Christ, Our Easter Lamb

Jesus Christ carrying his cross.

Jesus Christ carrying his cross, public domain.

Beginning as early as Genesis, God used the symbol of the innocent lamb as an example of the Christ who was to come.

Technically, this use of prophetic symbolism is known as “typology.”  The spotless lamb is a “type” of Christ.

As a shepherding people, the lamb was a symbol with which all Jews could identify. They viewed the lamb as the embodiment of sweet, beautiful innocence, much as we would view a puppy or a kitten.

The prophet Nathan once told King David a story about a poor man who had raised a lamb as his own child. Unfortunately, a greedy rich man stole the lamb and had it slaughtered to feed his guest. David, a former shepherd, was incensed. He declared that the man who had done such a deed was worthy of death (2 Samuel 12).

In his Word, God chose to give us numerous pictures of just such an innocent Lamb who would be slaughtered undeservedly, sacrificed for the sins of the guilty.

In Genesis 22, God told Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him. At the last moment, God substituted a ram in place of Isaac. As Abraham had told his son, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”

When Israel was captive in Egypt, God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians to force Pharoah to let them go. In the final plague, God sent the angel of death to kill all their first-born.

But God gave Israel a way of escape. They were each to take a spotless, first-born lamb and slaughter it. They were to smear its blood upon their doorposts, and eat its flesh in a memorial dinner.  When the death angel saw the blood, it would pass them by. This was the first Passover (Exodus 11-12).

God instituted various animal sacrifices as an object lesson in sin and forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God declared that every man would have to die for his own sins. “The soul that sins shall die,” He said (Ezekiel 18:4).

But through sacrifice, God showed us that innocent blood could cover our sins. Of course, the blood of animals could never truly pay for human sin. But those paltry sacrifices pointed to the One who would be the ultimate sacrifice.

On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) came a truly special sacrifice. At this annual event, the High Priest would make a sacrifice for the nation as a whole. He would take two goat kids, one of which would become a burnt offering.

The second kid was a sin offering, called the “scapegoat.” The High Priest would place his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it the sins of the nation. Thus Israel’s sin was symbolically transferred to the goat. Then the goat was released in the wilderness, to die in the wild (Leviticus 16).

Both these goats were types of Christ. The first died for Israel’s sins. The second, the scapegoat, symbolized the carrying away of their sin, where it would be lost and forgotten. Like the first, Christ died for our sins. Like the second, Christ carried away our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

Christ could have called legions of angels to save him from death on the cross. But He had the ultimate task to perform, to die as the spotless Lamb for sinners slain, “who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

Christ submitted to this ignominious death. “He was brought like a lamb to the slaughter; and like a sheep that is mute before its shearers, He did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

In the end, the risen Christ is triumphant. He comes as both Lion and Lamb before the throne of God. He alone is worthy to open the seven seals of judgment (Revelation 5).

Jesus Christ is the spotless Lamb who was killed on that first Easter for my sins and yours. Because He has arisen from the dead, He has conquered death and the grave. His sacrifice long ago has become an eternal sacrifice for all who will believe and follow him, now and forevermore.

“God so loved the world that He gave his firstborn Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

We ought to love and serve, with every fiber of our beings, the kind of God who loved us so much.
_____________________
©2006 from Christ in Us: The Exalted Christ and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit by Paul A. Hughes, used by permission.  Originally published in the Polk County Enterprise, Livingston, TX.

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