By Dawn Wilson, Crosswalk.com
An assortment of colorful items that represent Easter fill store shelves in early spring, including chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and stuffed animals. Among the seasonal animals you’ll see are rabbits, chicks...and the occasional lamb.
While some Christians shun the entire Easter holiday as a pagan celebration, others draw from history to celebrate at least one important aspect: the significance of the precious Lamb of God. Let’s look into why the Lamb of God is much more than symbolic at Easter and always:
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Why Are Lambs Associated with Easter?
In the secular world, bunnies, lambs, and eggs are associated with the Easter season, because most baby animals are born in the spring around Easter. Eggs were sometimes used at pagan festivals to represent the springing up of new life.
While there aren’t Christian references to bunnies, many cultural groups of Christians did adopt eggs in their celebrations of Easter. For example, in Yugoslavia, Easter Eggs often bear the initials “XV”—meaning “Christ is Risen.” Mesopotamian Christians adopted eggs as an Easter food, and dyed eggs red to represent the blood of Jesus.
Yet while Christians may include eggs as part of their celebrations, it is not eggs but a lamb that is the most powerful symbol of Easter for believers.
Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God” in scriptures...but why?
Why Is Jesus Referred to as a Lamb?
The concept of a sacrificial lamb began in the Old Testament. Lambs were sacrificed regularly in the Jewish religious system.
Every morning and evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem for the sins of the people (Exodus 29:38-42), because blood was the requirement to atone for sin (Leviticus 17:11; see also Hebrews 9:11-18).
Lambs were also sacrificed during the Jewish Passover.
At the first Passover, Jewish believers selected and sacrificed year-old male lambs without defect—the Paschal lamb—and then painted the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes so God would “pass over” their dwellings while carrying out His judgment on Egypt (Exodus 12:3-13).
Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews longed for their Messiah, the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation. Prophetic passages pictured what the Messiah would do when He came. He would ultimately be the Jews’ reigning king, but first He had to come as their Savior, the suffering servant.
The Messiah came as a humble and meek lamb, prepared to fulfill “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” and be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Christians believe there is a relationship between the Old Testament paschal lamb and the perfect Passover Lamb—Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:7).
At the beginning of the Savior’s ministry, John the Baptist declared Him “the Lamb of God,” and Jesus was crucified during the Jews’ Passover observance. Sadly, the Jews did not recognize the prophesied two advents of their Messiah when He came, and they are somewhat blinded or hardened to the Gospel of Christ for a predicted time.
In Revelation, John saw a powerful image: a lamb, “looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6a).
The blood of God’s chosen Lamb, the Messiah, was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. This is depicted in some works of art—such as Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece—showing a lamb painted with blood pouring from its heart.
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Where the Bible Says ‘Worthy Is the Lamb'
Revelation 5 is one of the most awe-inspiring, majestic passages in the New Testament. In Revelation 5:1-2, the One sitting on the throne holds a scroll with seven seals. A mighty angel asked those gathered around the throne, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
In the vision, John—the writer of Revelation—wept profusely, because, “no one,” John said, “was found worthy to open the scroll.” But then, the triumphant “Lion of the tribe of Judah” stepped forward. Only the lamb, now described as a reigning “lion,” was found worthy.
Heaven rejoiced! When Jesus stepped forward to take the scroll, a “new song” broke out and a myriad of angels worshipped Jesus around the throne of God. “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,” they said, “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
The citizens of heaven held nothing back! In churches today, this is a powerful anthem: “Thou art worthy, Thou art worthy, Thou art worthy, O Lord….” The Lamb of God is still praised, and He will be praised and honored forever.
Other Scripture Verses about Jesus as the Worthy Lamb
Revelation 5 is not the only scripture reminding us about the Lamb of God. Isaiah 53:7 prophesied about a meek lamb who would be led to slaughter. The prophet described his rejection, suffering, and death as an offering for sin, bearing the iniquities of God’s chosen people Isaiah 53:3-11.
