Have you ever had a lamb cake as part of your Easter celebration? Have you seen art that shows a lamb holding a triumphant banner? The lamb as a symbol for Christ has its roots in the Old Testament. For centuries people worshipped God by sacrificing animals. They killed them and offered them to God. For the Jews a lamb was the main animal of sacrifice. In the Temple a lamb was offered every day. The sacrifice of a lamb also played an important part in the Exodus.
In the biblical story of the Exodus, God led the Israelites out of Egypt, where they were slaves, and into the promised land. On the night God's people were to depart, the firstborn in all the Egyptian families died. The firstborn of the Israelites were saved because God had instructed them to kill a lamb or goat and mark their doorposts with its blood. The angel of death then knew to pass over those houses. The Israelites ate the lamb in a meal before they left. The lamb was to have no blemish, and none of its bones were to be broken. To this day the Jews remember this night with the Feast of Passover. On this day they share a special meal called a Seder meal. The shank of a lamb is one item on the Seder plate.
Jesus is called the lamb of God because he is the perfect sacrifice offered to God. In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we are told, “You were ransomed . . . not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.” A prophecy about the Messiah states, “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). After Jesus' crucifixion, soldiers did not break his legs to kill him because he was already dead. Like the Passover lamb, his bones were unbroken.
Paul states, “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus' death on the cross was a passover from death to life for himself and for all of us. By his blood we are saved from death. Jesus made it possible for us to break out of the slavery of sin and death. He gave us the hope of reaching our promised land, heaven. The Gospel of John clearly compares Jesus to the Passover lamb by saying that Jesus was crucified the same day that the Passover lambs were being killed in the Temple (John 19:31).
In the Gospel of John it was John the Baptist who gave Jesus the title Lamb of God (John 1:29). The Book of Revelation speaks of the Lamb at least 29 times. In a vision John sees a lamb. Four living creatures and 24 elders fall before the Lamb and sing praise because he purchased all people with his blood (Revelation 5:9).
† Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us! †