Jesus is often referred to as both lion and lamb in the bible. I can certainly see why Jesus would be referred to as a lion. I grew up thinking of Jesus as ‘the lion of Judah’. But it was only recently that I realised how much like a lamb he really was.
We know Jesus as a bit of a rebel. He was the table turner in the temple, who brought out whips and told off the sales opportunists of the day. Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his time and he wasn’t afraid to tell them what he really thought of them.
Jesus was a bit of a rebel.
Not shying away from difficult conversations, Jesus cried woe to the Pharisees and at times his followers. He told them where they were falling short. He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their shortsightedness. He was always setting them straight.
We can see Jesus’ assertiveness skills at work. He was certainly not lacking in his capacity to challenge, advocate and even divide camps where it was called for.
So it is even more amazing to me when we come to the scene of Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate.
Jesus stood calmly and quietly before Pilate, uttering not a word in his own defense. And Pilate gave him plenty of chances to speak up. He asked him the same questions again and again. He asked Jesus if the so-called accusations against him were true, almost imploring him to defend himself.
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked.
‘If you say so’, replied Jesus.
It was as though Jesus really couldn’t care less at that point what Pilate, or anyone else, thought or said about him.
It was as though Jesus couldn’t care less what Pilate, or anyone else, thought about him.
We know Jesus was a capable advocate for his disciples and those whom he helped. Yet when Jesus’ own turn came, he did not advocate for himself at all. In fact, he seemed set upon his own course of action—a course that would ultimately lead him to the cross on the hill.
So why did Jesus act so much like a lamb at his own crucifixion? Why not act the lion?
It was so the old prophecy from Isaiah would be fulfilled:
‘He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.’
(Isaiah 53:7-9 MSG)
‘Like a lamb being slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.’
Jesus had to be the lamb at his own crucifixion for this prophecy to be fulfilled. He had to be led off in silence, without a though for himself, instead thinking of others—of us—to free us from our sin. He was the lamb, simply doing what his Father had asked him to do.
So I think it is a fitting response for us to cry out, along with the angels: ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain.’ (Revelation 5:4-14)
Do you think of Jesus as being lion or lamb? How does it feel knowing Jesus willingly died for you? Are there situations in your life right now where God is calling you to act like a lamb instead of a lion? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.