The Uniqueness of the Son
By John Clevely
Jesus the Lion and the Lamb Revelation 5:1-6
At Christmas we celebrate how God sent his Son into the world. His desire was to make him known in all the earth. You may have thought his strategy was misguided as there is not even a portrait of Jesus as he actually looked. He is the image of the invisible God, yet there is no image. And image is everything today. However, God has made him known, and is doing so, and it does not require a physical portrait. He is totally unique, and today I want tto remind you of this. People think they know Jesus well but he has a habit of surprising and doing things we do not expect. He is hard to tie down as there is no one quite like him.
The wonder of knowing Jesus, “The Lion and the Lamb,” leads us to worship, like never before
There is no one like our God! There is no one like our Jesus. He is the lion and the lamb. He is described as a conquering Lion and when John looks he sees a lamb bearing the marks of slaughter. (Rev 5:5f) So the question arises, Is he a lion or a lamb? And the answer comes back, yes! That is what makes Jesus so unpredictable. WWJD? Lion or Lamb? These are not really alternatives, but both fully present in the same person, and this is surprising and somewhat mystifying. Jonathan Edwards says these qualities, “would have been thought utterly incompatible in the same subject; such as are conjoined in no other person whatever, either divine, human, or angelical; and such as neither men nor angels would ever have imagined could have met together in the same person, had it not been seen in the person of Christ.”
There is a whole list of things we could look at in depth:
Infinite humility and infinite glory
Transcendent majesty and astonishing meekness
Deepest reverence for God and total equality with God
Absolute justice and unlimited Grace
Worthy of unending good yet displays greatest patience suffering unimaginable evil
Perfect submission and complete freedom
Wholly self-sufficient yet entirely trusting in his Father to provide
Infinite Humility and Infinite Glory
As the lion Jesus possesses the glory of the creator of all things. He is infinitely exalted over all things. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The universe is his creation, his design and he keeps it going moment by moment.
But he does not only take note of us, he became one of us to become our Saviour and our friend. his first night spent in some cattle shed, his first bed an animal trough. He was born into a lowly family, his parents took advantage of the poor law in Leviticus at his dedication: “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” (Leviticus 12:8 Cf Luke 2:24) Poor shepherd come to see the sight, but so do Angels and Wise men from the East. Glory and humility. Meekness and Majesty. No matter how low Jesus stoops though his glory always shines through. No matter how unspeakable his glory he has come near to us in an unimaginable way!
Aged 12 he talks to the learned Rabbis and they marvel at him. He is learning yet teaching, humility and glory that makes men marvel. For most of his life he lived in obscurity. His glory veiled. People did not recognise anything special. His majesty was concealed from all. The lion is the lamb.
Once his ministry begins he works miracles. He takes water and turns it into wine. He directs Peter where to fish and catches a great catch. He feeds the hungry crowds with a picnic lunch. He calms the storm on the sea and at another time walks on the water. The disciples cry out in awe, who is this? He curses the fig tree and it withers. He heals the sick – whatever their condition and on three occasions raises the dead. He raises Jairus’s daughter with the same ease a mother awakes her sleeping child. The widow’s son with a touch and Lazarus with a command. Awesome is not the word for this.
All you can do is fall at his feet and worship and cry glory, he is a lion, such a lion as has never been seen and yet, for all this he is a lamb… Jesus gets with the most unlikely people. The leper was outcast and instructed to announce his presence with a bell and the cry of unclean. Jesus does not pass him by but beckons him. He can heal by a word, but stretches out his hand to heal the leper and so he restores him physically as well as socially. He goes to dinner with Simon the leper, he eats dinner the despised tax collectors like Zacchaeus and with prostitutes. But not only the excluded he also eats with the religious leaders who would not be seen with Jesus other hosts for dinner. He loves the poor but also goes to the rich and seems at home with both. For all his exaltation Jesus stoops down to take note not just of angels and kings but the poor and lowly. When a man comes into the church in shabby dress James 2:5 says don’t overlook him. Jesus doesn’t. The disciples think he is too important and busy to bother with babies. He rebukes them. (Mt 19:14) Eating is one thing but doing the menial tasks is another. After the supper Jesus takes a towel and a basin and kneels to wash his disciple’s dirty feet. It is the end of a long hot dusty day. What is he doing? Why is he doing that? Stop him someone, but too late he is already doing it. Peter protests, you are not doing that to me but Jesus silences his objection insisting it is so necessary that Peter cannot remain a part of his team without it.
Meekness and Majesty, Manhood and deity, in perfect harmony the man who is God! Bow down and worship for this is our God. Full of glory and humility. The lion and the lamb!
