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Worthy Is the Lamb? ^ | 08-16-05 | Thomas J. Nash

Posted on 08/16/2005 7:42:50 AM PDT by Salvation

by Thomas J. Nash

Other Articles by Thomas J. Nash
Worthy Is the Lamb?

Even among animals, a lamb is not a likely “leading man” for a Hollywood action-adventure. Mighty Mouse or Underdog could save the day, but not a lamb; lambs are known for needing help in times of trouble. Recall the wandering lamb that had to be rescued (Mt 18:12-13), or other lambs that needed protection from a menacing wolf (Jn 10:11-12).

In This Article...
An Untimely and Humiliating Death
Follow the Leader
The Lambs Win in the End

An Untimely and Humiliating Death

What was God thinking when He chose the lamb as His ideal model of sacrifice and victory over slavery and sin?

If we were casting a hero from the animal kingdom, we would probably choose someone like the aforementioned Mighty Mouse or Underdog (for an animated feature), or Lassie or Rin Tin Tin (if we needed a real, live animal). And let’s not forget the indomitable King Kong, who was especially impressive when he staved off the favored Godzilla in their epic, big-screen battle. In contrast, we surely wouldn’t cast a lamb. Lambs are cuddly and cute, but they do not exactly inspire battlefield confidence.

Jesus didn’t inspire confidence either as the Romans led to Him to His crucifixion. He seemed to lack the militant spirit of a captured hero planning his escape. Rather, the self-professed Messiah, the designated “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29), was apparently meeting an untimely and most humiliating death:

And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with Him also reviled Him in the same way. (Mt 27:39-44)
Jesus’s opponents thought He was just another typical lamb, loyally following an alleged heavenly plan that had gone very wrong.

But this Lamb was different. While He visibly played the role of Suffering Servant, opening not His mouth “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Is 53:7), Jesus simultaneously served as the triumphant Lamb of God, who won a decisive victory over sin and Satan (Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn. 3:8). Just as His jeering opponents were counting Him out, just when His suffering and death seemed to signal a certain and bitter defeat, Jesus, ironically and mysteriously, became most triumphant:
[W]hen he makes himself an offering for sin,...he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their
iniquities.... [He] was numbered among the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.... (Is 53:10-12; cf. Catechism, no. 601)

Follow the Leader

Jesus proclaimed Himself as “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) and backed it up by rising from the dead. He also called himself “the Good shepherd,” adding that “I know My own and My own know Me” (Jn 10:14). Yet our modern world resists following the Good Shepherd, in part because of the stigma attached to being a sheep.

Sheep have long had a reputation for being dumb. Ask anyone’s who’s worked with them: Sheep don’t adapt and improvise, they just follow. While goats display intelligence and independence, lambs docilely allow their shepherd to think for them. And here we need to make an important distinction. As Scripture reminds us, both young sheep and young goats are lambs, and God told Moses that either would be acceptable for the original Passover sacrifice (Ex 12:5).

Yet the docility of the sheep lamb would eventually win out over the independence of the goat lamb in salvation history. In a sobering forecast of the Last Judgment, Jesus says that “the sheep” will stand on His right and be saved, while “the goats” will stand on His left and be damned for all eternity (Mt 25:31-46).

Contrary to popular opinion, everyone follows someone or something. The goats travel down a road well-worn by Satan and his fallen-angelic associates, spiritual beings far more intelligent than they (cf. Mt 7:13-14). “Claiming to be wise” like Satan, the goats also risk “becoming [everlasting] fools” (Rom 1:22). Meanwhile, the sheep don’t mind charges of “blind obedience,” because they realize that their Shepherd is no ordinary member of “Who’s Who,” but rather the divine “I am Who I am” (Ex 3:14; cf. Jn 8:58). While the road that leads to eternal life is narrow and hard, they understand that it reaps abundant life, now and forever (Jn 10:10), and they further realize that the Good Shepherd never asks us to do anything that He hasn’t already done Himself, namely, embrace His Cross.

