The God We Worship Is the Lamb Who Was Slain

“The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.” – John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 51.

There is a scene described in Revelation 5 (see below), where Jesus appears before some sort of heavenly assembly, as the only one worthy to open scrolls that mark the culmination of history. It is quite easy to get caught up in the strangeness of Revelation (even to the point of creating elaborate fictions), but the point I would like to draw your attention to is that Jesus appears in that scene as, “a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered,” and this form is directly linked to the worship that is then given to him, as the assembly declares: “worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered.”

This does not fit well with many of the popular explanations we give regarding how we are saved; instead the cross is regarded as more of a functional (if inconvenient) necessity. Based on how many Christians go about their business, it is not congruent with how we think the kingdom is to come, since our kingdom-building rarely emulates this form. We are generally at a loss to explain the intentionality with which Jesus pursued the cross, much less why He stands in Revelation worshipped as a slaughtered Lamb. I think all of these warrant discussion, but for this Good Friday, I just want to draw your attention, perhaps your adoration, hopefully your worship, to this slaughtered Lamb. He is indeed worthy.

Revelation 5

Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.

4 Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. 5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. 7 He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song with these words:

You are worthy to take the scroll

and break its seals and open it.

For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 And you have caused them to become

a Kingdom of priests for our God.

And they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered

to receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessing.”

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

Blessing and honor and glory and power

    belong to the one sitting on the throne

    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.