The Lion and the Lamb

Even if your church is only marginally up to date with recent worship songs, there is a strong possibility that you’ve either heard and/or sung Brenton Brown’s song The Lion and the Lamb. It popped up recently at a conference for church leaders I was attending, and I got stuck…sort of.

I found myself ransacking my mental concordance for the reference to lions and lambs (“I’m sure it’s in Revelation somewhere…”) and finally sat down with Revelation 5 open.

Here’s what leapt out at me (so to speak!)

In John’s vision, one of the twenty-four elders consoles John (he is weeping because nobody has been found worthy to open the scroll), and says, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has conquered…’ (Revelation 5:5). John looks, but instead of seeing a Lion, he sees ‘…a lamb standing, as though it had been slain’ (Revelation 5:6).

The elder says ‘Behold the Lion…’ but John sees a slain lamb. As far as the text of Revelation 5 goes, there is just one animal on display here, not two. Now, I am not trying to be pedantic about Brenton’s song (“Ooh Brenton, didn’t you known that there’s only one animal…”) but I do want to make what I think is a significant point about the text. It seems that God’s lion-likeness is expressed through his (slain) lamb-likeness. The elder doesn’t say, ‘Behold the Lion and the lamb…’ or ‘Behold the Lion who is like a lamb…’ It would appear that- at least from this scene in Revelation- that when God wants to reveal something about the regal authority and power of Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he shows us a slain lamb (it doesn’t even seem right to say that Jesus is a lamb-like lion or a lion-like lamb, because what John sees is the lamb).

Not that this should be any surprise to readers of the New Testament. The crucifixion scene in Mark 15 is one of the profoundest narrations of what it means- what it looks like- for Jesus to be king. Paul writes to the Spirit-mad Corinthians that the cross of Christ, which is such foolishness in the eyes of those who are perishing, is indeed the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18, 24).

The New Testament portrayal of Jesus- whether as Mark’s crucified messiah, Paul’s wisdom and power of God, or the slain lamb of the apocalypse- overturns all of our notions of what it means to speak about God’s power and authority. The victory of God was won by means of a lamb, not a lion. We must understand this unless we inadvertently re-erect the categories of power and authority that Jesus himself subverts.

 

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