Back to Basics: What is "The Lamb"?

Hindrick S
During this Christmas season just past, we often hear of 'The Lamb'. Most Christians know what that means, no matter if you're a babe in the faith or mature in the faith. However, the practice of study (in my opinion) means constantly asking questions. I ask myself, 'what does this mean?' 'How can I go deeper?' 'What does the Greek say?' 'Why is this reference here, at this moment in the narrative, and not earlier in the chapter or later?' Isn't this the fifth time this particular reference has been why is that?' What did the Lord want us to know here?'

Never assume you know the full answer, because we don't. Never assume we can't learn more, because God is infinite. He always has things to teach us. So what is "The Lamb"? For many of us in this industrialized world, we may never see a lamb or a grown sheep. We are not agricultural and the metaphors that were immediately understood by the agrarian society in which Jesus preached are lost to us today in terms of daily experience. So we study it.

We are introduced to Jesus as the Lamb when John the Baptist saw Him arrive at the banks of the Jordan. This moment was the one God intended for Jesus to be baptized and begin His earthly ministry as the God-Man.

John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Going back in time now, God had told the Israelites that they must sacrifice a year-old lamb twice a day. (Numbers 28:3-4). This act was to shed the blood of a young, perfect animal so that the person's sins would be atoned for. It goes without explanation that we understand every person on earth is born with a sin nature, and is an enemy of the Lord, at war with Him, and in need of reconciliation. Without atonement, we cannot commune with God.

The sacrifice of the lambs were a temporary covering of those sins that must be repented of and atoned for. A person's sins are so deep and so tall that a blood covering from one lamb one time certainly would not fulfill the debt to the Lord that the sin's existence created. People wrongly think, "I lied once, but that's over and I haven't lied since, so my sin is gone." The lie is an offense against God, and that offense remains forever reverberating in the strings of the Milky Way, as a clang against His holy being in the harmonious temple, and as a blight in His sight for all His days. It stays. This stain can never be removed. A sin doesn't vanish into thin air. You may have forgotten it, but God has not.

Therefore, any sin has an eternal existence and so would need an eternal sacrifice to atone for it. So God set it up that the Law would be delivered at Mt. Sinai, and He ordained that the blood from twice-daily slaughtered lambs would be the covering. Though God made known the Law to the Israelites, the blood covering had been ordained since Genesis 4:4 when Abel brought the first fatlings of his flock as a sacrifice to the LORD.

What about lambs, and sheep in general? What are they like?

Ferran Jorda
Well, when shepherds brought their flocks together to the troughs to drink, the sheep all mixed and mingled. How would the shepherds ever get them sorted out?! Sheep are not branded like cows are. It's easy- the shepherd calls them. Sheep know the voice of the one who cares for them, and they follow him without making a mistake.

When Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27) his hearers knew exactly what He was talking about. And the lambs followed the mother sheep, who followed the shepherd.

Sheep are not fighters. They may struggle for a moment when caught for shearing, but when they sense they are held firmly in the grip of the shepherd, they give up entirely and become docile.

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7; Mark 15:5).

This is true of sheep and lambs even if they are headed to the slaughter and not just for shearing.

Sheep are flocking animals and have a natural tendency to follow a dominant one to greener pastures.

"The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3)

Chris Gin
"I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel." (Ezekiel 34:14)

Lambs are prey animals (grown sheep are too). Wolves stalk them. Lions do too. Jesus was surrounded by wolves many times:

"And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff." (Luke 4:29).

Jesus sent the disciples, saying "Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." (Luke 10:3).

These disciple lambs were innocent, vulnerable, put amidst the cruel schemes of malicious men, just as Jesus was. Some indeed were slaughtered. Foxe's Book of Martyrs is thick.

Jesus was the prototype for that innocent, gentle obedience that He told us to employ now, as His flock.

