on our spiritual enemies. He is the one against whom no one can stand. He is the cause of feasting and joy and celebration. Ultimately, he is the reason we give presents on Christmas day, to celebrate his coming and his triumph.
Esther is a ‘type’ of Christ – that is to say, her life prefigured and foreshadowed Jesus. Humanly speaking, if it were not for her intervention, the Jewish nation would have been destroyed. Her action brought defeat to the evil one – Haman – and brought freedom, joy and triumph to the people of God. The ‘tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand … No one could stand against them’ (9:1–2).
We need to trust God that, in the end, whatever evil is planned against us will come to nothing. God has promised, in Jesus, to give us the ultimate victory.
In the meantime we need to have the lion-like courage of Esther and Mordecai, and their lamb-like willingness to sacrifice their lives in obedience to God’s purpose.
This led to God’s people ‘freeing themselves from oppression’. They ‘celebrated with much food and laughter … laughing and feasting … their day for parties and the exchange of gifts’.
These events foreshadowed the great event of the triumph of the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David’ (Revelation 5:5) – through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
He brought about: ‘sorrow turned to joy, mourning somersaulted into a holiday for parties and fun and laughter, the sending and receiving of presents and of giving gifts to the poor’ (Esther 9:22, MSG). This too should be part of our celebration.
You are worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise. ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honour and glory and power, forever and ever!’ (Revelation 5:13). Hallelujah to His Holy Name.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.