By Daniel Bobinski
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the gospel writers used various metaphors to help us understand the nature of Jesus and His mission on Earth. Two popular metaphors refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. Let’s consider both of these analogies.
The Lamb of God
The Lamb of God is a phrase used to describe Jesus’ role as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humanity. One of the greatest symbolic precursors of Christ is found in the book of Exodus, where the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on their doorposts to protect themselves from the Angel of Death. Specifically, in Exodus 12:13 we read, “The blood will be a sign for you where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
The blood being smeared on the doorposts happens to be symbolic all by itself. Scripture says when God saw the blood of the lamb on the door then the angel of death would pass over the house and death would not come to that home. The same concept applies to the door of our hearts. When, by faith, you and I receive the blood of Jesus on the door of our hearts, then God will pass over at the point of our physical death and not send us to the second death.
- Revelation 2:11b: “The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
- Revelation 20:6a: “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them …”
- Revelation 20:14: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.”
The blood shed by Jesus on the cross is the blood we are to receive – by faith – on the doorposts of our hearts.
Throughout the Old Testament, God directed that lambs be used as sacrifices to atone for the sins of a family and even the sins of the nation. Several of the key attributes necessary for a lamb to be considered worthy as a sacrificial animal were:
- A male free from defects or blemishes
- No broken bones
- Freely given in an act of obedience
Jesus’ role as the Lamb of God is first mentioned in John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Other New Testament books that refer to Jesus as a Lamb are 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, and Revelation.
And Jesus qualified as a sacrificial lamb. In 1 Peter 1:19 we’re told that Jesus was “without blemish or defect.”
He also never had any broken bones, even when on the cross. Roman soldiers would break the legs of people hanging on crosses to hasten their death by causing suffocation, as a person could no longer push himself up to catch his breath. The soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs because they saw He was already dead.
By the way, this fulfills the prophecy of the messiah from Psalm 34:20 (which is quoted in John 19:36): “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”
Also, Jesus freely gave Himself to be sacrificed in an act of obedience. In Matthew 26:39, we read, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
This metaphor of Jesus being the Lamb of God is powerful because it helps us understand that Jesus’ death on the cross was not just a tragic, random event, but rather a sacrifice planned by God that atones for our sins.
The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd is a metaphor used by Jesus in John 10 to describe His willingness to lay down His life for the good of His flock, as well as the intimacy and trust that exists between Jesus and those that follow Him.
- John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
- John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
- John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The analogy of a shepherd and his sheep is also deeply rooted in the Old Testament, as God is often described as a shepherd who cares for His people. For example:
- In Psalm 23, David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”
- In Psalm 80:1, we see, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.”
- In Isaiah 40:11, we read, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
This imagery of God as a shepherd who provides for His people is similar to the way Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. It illustrates His willingness to sacrifice Himself for the sake of humanity as well as His deep personal relationship with each person. It also emphasizes the importance of us who are following Jesus to trust in His guidance.
Bottom line, the analogies of the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd are two of the most powerful and meaningful metaphors in the New Testament. They help us understand the nature of Jesus and His mission on Earth. They also show us that Jesus is not just a historical figure, but someone who loved us enough to die for us and redeem us, as well as someone to guide us on our path through life.
At question – have you received by faith the blood of His sacrifice, and have you made Him your shepherd?
Daniel Bobinski, Th.D., is an award-winning and best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at [email protected] or (208) 375-7606.