From our second story terrace, we get a bird’s eye view of local animal life. Flocks of sheep and goats feed on the far hill and sometimes come to the lot on the other side of our wall.
In the springtime, these flocks will have a few wobbly-legged lambs with snowy white wool. They live a peaceful, pastoral life, grazing under the care of their mothers and the shepherd who keeps a watchful eye.
The other week I walked in the opposite direction to our local butcher shop. I was making mechoui and I needed a lamb shoulder.
The butcher went into the small walk-in freezer and brought out an entire lamb, skinned from head to tail. He hung it on a hook and began to cut it with long strong strokes of his knife.
It was, to say the least, a very vivid experience to see at close range an earthly lamb that had sacrificed its life for me, just like Jesus did.
But there was one major difference. Jesus first put aside His privileges before He became defenseless as a lamb. He “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…and humbled Himself and became obedient to death.” [Philippians 2]
Before He went to the cross however, He experienced public humiliation and shame. He was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), and a devil (Matthew 10:25). He received death threats and narrowly escaped being stoned. “He was despised and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . .” (Isaiah 53:3).
Then He was arrested and killed.
What a mystery. The King of Kings who has the power to give life allowed Himself to be mocked, spit upon, and insulted, then put to death, of His own free will.
“It was our sins that did that to Him,
that ripped and tore and crushed Him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through His bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on Him.
Isaiah 53:5-6 The Message
Who can explain this?
We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for,
and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice.
But God put His love on the line for us
by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.
Romans 5:7-8 The Message
The image of that lamb in the butcher shop has stayed with me as a reminder of what it really means for the perfect, all-holy Son of God to become the sin-bearer of the world.
No wonder angels numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand sing:
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
To receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.