Summary: A look at Revelation 5 and the all conquering lion who turns out to be a lamb that was slain, the paradox at the heart of Christianity and what it means for us in our daily struggle.
This morning we’re going to find out about a lion. A great big powerful victorious lion. So I thought I’d bring along an example. Now you need to be careful I don’t want to frighten anyone, so be warned this is one ferocious lion I’ve got back here. It gave me quite a bit of bother on the way down in the car actually. So are you ready, are you prepared for the worst. Well here he is. [Bring out little sheep key ring.] Confounding expectations.
There was a program on TV last night about Fawlty Towers. Most of the humour comes from the fact that the people in the sitcom are the very last people who should be doing the jobs they do. They have the rudest man alive, working in the service industry, with the public, running a hotel. You have the waiter who is Spanish but is working in an English hotel but doesn’t speak English. You have the contrast between the expectations and the actual delivery. The guest were expecting a certain thing or for things to work a certain way but it really happened nothing at all like that.
The passage we read this morning has one of those contrasts in it. It’s not designed for humour though. But there is this almost inherent out of placeless about Christianity, the feeling that things aren’t quite what you might expect. And this comes out in Revelation 5. We are introduced to this great scene in heaven, where this scroll is produced, which has 7 seals and lots of writing. You kind of get the impression that it is a very important scroll which has lots of interesting stuff in it. However, there is a problem, no-one can be found who is worthy to break the seals and open it. They searched the whole earth and when no-one was found who was worthy, they searched all of heaven and no-one was found who could open the scroll. But then just when John thinks all hope is lost and the scroll is to remain forever sealed, one of the elders announces that someone has been found who is worthy. The lion of Judah, the root of David, the one who has triumphed.
The only one in heaven and earth who is worthy to open the scroll, who is described as a lion, the one who is a descendant of David, the great warrior King, who extended the borders of Israel further than anyone else. The one who is described as having triumphed. You build up this great picture in your mind, of a great warrior. Someone great and powerful who is mighty in battle. But then in the next verse John describes not a lion but a lamb. Not a great and powerful lion who takes down his prey on the hoof, but a meek lamb who eats grass. Not only is a lamb described when your expecting a lion, but then the lamb has been killed. We’re expecting a victorious lion but instead we get a lamb who has been killed, which would seem to indicate defeat rather than victory. It’s not really who we are expecting. Of course he then goes on to describe the lamb as having 7 eyes and 7 horns and we’re really not expecting that. But we’re not going to get into that this morning. The book of revelation is highly symbolic and we’re just going to scratch the surface this morning by looking at this contrast between the lion and the lamb.
So what does John mean by contrasting the two images here. We are told to expect a great lion and victor but then we are introduced to a lamb that was slain. What does John mean by this? Many of the symbols and pictures in Revelation are biblical pictures and symbols. The book is designed to be read by people familiar with the Old Testament and other Jewish writings so that they can understand what all the pictures and symbols mean. So lets look back and see if these titles have cropped up anywhere else in Scripture.
Lion of Judah
The first title is lion of Judah. Unfortunately, this is the only reference in the entire Bible to the lion of Judah. The title is not used anywhere else in the Bible. However, we don’t draw a complete blank because there is a Judah who is described as a lion. The passage is from Genesis 49 and verses 8-12. Jacob is near the end of his life and as is the custom he gathers his sons round him to give them a blessing. However, this is not a normal blessing. God grants Jacob insight into the futures of his sons and their descendants. Let’s see what he said about Judah.