As the first Passover lambs gave their blood for the ransom of Israel from Egyptian slavery, “Christ, our [ultimate] Paschal Lamb,” shed His Blood to free us from sin (1 Cor 5:7-8; cf. Is 53:10-12). He offered Himself for us who had gone astray and still go astray (Catechism, no. 615). He also offered us a lesson in living. Suffering isn’t bad — in fact, it’s redemptive and empowering — as long you’re suffering on behalf of God and His Kingdom.

The Lambs Win in the End

If we suffer for the Kingdom, we can never lose, only gain. We may look like defeated sacrificial lambs, but, now and forever, we’ll win, just as Jesus defeated sin and death on Mt. Calvary, and just as many saints have similarly laid down their lives ever since. When we are willing to die to ourselves and submit to God’s plan for our lives, we will ironically receive abundant life like never before. St. Paul said it best when commenting on his battles with the devil and other enemies of God’s Kingdom:

Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
The source of Paul’s strength is Jesus, the same Jesus who allows us to re-present and partake of His one, everlasting Sacrifice at every Mass under the appearances of bread and wine. In an earlier letter to the Corinthians, Paul affirms that the Eucharist makes Him strong in his weakness. The Communion bread and cup is a blessing because we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ which unites all Christians (1 Cor 10:16-17).

To be found worthy like the Lamb, St. Paul teaches, we have to partake of the Lamb. We need to learn the biblical story of the Mass, but, most importantly, we also need to live it.

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: apostolic; belief; catholic; catholiclist; death; faith; holy; holyeucharist; jesuschrist; lamb; mass; one; passion; passover; resurrection; salvation
Thomas J. Nash is Director of Special Projects at Catholics United for the Faith. He is the author of Worthy Is the Lamb: The Biblical Roots of the Mass (Ignatius Press) from which this column is excerpted and condensed with permission of Ignatius Press. He is also a co-author of Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass (Emmaus Road Publishing).

1 posted on 08/16/2005 7:43:02 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: All

**The Communion bread and cup is a blessing because we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ which unites all Christians (1 Cor 10:16-17).**

2 posted on 08/16/2005 7:43:31 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; Pyro7480; livius; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

3 posted on 08/16/2005 7:44:35 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Good article Salvation.

4 posted on 08/16/2005 7:45:55 AM PDT by RnMomof7 (Sola Scriptura,Sola Christus,Sola Gratia,Sola Fide,Soli Deo Gloria)
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To: Salvation

Sometimes Thomas J. Nash just takes your breath away.

5 posted on 08/16/2005 7:57:26 AM PDT by Siobhan ("Whenever you come to save Rome, make all the noise you want." -- Pius XII)
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To: Salvation

Interesting article based on Biblical context. Thanks for the ping.

6 posted on 08/16/2005 7:58:12 AM PDT by BayouCoyote (The 1st victim of islam is the person who practices the lie.)
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To: Salvation
Lambs are cuddly and cute, but they do not exactly inspire battlefield confidence.

7 posted on 08/16/2005 8:00:58 AM PDT by eastsider
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To: Salvation

From earliest Christian times,
candles were places in tombs
and before shrines and statutes.
By this action, Christians expressed
their faith by requesting a favor or
giving thanks for one received.
A departed loved one can be
remembered in this manner.
When we must be busy
with daily life,
the flame burning is symbolic of
our prayer and presence.

8 posted on 08/16/2005 10:01:50 AM PDT by Smartass (Si vis pacem, para bellum - Por el dedo de Dios se escribió)
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To: RnMomof7; Siobhan

I agree that it is an excellent article!

9 posted on 08/16/2005 4:40:13 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

"Lamb of God" has always been my favorite title for Jesus, producing many hours of fruitful meditation. Thanks for posting this thoughtful article, Salvation.

God bless you!

10 posted on 08/16/2005 4:51:59 PM PDT by GrannyML
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