Lion and Lamb
The old adage declares that March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” referring to the weather transition from winter to spring that often occurs during this month. The “lion” of winter weather is harsh and severe, whereas springtime’s “lamb” is a sort of easing of tension, ushering in a time of gentle warmth and verdant growth. The stark juxtaposition within the context of a single 31-day period is significant, often as if it were two entirely different months.
We see similar imagery describing our Lord, Jesus Christ, in Revelation 5. The word pictures
used specifically of Christ here are used variously throughout the Bible, but in this passage we encounter the culmination of the imagery and its meaning, as well as something of a glimpse into application of the meaning in our lives today.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne,
encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. (Revelation 5:5-6a NIV)
As John the Apostle records this revelation that He received from the Lord, he is deeply
troubled and weeping, because an angel has presented a scroll of God’s truth that no one is
worthy to open, leaving this holy truth unknown. John is then comforted by one of the “elders” surrounding the throne of Heaven, who declares to the apostle that Judah’s Lion—David’s Root—is able to open the scroll, for He has triumphed. It is a clear reference to Jesus, who is known as the Root of David, born of David’s royal lineage, which is the kingly line of Judah’s tribe. Everything about the imagery is strong, warring, majestic, and royal. Christ is depicted in that statement as the ruling King, worthy to open and reveal God’s deep truths because He is triumphant.
Yet when John looks to see the Lion of Judah on His royal throne of triumph and power, he sees “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne”. The imagery of a lamb is precisely opposite of that of a lion. The lamb depicts nothing of power, aggressiveness, glory, or majesty. The lion is “king of the beasts”, a mighty predator; the lamb is lowly prey, meek and submissive. The lamb is the animal used in the Passover and other Old Testament sacrifices. The presence of the Lamb on the Lion’s throne is the great surprise of the passage.
As the rest of the chapter unfolds, the vision makes clear that the Lion and the Lamb are the
same person; Jesus Christ is both the Lion and the Lamb. John the Baptist declares that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV) The same Christ who reigns on David’s throne as God’s anointed and eternal King also takes away sin as the perfect redeeming sacrifice; the Lion’s triumph comes in the sacrifice of the Lamb and His victory over sin on humanity’s behalf. Isaiah 53 tells of the suffering of Messiah on behalf of sinners, culminating in verse 12, where God exalts Him as a victor, “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
As the Lion and the Lamb, we see the reality of Christ as both Lord and Savior, the Redeemer who reigns. In his gospel, John the Apostle describes Messiah, the Word made flesh, as the fullness of grace and truth (John 1:14), and Paul points out that Christ is the very image of the unseen God, the full picture of who God is (Colossians 1:15). Christ perfectly embodies both majesty and meekness; He is both our holy Judge (John 5:22) and our Advocate (1 John 2:1).
Christ shatters the categories we tend to assign to God. God is bigger, fuller than we have ever dared imagine. The enemy of our souls wants us to compartmentalize God, to see only parts of Him, as if any one of those aspects were the whole of His person and nature, then to juxtapose the parts as competing ideas, rather than recognizing God as great, vast, and holy—completely “other”. When we see the various aspects of God revealed in His Word as contradictory and not as a complementary whole, we sell God short; we miss out on the truth of who He is. Even in our best, fullest understanding of our infinite, holy, almighty God, He is yet more…infinitely more.
To know God rightly, we must see Him in His fullness, as perfectly revealed to us in Christ, the Lion and the Lamb, full of grace and truth. We must see the power of God in Creation, the holiness of God in our sin and the resulting Law, the providence and faithfulness of God in the history of Israel, and the amazing grace of God in Christ. We must recognize that the meaning and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ resides in the binding nature of the Law that governs sin and death. Apart from the bad news that sinful humans can never be good enough to merit the attention of a holy God, the good news of God’s grace to us—the Gospel itself—does not exist. To know God and to declare Him to the world requires knowing and declaring the fullness of grace and truth.
As we seek to reflect the reality of Christ through relationships, that reality includes the whole
of Christ: full grace and full truth, the perfect revelation of God’s holiness and His love. We
represent Christ accurately not merely by expressing His love, but by expressing His love in the context of holiness and truth. We stand by the unwavering and perfect authority of God’s
Word, even as we extend His compassionate hands to the sinful world Christ came to save.
May we increasingly reflect the full reality of Christ to a world in need of both the Lion of God’s righteous rule and the Lamb of God’s redeeming grace.