Full Justice and Free Grace
Jesus is totally committed to justice and purity before God. He is righteous through and through. There is no bending or compromise with him. He is the Lion. He is the judge of the whole earth and yet he is the saviour of the world. He is the lamb. People committed to justice tend to be a little on the hard side, but Jesus is tender and filled with compassion. He is the lion and the lamb!
He calls Zacchaeus to eat with him, but he also demands he leave his corruption behind. He confronts the judgmentalism of the Pharisees and yet is never bigoted towards them. He does not become like them in his criticism and condemnations.
A woman is caught in the act of adultery. The man got away? Condemnation is demanded, and he is put right on the spot. WWJD? He will not take sides with the accusers, and in a moment of wisdom calls for the one without sin to throw the first stone. All slip away leaving him with the woman. Go and sin no more. The lion is still the lion and the lamb is still the lamb. He is tender without weakness, bold without being harsh. He is full of grace, and truth. They are not alternatives to be chosen between. He maintains them both in full measure. Righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psa 85:10) He is the one who knows how to deal with awkward people and difficult situations with amazing grace and wisdom.
He cannot be pigeon holed as we like to with people today into introvert or extrovert, outspoken or softly spoken. He breaks boundaries and defies simple categories. He is blunt with the religious leaders, but gentle with the Samaritan woman. He knows how to treat people individually. Some he heals in public, others he draws aside for a discrete healing.
When his friend Lazarus died he came to see his grieving sisters. To the Martha he speaks, with Mary he simply weeps. They both say the same thing to him, Lord if only you had been here. But Jesus always treats people exactly as they need and always knows what that is. To Martha he gives amazing reassurance of his power over death. With Mary he grieves alongside her in deep convulsions of anguish and anger. He is the lamb who is grieved at our condition. He is moved by the dominion of death over us and our helplessness to save ourselves. His compassion is such that he will take our place in death as the lamb slain. But he is roused into action by a deeply welling anger. What can it mean that my creation is subject to such tyranny and after a brief prayer he shouts with a loud cry and calls forth the dead man, who rises up and staggers forth still bound by his burial cloths. Who is this? It is the lion and the lamb.
Freedom Jesus was always telling people not to be afraid, because he was not. He was free of fear, whether it was a storm at sea, a hostile crowd, deserting disciples, even the fear of death – even his own death brought no fear. When he is sought for arrest he asks, “who are you looking for?” They fall back on the floor in astonishment and he surrenders himself voluntarily, making no move to escape and save himself. The lion is the lamb. When he stood before Pilate you wonder who is the captive and who the prisoner? So you are a king? Are these your own ideas or did someone put them into his head? After Jesus was flogged he was silent and Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” He shows absolutely no fear whatsoever. The lamb is the lion.
Crucifixion… ultimate humility, ultimate glory Jesus predicted his death, went to Jerusalem knowing he would die, set his face like flint to get there, yet in the Garden of Gethsemane recoiled and prayed like never before to be spared that cup, if it were possible.
What made his death hard? Others have died with little bother. Love for the Father from whom he would be separated, and a revulsion at the sin with which he would be saturated. The horror of death to the Living One is incalculable. What he envisaged was the sin of the world laid on him, penetrating to his inner core, past every defence and protective layer. He would be exposed to the worst of the worst, concentrated evil where love had reigned from all eternity. This was such a severe trial that even the Son of God, especially the Son of God shrank back from it in revulsion.
Obedience to death was not easy matter, just another day at the office. This was the ordeal of the ages. Total obedience, total selflessness was required from it, and he gave it all. All for his Father, all for us.
The Resurrection: The Lord of life cannot remain among the dead. Low in the grave he lay, death cannot keep its prey, he tore the bars away. He died the lamb he was raised the lion. He was raised by the glory of the Father. He died once for sin, now he lives for ever.
Response: what can we say in response to this?
If you are not a believer?
Dismiss him. Not interested, it’s all irrelevant to me and my life. I’m not religious. Ok, maybe, but if someone you had never met died and left a will with your name in it attached to a substantial sum of money, wouldn’t it be worth your while to check it out?
Reduce him to a good teacher, a world influence, but not the Son of God.
That is something that you cannot really do with Jesus, not with the facts as they stand. He will not be domesticated or scaled down to our level of thinking.
Many people have claimed to be God. Only a few have persuaded people that they speak truth. Only one has persuaded millions of people over thousands of years. There is a very short list of people who started world religions. Buddha, Confucius, Mohamed. There are only two people who have ever lived such lives that made people say, not just who are you, but what are you. Buddha and Jesus. Buddha did not claim to be God, or an angel, or anything else. In fact, Buddha didn’t talk about God at all. The only thing Buddha claimed to be was *awake.* Jesus on the other hand, did! Before Abraham was I am!
Accept him –