Summary: A look at the paradoxical qualities of Jesus - baby and Savior, Lion and Lamb, etc.
Superman. What’s not to like about him? The man of Steel! No one can beat Superman – unless they have Kryptonite. But, without that, he’s all steel. And we like that about Superman, but there’s something else about Superman we like – Clark Kent. We like that he can also be that dorky, vulnerable guy, don’t we? We like that he’s loyal and sensitive and compassionate. We like his voluntary soft side, even though he’s the man of steel.
In the 1970’s, Aubrey Andelin wrote a book I read called Man of Steel and Velvet. It was to help me learn to be a more balanced man as I prepared to be married. Andelin compares a man’s character to a building with a strong foundation and steel supports, but also with interior decorations, artwork, and landscaping. Steel and velvet – he’s firm and well-tempered; he provides his family with security and raises the admiration of those around him. Still, like soft velvet, he has sensitivity and gentleness that is caring of others and protects those who need it. We admire men with that balance, don’t we?
According to Carl Sandberg, Abraham Lincoln was such a man. Speaking of his steel side he writes:
“He commanded the most powerful armies till then assembled in modern warfare; … he abolished the right of habeas corpus; he directed politically and spiritually the wild, massive, turbulent forces let loose in the civil war. …failing to get action, as chief executive having war powers, he issued the paper by which he declared the slaves to be free under ‘military necessity.’”
And at the same time, Lincoln is remembered for his gentleness:
“often with nothing to say, he said nothing, slept not at all and on occasions was seen to weep in a way that made weeping appropriate, decent, majestic. …a…man heard him say, ‘Voorhees, don’t it seem strange to you that I, who could never so much as cut off the head of a chicken, should be elected or selected, into the midst of all this blood?’”
Occasionally, we run across the stories of such men. Some of them have been real shapers of society – like Abraham Lincoln. Men of steel and velvet.
As we journey toward Christmas, each week we’re taking a look at some of the baby pictures of Jesus – the oldest views we have of Him that actually come from long before Bethlehem. The goal, remember is for us all to KNOW Jesus – not just to know about Him.
We’ve seen Him as a snake handler, and a rock. Today we’re looking at 2 views of Him that are as different from each other as they can be, but that necessarily combine in the one person of Jesus, just like steel and velvet – that’s the lion and the lamb.
In OT days, few animals were respected or feared more than lions. They symbolized power, especially the kind that makes us scared. People who fear lions live longer than those who don’t. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos all use a lion to describe God’s power at war.
Isaiah 31:4 As a lion growls, a great lion over his prey-- and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against him, he is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor-- so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.
Amos 3:8 The lion has roared -- who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken -- who can but prophesy?
The idea that Jesus would be symbolized by a lion goes way back in Israel’s history. Every one of the 12 tribes of Israel had a standard – a picture-symbol that stood for their tribe. They put them onto some kind of banner and raised them in the Israelite camp to mark where their tribe was. Think of it as Seahawks, Bears, Packers, Cardinals, and Panthers.
The tribe of Judah had the lion as its standard, with the motto: “Rise up, Jehovah, and let Your enemies be scattered!” Jacob had prophesied about Judah just before he died in…
Genesis 49:9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse him?
It was fitting that Judah would use the King among the beasts as its symbol. Judah was the tribe of kings in Israel. It was from Judah that the earthly parents of Jesus would descend.
So, when C. S. Lewis writes The Chronicles of Narnia in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and he’s looking for the character that will represent Jesus, he uses the lion Aslan, the great King of Narnia.
In one particular scene, as the 4 Pevensie children are learning about the King for the 1st time, we find them in conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Lucy, the youngest, hears from Mrs. Beaver how Aslan is a lion, and that His appearance is impressive – even scary .