A Lamb, Slaughtered – Revelation Bible Guide Day 9
March 1, 2018
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Points of Interest
- “a scroll” – Kings would write decrees and plans on scrolls. God’s got an important one here. Tradition has it that this scroll represents something far more comprehensive than usual – like all God’s plans to judge and save the world and otherwise reckon with human history.
- “sealed with seven seals” – Royal scrolls were closed with a single wax seal, as marks of royal authority and disincentive for the wrong person to open it. Security on this one is tight. In John’s world of sevens, perfectly tight. None of us mortals should claim to know God’s plans.
- “I began to weep bitterly” – But John really, really wants to know, and he really wants God’s plans to proceed, good as they must be.
- “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” – Good News. God’s warrior, God’s human ruler is in town to do the job. These titles evoke royal strength – the king of the jungle and Israel’s greatest king. They also were recognizable Messianic images – Messiah being the promised ruler of God on earth.
- “a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” – Well, that is unexpected. The Messiah, the scroll-breaker, the conqueror with the victory wreath was called a king and a lion. When John sees him in the heart of the throne room, though, he looks more like a lamb soaked in its own blood. In Jesus, God is radically reframing what power and strength look like. The whole point of power in the Roman imperial system and pretty much any other human system is to stay at the top of the pyramid – to avoid suffering for yourself, and subject others to it as needed for your own security and wealth or for the supposed greater good. Jesus embraces suffering and is unashamed to continue to be marked by vulnerability and gentleness. As the Lamb is a central image for John, we’ll have more opportunities to reflect on it. For now, consider how this image might reframe your conception of God, or of power, or of leadership, or of masculinity, or of any number of
- “having seven horns and seven eyes” — Seven is John’s number of completion or perfection, and horns in his tradition symbolize strength. Though he is a lamb, in this vision the poetic symbolism indicates Jesus also has complete power and perspective, seeing and knowing all things. He sees and knows all things — not just in this throne room, but by the Spirit of God, everywhere, in all the earth.
This week we invite you to welcome Jesus to knock on your door, to center your life, and to shape your vision of God. Imagine the risen Jesus telling you that he wants to show you what God is like. I’m not sure that the bloody lamb image works as well in our century. Perhaps you could imagine Jesus appearing to you as a hunger-weakened refugee or a prisoner of war. How does being with Jesus the victim of violence shape your image of God? Is it easy or hard to picture Jesus like this?
A Direction for Prayer
Many of our views of God are influenced by our experiences of our parents and other leaders. Pray for your six, for healing from any abusive, controlling, or power-hungry leadership they have seen or experienced in their lives. Pray that Jesus’ spirit sent out into all the earth would encourage and nourish them today.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. The series starts here.