Summary: God’s power is often displayed in weakness.
It may seem strange to speak about Christmas with a passage from the book of Revelation. But we see here, perhaps more clearly than anywhere else, the great paradox of God — the power of God displayed in weakness. Let’s look at this passage with an attempt to understand its meaning and implications. The fifth chapter of Revelation opens with John, the author of the book, weeping uncontrollably. There is a scroll with a special and important message from God, but no one could be found who was powerful enough to open it. But then John hears a voice saying to him: “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5). So we expect to see a great lion appear: the biblical symbol of Christ, the Messiah. Our minds conjure up a huge lion with powerful muscles ripping open the seals with his great claws so that the scroll may be read. But a much different figure appears — not a lion, but a lamb. The very opposite of what we expect. One is powerful and aggressive; the other is weak and passive.
The following verse says, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:6-7). Suddenly, we understand that the Lion is a Lamb. But this is not only a little lamb; he is also wounded. In fact, it looks as if he had been killed. It was a dead lamb walking. But the power in this meek little lamb makes all of heaven drop to its knees. The noise of the worship of heaven is deafening. All of heaven proclaims that he is worthy to open the scroll, because with his blood he purchased the people of the earth for God. He made them into a kingdom of priests and kings in order that they might serve the living God. The worship of heaven continues as the lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of the One who sat upon the throne. The company of heaven sings the words which inspired Handel to write his glorious Messiah: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12). Then the Lamb does what no one else in heaven or earth has been able to do — he breaks the seals and opens the scroll which not only reveals what is to come, but sets the events of the last days into motion. The message of Revelation is that the Lamb of God is more powerful than all the forces of evil the world can muster. The armies of the world are helpless against him.
The first lesson that we learn from this scripture is that: God’s power is displayed in weakness. When God wanted to release his power into the world, he sent a baby. The world laughed and scorned God’s gift, as it still does today, but through that baby God released the power of life into the world. The world wanted power, and God sent a weak, little baby. They wanted a king and God sent a Savior. They wanted a lion and God sent a Lamb.
George McDonald put it aptly when he wrote:
They all were looking for a King
to slay their foes, and lift them high;
He came a little baby thing
Who made a woman cry.
The Bible says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Of course, there is no foolishness or weakness with God, but the way he operates seems like foolishness and weakness to the world, whose values lie in the display of strength and the appearance of wisdom.
The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). And even though Jesus tried to help people see the truth of this, his disciples did not understand. Right up to the very end they were arguing about who was going to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when he established his kingdom on earth. I truly believe this is what led Judas to betray Jesus. He saw Jesus as operating from weakness rather than from strength. Jesus said that the power of the kingdom of God was going to come like yeast in the dough, or like the effect of rain upon the earth. It would not be through things which could be seen, but through the unseen working of the power of God. It would be like a gentle rain finding its way into a crack in a superhighway, and then as it freezes it begins to lift and separate several tons of concrete, actually moving the superhighway. Judas, and some of the other zealots among Jesus’ followers wanted a display of power: drawn swords, battle plans, powerful political appointees and inflammatory rhetoric. But Jesus did not live up to their expectations, in fact, his words and work were working against that kind of thinking. And in his disappointment and rage, Judas wanted Jesus out of the way so someone who would lead them in that direction would be free to do so.