Why is Jesus Called the Lamb of God?
Because Jesus’ name-titles are symbolic, one might analyze them in order to both gain a greater appreciation of and learn who He really is. One of the titles of Jesus Christ that has a very profound level of symbolism is when he is called “the Lamb of God.” I will attempt a basic explanation of what this name-title means, and why of all creatures, a lamb was chosen to represent the Savior.
Long before the Lamb of God was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, Isaiah likened the Savior of all men and women unto a lamb when he wrote, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). The lamb is therefore a symbol of meekness, humility, and of willingness to submit to the will of the master. It is true that Jesus is all of these (humble, willing to submit to the Father) but the level of symbolism goes much deeper than this.
But before a further explanation of why Jesus is called the Lamb of God is given, we must dwell for a moment on the Law of Sacrifice, a rite of worship that had been practiced as a part of worship since the days of Adam and Eve. An understanding of the Law of Sacrifice will give us a starting point as to the deeper symbolism of why Jesus is called the Lamb of God.�
The Bible Dictionary states that, “Soon after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord gave them the law of sacrifices, which included offering the firstlings of their flocks in a similitude of the sacrifice that would be made of the Only Begotten Son of God” (Bible Dictionary: Sacrifices). The law therefore pointed men and women “to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice [would] be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:14).
In the Mosaic Law one reads that the sacrifices must be “a male without blemish,” (Leviticus 1:3), the firstling or firstborn of one’s flocks (Numbers 18:17), and having no broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Lambs of this nature were highly valued possessions and had to be offered voluntarily. After the paschal lamb was sacrificed it was “eaten . . . with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Bible Dictionary: Feasts). Anything left over was burned.
This is what happened when lambs were sacrificed during the Passover, a feast of the Jews that was “instituted to commemorate the passing over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians,” and Israel’s “redemption from Egypt” (Bible Dictionary: Feasts). This lamb sacrifice at the feast of the Passover is known as the “paschal lamb.”
James E. Talmage said, putting the pieces of the puzzle together,
“The paschal lamb, slain for every Israelitish household at the annually recurring feast of the Passover, was a particular type of the Lamb of God who in due time would be slain for the sins of the world. The crucifixion of Christ was effected at the Passover season; and the consummation of the supreme Sacrifice, of which the paschal lambs had been but lesser prototypes, led Paul the apostle to affirm in later times: ‘For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us’” (Jesus the Christ. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1922. 46-47).
“If ‘the preparation of the passover’ (John 19:14) on Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion, means the slaughtering of the paschal lambs, our Lord, the real sacrifice of which all earlier altar victims had been but prototypes, died on the cross while the passover lambs were being slain at the temple” (Ibid. 620).
Abraham therefore said prophetically as he prepared to sacrifice his only son, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).
Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He is a male, sinless and without blemish. None of his bones were broken (John 19:36). He is the Firstborn. He is meek, humble, and willing to submit to the will of his Father. He is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
While all sacrifices, including the Passover, helped ancient Israel look forward to the greatest event ever to occur on the earth, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper helps us look back to that same event. We symbolically eat His flesh and drink His blood as a token of remembrance of that transcendent event (Matthew 26:26-28). Thus the old law was done away, and a new one had been given in its place.
“For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice” (Alma 34:10).
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