The next day (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29
The lamb is a powerful image for the saviour of the world. It is little used in the New Testament as a whole but it is one of the images used by Isaiah as he foretold the character of the long-awaited Messiah. It is also an image which occurs twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation so it is clearly a very important picture for us to contemplate as we consider Jesus.
Lambs are beautiful without question. Seeing new lambs in the fields in spring is a joyous experience for everyone. I have always had real problems with eating them and yet they continue to be one of the top roast dinners for people in the UK. It seems to be not only their beauty but their very short lives that cause me difficulty when considering what to buy in the supermarket. I suppose one ought not to eat meat if it causes such psychological problems but a lifetime of conditioning makes it difficult to stop completely. It is said that they go to slaughter without complaint or fuss. Whether they are aware of their fate or just too terrified to open their mouths I do not know. To suggest that they die willingly for us is to take the analogy with the Son of God too far. They are, clearly, gentle creatures however and also very vulnerable.
The tradition of the Jews was to use a lamb as a sacrificial animal both to celebrate the Passover, when God spared the Israelites but not the Egyptians, and to be a sacrifice for sin. Other animals were also used for the latter purpose. None of these sacrifices took away sins but they were a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the whole world on the cross. John the Baptist saw that Jesus was the Messiah and referred to the Isaiah text when he said 'Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world'.
There is a wonderful image in the book of Revelation of the lamb of God on top of Mount Zion being worshipped by all the believers who have ever lived. They worship the lamb and follow wherever he goes. Here we have the lamb as conqueror and leader, quite the opposite of the frail and vulnerable creature going in silence to the slaughter. Our sins were dire and our race was hopelessly lost but God the Father provided a lamb to die for us. The glory in heaven resulting from the sacrifice of this perfect lamb will shine forever and be heaven's sun, brighter than noonday. As a lamb before its shearers is dumb, so Jesus did not open his mouth to complain, only to forgive and express his sorrow for the state of the world and its people. He was not a lamb but the Son of God as he went to his death but it was the way he went in meekness and humility that makes the title 'lamb of God' so apt. Whenever we wish to draw near to Christ it is good to remember him as a lamb. Clearly in heaven the image of the lamb is written large in the minds of angels and we should take time to reflect upon it and remember it always.