HOW CAN GOD BE A LAMB ?
by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), Kingston, Ontario, February 2006
Among Christians, the eternal Son of God is known as "the Lamb." Since he is also described as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), the King of kings, the Good Shepherd, and by other names such as the Door, the Light, the Judge , the Vine, we know that all these terms are all metaphorical. And with a metaphor we have to grasp what aspect of the person is in mind. When we say "He is a giant of a man" or "A pillar of strength" we are not referring to physical size or propping up a building. So what do we mean by the Lambness of the Second Person of the Trinity?
God is a oneness of three Persons, and each of these can only be described in metaphorical terms. The first Person of the Trinity is called God the Father. He is also pictured as a mother. The psalm writer said "I have calmed and quietened my soul, like a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131:2). And by a prophet the LORD said "Can a woman forget her sucking child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13).
The third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit was Ruakh Elohim, the Wind of God (Genesis 1:2) in the creation of our world. He breathed inspiration into artists and prophets. He is also pictured as a Dove. Jesus said he would be our paraklytos which, like the Latin advocatus, means one called alongside to help (John 14:15, 26).
So in what sense is the eternal Son of God lamblike? We are not to imagine he is weak, since his wrath can be as dangerous as a lion. Nor should we assume he is helpless and cannot survive on his own without a shepherd. He is described as "the Lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world" (NRSV margin, Revelation 13:8). Here the Lambness refers to his willingness to bear in his own Person the sin of the humans that he had created and still keeps loving. It reminds us of the sacrificial cost of God’s kind of loving. Even in our limited experience, forgiving, and still loving those who have wronged us, is very costly.
The leader of the apostles, who knew Jesus intimately, wrote that "He was known (the Greek verb does not mean destined) as Lamb before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake" (1 Peter 1:18,19). This is why John the Baptist pointed him out as "Here is the Lamb of God who keeps taking away (a Greek present continuous) the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The taking away of sin was not something that the Messiah bore on the first Good Friday for six hours on the cross. His heart has been crucified again and again since the first human beings began rejecting his love. What took place on the cross was therefore the visible manifestation in that particular situation of the eternal Lambness of the Son of God. That is the way our Lord keeps loving those who crucify him.
Cheap grace has been described as forgiveness without cost to the one who is forgiven. That is why churches have often imagined that for forgiveness there has to be some form of penance in this life, or a period of purgatory after death. But God’s love does not work that way. Love is offered to us freely because the Son of God keeps absorbing the cost of loving in his own heart. There is nothing for us to pay. We cannot earn the forgiveness of God. But hopefully we will eventually understand and offer our sacrifice of thanksgiving. Already in the Old Testament the psalmist knew that we can "offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving" (Psalm 50:14; 107:22). But now when we survey "the wondrous cross" we have seen the cost that was involved in the "blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). We share in the triumph song of heaven "Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 7:12). And it is those who continually offer this kind of thanksgiving who enter right into the very heart of God.