His death on the cross was as a silent lamb to the heinous slaughter. But His blood is eternal. His perfect life and His holy blood was the fulfillment of the payment to God for the wrath He held against sin and sinners.

Lambs are gentle, vulnerable-looking innocent, and obedient. Make no mistake, the babe grew up. As far as unbelievers go, the lamb was slain. The one who is coming the second time is not the Lamb but is the Holy Righteous One, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, full of wrath and meting it out in perfect precision unto every sinner on the earth.

Yet, for the believer, the Lamb is still the Lamb. It is one aspect of His work on earth that will never be diminished or forgotten. (Revelation 5:13)

The Lamb is in heaven, with God:

"And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (Revelation 5:6a)

The Lamb opens the scroll containing the seals. Lo, He judges:

"Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”" (Revelation 6:1)

And the Lamb becomes the Shepherd!

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)

Jesus was and is and is to come. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

photo credit: Hindrik S via photopin cc
photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc
photo credit: Ferran. via photopin cc
photo credit: Chris Gin via photopin cc


  1. Elizabeth, thank you for this wonderful essay that really touched my heart as you describe so accurately the characteristics and the spiritual significance of the symbol as it relates to our Lord, our perfect sacrifice and also his followers.

    Again I marvel at the timing of the Holy Spirit. A few days ago, I finished writing about the subject although from another perspective.

    If you haven´t read it yet, I also have the story of a young shepherd who goes to the rescue of a little lamb. The link is at the top or on the side bar under personal testimonies.
    Whatever I forgot you were right there to add what was missing on a deeper level.

    1. You and I are in spiritual sync! I am headed out to church but I'll read yours tonight when I get back. Blessings to you, Jean-Louis.

    2. BTW, did you read the little spoof I wrote following your essay on church covering spiritual abuse? I know it´s a very serious subject the effect of which I have experienced personally before during my involvements with several charismatic movements.

      Sometimes I just feel like indulging in a bit of humor with a biting edge to get my point across and not for a display of gratuitous retaliation in the battle of ideas and words.

      Some people might be offended by it, but then I think about the way our Lord about the way some treat Him and His Word, this attempt to poke in the eyes of the enemy pales in comparison with the more serious offense against the Holiness of God and the spiritual abuse of his people.

      Here is the link:
      Grace and peace to you. JL.

    3. You're such a good writer. I agree, sometimes humor can be a good remedy even in dark situations. I loved the artwork of Jesus walking toward the boat.

    4. Thank you for your kind compliment. I never considered myself a writer, I am saying that sincerely. But I am very happy and grateful when something I write helps people understand the Word of God better, encourages them to grow in their love for Jesus, exhorts them to an obedient life, answers their doubts with true and accurate biblical answers and shows what a good, merciful compassionate, generous, loving, just Father we have.

      Let´s not forget the comfort, understanding, empowering of the Holy Spirit who reveals and teaches the Truth and without whose help without whom we could not fulfill the purpose for which we were born and born again, to believe and to know who our beloved Lord and Savior is and serve Him with gladness in our heart.

      Did you forget to comment about the sheep and the goats that you were going to write?

      The humorous post was only an after thought.I understand that you are busy and that it is more important to answer your readers who have doubts or important questions about Bible doctrine or false teachings. That is why I tend to not comment on every post you write.

      I have not mastered the art of writing short answers to complex questions. I was not raised with a TV set as a baby sitter, but with a grand-mother and mother who played vocabulary games with a dictionary when I was 5 years old and also read me books of fables and Greek and Roman mythology. My mother, an elementary school teacher had built a family library including many classics of French, English and American lit. that she made available to us kids. May be that explains my love for reading and writing and the learning and applying of good reasoning and critical thinking that were taught when I grew up in European schools. Even if my parents were not Christians I owe them a debt of gratitude for that.

      Thank you again for your availability to others and your desire to serve the Lord in these difficulty times. Blessings to you. Jean-Louis.


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