In Revelation 5 John has been thrust into the throne room of God. While there, he sees a vision of one who is seated on the throne with a scroll in his hands that has been sealed up with seven seals. The scroll needs to be opened so that the world will know what is to come but even though a cry has gone out for someone to open the scroll no one can be found, no one is worthy enough to open the scroll. John breaks down and weeps bitterly because he is distraught over the problem of no one being worthy. But in the midst of his tears, hope is given. One of the elders reaches down and says, “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.”
It is a magnificent scene, to be in the throne room of God, to see all that John is seeing, and to realize what is about to take place. In the hand of God lies a scroll whose message is so wonderful it takes an extremely special individual to open it. Only the one who is worthy may open the scroll and tell the world what is written on its page. But no one is worthy, no one can be found. John finds himself in utter loss and sadness because the message will not be revealed. However, one has been found who is worthy. Not only has one been found who is worthy, but it is none other than the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David. The Elder proclaims that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered, which makes him worthy to open the scroll. John is getting ready to see a magnificent warrior, one who has conquered over all other things. This is the Lion, this is the King, this is the Hero. But what John writes next is not expected. John turns and looks and sees not a majestic warrior, but “a Lamb standing as if it has been slaughtered.” It is not exactly an image that strikes fear into opposing groups. No one is running from a slaughtered lamb, no one is in fear of a slaughtered lamb. Yet the elder says it is the Lamb who has conquered, he is the Lion of Judah, he is the Root of David. It is the slaughtered Lamb who is worthy.
It is an interesting group of metaphors that John places together. The Lion of the tribe of Judah seems powerful, strong, unyielding, majestic. The Slaughtered Lamb seems weak, soft, vulnerable. The Lion is fierce, one who commands attention because of its position. The Lamb is peaceful, one who brings comfort through its presence. It is an interesting paradox of metaphors that John welds together. At first glance it doesn’t seem to work, unless John is trying to make a point that the Lion and the Lamb are interconnected. The way John puts the vision together it appears that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered because he is the Slaughtered Lamb. It’s not that the Messiah just happened to get slaughtered but it’s alright because he’s still the Lion of Judah. Instead, it is specifically because the Lamb was Slaughtered that he becomes victorious and can be declared the Lion of the tribe of Judah. As the vision goes on the elders and creatures worship the Lamb and declare him worthy specifically because he was slaughtered, and gave himself up for others. The Lamb was worthy because it was slaughtered. If the Lamb had not been slaughtered, it would not be victorious.
This image paradox challenges the way many believe the world is changed. It is interesting that according to this vision from John Jesus conquered not because he wielded the sword and used his power to over throw the enemy. Jesus conquered because he became the Slaughtered Lamb, he become the Suffering Servant who placed the needs of everyone else above his own. Jesus was worthy to open the scroll not because he was more powerful than everyone else (although he was), but because he was slaughtered for everyone else. It’s the same idea that Paul argues for in Philippians, although he uses different language. In Philippians 2 Jesus is exalted to the highest place not because he claimed it for himself but because he humbly took the form of a servant and went to the cross in order to serve humanity, that is why he was exalted.
This idea of exaltation trough servanthood is counter-cultural to the way most of the world operates. Many in the world believe that it is through grasping after power that one becomes worthy to make changes. It is through strength and might that one becomes victorious. Yet God declares the opposite. The world is not changed through strength and might but through humbly becoming a servant for all. It is through service that the world it changed. It is through service that one becomes great. It is the Slaughtered Lamb who has conquered.
This whole idea is hard to grasp because it runs counter to the message of the world. Yet Paul says that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is the Slaughtered Lamb. The Slaughtered Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And that is why we can say with confidence Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur Our Lamb has conquered; him let us follow