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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Lion to Lamb Revelation 5 Easter 3 c 22

Apr 30, 2022

I've not had time to record anything for the last few weeks but here is the text for my message for tomorrow: 

The Last become First (Lion to Lamb)

[Title slide] In CS Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader there is a scene right at the end when a lamb is transformed to the great lion, Aslan who represents Christ in the stories.
 The children in Lewis’ story Edmund, Lucy and Eustace have just got out of a boat and as they wade ashore they see a dazzling white lamb. It is cooking them a fish breakfast, just like Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples in John 21.
 Lamb and lion an extract from Voyage of the Dawn Treader Copyright © 1952 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Location 2558 Kindle Edition 

 Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted. “Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan’s country?” “Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan’s country is from your own world.” “What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world too?” “There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb, but as he spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane. “Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?” “I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.
I revelation 5, Jesus is the lamb and the Lion just like Aslan. And in our world Aslan is Jesus. I am going to leave you hanging a bit with the imagery of the Lion because I want to explore today’s reading and the imagery of the Lamb.

[Slide 2]
If we think about the scene described in Revelation 5. We see a picture of the current  heavenly worship. It is imagery trying to describe something it is impossible to use words to fully reveal. It is not meant to give you a photograph of the things described.  Sometimes it is like an expressionist painting. Sometimes it is like and abstract or surrealist painting. 
     God is in the centre on the throne and is being worshipped. Sometimes the Lamb seems to be the one on the throne, sometimes he is the in the centre but next to the throne. The Lamb is the one who was slain. He clearly represents Jesus. Countless angels, and 24 elders stand before the throne and they worship the Lamb. 
 Also present here are four living creatures described earlier in the book and finally “...every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them...” (Revelation 5:13, NIV) also join in the worship singing, 
    “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb 
    be blessing and honor and glory and might 
    forever and ever!”
It sounds wonderful and a bit scary and very strange.

I think this imagery of the Lamb is one of the main images of how it is Jesus connects us to God or of how Jesus is like Aslan “the great bridge builder.”  Where does this image comes from?

[Slide 3 Passover Lamb - Us with God]
Most of you will remember the story of the first Passover.
God hears the cries of the people of Israel in slavery in Egypt and comes down to rescue them. He calls Moses to lead the people and advocate for their freedom. When the King or Pharaoh of Egypt will not listen and release the slaves, God visits various plagues on the people of Egypt. Pharaoh is stubborn and God finally sends a plague which will lead to the death of every firstborn male, both animal and human in all the land.  
 On that final night through Moses God tells the people to prepare a meal and pack up ready to leave. A lamb is to be slaughtered for food. Some of its blood is to be placed on the door posts as a sign so that when the plague comes it will not affect those households who have blood on the door posts. [Refer to slide] The blood is a sign that the people of that house are with God. The story turns the plague into a character calling it “the messenger” or “the angel of death” and says that the messenger passes over those houses with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. But Death visits those households without the sign. God kept the Jewish people safe and the blood was a sign that “we are with God...”. Not only were the Jewish people spared, God Delivered them from slavery and in time led them to a land they took as their own. 
 This deliverance from Egypt is the theological heart of the Old Testament. This event is of course called “The Passover” and is usually at the same time as Easter. Indeed the events of the first Easter happened during the Passover festival.
     Passover is the most sacred time in the Jewish faith. It even makes an appearance in the 10 commandments, the great summary of the Law which begins “I am the lord your God who brought you out of Egypt....” (Ex 20:2, Dt 5:6).
 Notice that the lamb does not die to pay for sin or to take the punishment for sin, but so the people of God could be identified with God and as God’s people. So what has this Got to do with Jesus?

 [Slide 4 Jesus the lamb - God with us] 
In the New Testament This idea of Jesus as a lamb is not just in the book of Revelation (where it occurs a few times). Most famously it is in John 1:29 in a scene where John the Baptist is with his disciples. 
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

We can find it in other places like 1 Peter 1:18–20 (NRSV)
18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

This is a strange image. After all Jesus is the Messiah or The King... Jesus is the eternal word of God through whom the worlds were called into being.  A great lion like Aslan would surely be a more appropriate image of Jesus than a slaughtered lamb?

But of course it is not so strange. It is a humble image, even an image of humiliation. In other Biblical images Jesus is described as a servant. In Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 Jesus says about himself that he came “not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” In John’s gospel he takes a bowl and towel and does the work that only a servant or slave would do in washing the disciples’ feet. 
 This great King is at his birth laid not on fine linen in a palace but in an animal feed trough on hay. He is raised not as a prince but as carpenter. When a movement forms around him and he leads that movement to the capital he does not come with an army in a chariot or on a mighty horse but humbly riding on a donkey. And of course the cross is not a sign of earthly, let alone heavenly power, fame or glory but of humiliation.

In the original Passover Lamb the people identified with God, they placed the lamb’s blood on the door frame as a sign that “We are with the LORD and not with the Egyptians and their King and their gods.”
 In Jesus the Lamb of God, God identified with us. God the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Word becoming truly human, he lived an authentic human life. Like us he was born, he grew, lived, made friends, ate and drank, and as we will all do one day, he even died. In Jesus the Lamb of God, God identifies with us. God says “I am with you”. God as a human being has become a humble servant, a teacher, a healer, a friend, a child in a family, a brother, probably a carpenter, has enjoyed the pleasures of life such as a meal with a glass of wine with a crowd of family and friends and has also known rejection, betrayal, denial, injustice, physical suffering, mental agony and death.

[slide 5 final Response of worship]
So what doe this mean for us? 
Do you remember in that first image in the Revelation reading where the lamb is? Right before or maybe on the throne of God. When God looks out at humanity with all its glory and its shame God sees not only you and me with our imperfect worship, God sees someone else. The first person God sees is the Lamb. God sees a human being just like us.  Jesus one of us, and also the eternal Son, the Word of God.
 Two of my favourite verses in the Bible are Hebrews 4:15–16
“Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.” (Hebrews 4:15–16, CEV)

When we come in our need, broken-ness, sorrow, sin, yes and also our thankfulness and joy we never come alone. We come with Jesus the Lamb of God. We come with the eternal Son of God but we also come with a human being like us. And Jesus the Lamb of God says to God the Father almighty maker of heaven and earth, “Dad they are with me.”, “He is with me. She is with me.” No matter who you are, or what you have done or what has been done to you, you can be with God because Jesus, the Lamb of God, your servant, your friend, your brother, is God with you and for you.

And so what response is there but to join with every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, 
    “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb 
    be blessing and honour and glory and might 
    forever and ever!” Amen