The Lamb of God from the Beginning
Revelation 3:18 says this Lamb was slain “from the creation of the world.”
His sacrifice was not an afterthought by God. God knew what would transpire with Adam and Eve, and He knew the end of all history. Jesus was ordained as the Redeemer before the foundation of the world. We also see this truth in 1 Peter 1:18-20.
Believers are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ—“a lamb without blemish or defect;” and Peter says, Jesus “was chosen before the creation of the world.”
As noted earlier, John the Baptist testified about Jesus as the Lord began His public ministry. John specifically called Him, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus as he said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” These first disciples understood John meant Jesus was the promised Messiah (John 1:41.
The Lamb of God for Eternity
Many scriptures in Revelation point to the Lamb’s work in the future.
The Word of God tells us how God’s people will endure and stand in the last days—in and by “the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14, Rev. 12:10-11). The Lamb will conquer His enemies (Rev. 17:14). Believers will see the Worthy Lamb in heaven, where He will be the temple and light of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22-23).
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8 Reasons Jesus Is Worthy at Easter—and Always
Jesus is worthy of our worship for so many reasons. Here are just a few:
4. Jesus Is God’s Will
Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will (John 5:19, 30; Luke 22:42; John 17:1-5). The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14)—and Jesus, our worthy example, obeyed the Father’s plan.
5. Jesus Paid the Full Price
This worthy Lamb of God paid for all our sins (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:26). Many Christians today celebrate His sacrifice on “Good Friday.” Jesus is the only worthy Savior (Acts 4:12). As John Stott wrote in The Cross of Christ, “…his worthiness…is due to the fact that he was slain, and by his death procured our salvation.”
6. Jesus’ Sacrifice Sanctifies Us
Because of His sacrifice, Jesus makes us holy and righteous before the Father (Hebrews 10:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Lamb of God bore our sins on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). The Worthy Lamb makes it possible for us to come blameless, without fault, into God’s presence (Jude 1:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
7. Jesus Rose to Secure Our Faith
Jesus did not stay in the grave. He rose again “on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is why Christians who do not celebrate “Easter” do celebrate “Resurrection Day.” If Jesus had not risen from the dead, Paul says, our preaching and faith would be in vain or futile, because we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).
But Jesus is worthy because He “has indeed been raised from the dead.” Not only was sin overcome for believers, the power of death was “swallowed up in victory.”
8. Jesus Rules over All
All things were handed over to Him by the Father, and the Father exalted Him (Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; Philippians 2:9). He reigns at the right hand of God (1 Peter 3:22), head over every power and authority (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:18-21). Most certainly, Jesus is worthy of all praise.
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A Prayer to Celebrate that ‘Worthy is the Lamb’
Father God, thank you for sending Your Son to be the Savior of the world. Precious Lamb of God, I thank you for your tender mercies and saving grace. Thank you for living a righteous life and making the perfect sacrifice, enabling me to live with You forever in heaven.
You are most worthy, Lord, and I celebrate You. I praise You. I honor You. Teach me more and more about who You are, Jesus, so I can worship you with greater understanding and love. Help me proclaim Your matchless worth to all the world. Amen.
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).
Jesus is the only way to salvation, and the scriptures give a strong warning: Someday every knee will bow before our Savior, the Worthy Lamb; but no one will enter heaven except those who are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
It would be a shame to know about the Worthy Lamb, but not know Him and His merciful salvation.
It is just as much a pity for those who do know Him to fail to understand or forget how exquisitely worthy the Lamb of God is. To say Jesus is worthy is no light matter. It is to say we owe Him our total loyalty, come what may.
To say or sing “Worthy is the Lamb” is a powerful way to declare we are His servants with a high sense of commitment and obedience.
Praise Him with an adoring heart, singing, “Jesus, Thou alone art worthy, ceaseless praises to receive.”
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Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.