Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Lord's Table Meditation - The Lamb of God in the Bible


    In today's post I wanted to provide a means of reflecting upon the Lord's Table. The Lord's Table (also called "Lord's Supper", "Communion"), is one of two ordinances given by the Lord Jesus Christ to His church. An "ordinance" in anything commanded by Jesus in the Gospels, practiced in Acts, and expounded upon in the New Testament Epistles. Older theologians talk of how the Lord's Table is a "sign" and a "seal". 

    When I say the Lord's Table is a "sign", I mean a symbol, an emblem, that signifies what Jesus achieved on the cross on the believer's behalf. It is also a seal, meaning the Holy Spirit uses the Lord's Supper to impress upon the heart of the believer their identity with Jesus, His identity with them, and their identity with other fellow believers in the local church. This is why whenever we observe the Lord's Table at the church, we emphasize how it is partook by those who have already trusted in Jesus as their Savior. 

    So much meaning, theological richness, and truth resides in this important covenant meal. Much more could be said, but for today's post, I want us to look at how the Lord's Supper, and its tie-in with the Old Testament's mentionings of lambs, connect us to the identity of Jesus Christ as the "Lamb of God". By noting how we see Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, as well as observing how the theological teaching of the Lamb of God motif is developed in the Bible, we can come to the Lord's Supper with a readiness to participate and give thanks to the Lord Jesus for all He has done for us.

    The Apostle Matthew records his version of the events that transpired when Jesus instituted this covenant meal. We read in Matthew 26:17-29 

"Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

    In the text above, we can note instances where the Passover is mentioned, and where Jesus takes this Passover and transforms it into what we know as the Lord’s Table. In this post, I want us to see how God developed an important theological truth which points us to Jesus Christ – The Lamb of God. 

Where we see Jesus called "The Lamb of God"

    We know for certain Jesus is called by this title. John 1:29 and John 1:36, John the Baptist calls Jesus “The Lamb of God”. Peter in 1 Peter 1:19 refers to Jesus as “a lamb without blemish and without spot”. The Book of Revelation records the most instances of Jesus as “The Lamb”, some twenty-two times! 

    When we come to the Lord’s Table, and the institution of it by Jesus with His disciples and for His church, we note how central He is and how central the lamb is. The timing of the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion took place at Passover – a festival that centered around a lamb. A lamb-centered Jewish festival sees its fulfillment in the Lamb-of-God centered Lord’s Table for the New Covenant people of God – the Church. 

    I counted roughly one-hundred places where lambs are referenced with respect to various sacrifices, theological meanings, and salvation motifs in the Bible. What follows is but a sliver of those references. Note with me some passages of Scripture that point us to the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ.

1. Pattern of the lamb. Genesis 4:3-5

    Moses writes in Genesis 4:3-5 

"So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell."

    When it says God “had regard”, that underlying Hebrew word speaks of “finding favor”, in other words – grace. There was already a pattern, the only one, acceptable to God. 

    I do not doubt Adam and Eve may had taught both their sons of this pattern, which we read of in Genesis 3:20-21, wherein God slayed two animals in Adam and Eve’s place. God provided a sacrifice for sin, which needed received by faith. That was the pattern and still is the pattern. Cain's actions tell us he ignored the pattern, and made his own way. Cain's way led to despondency, delusion, and death.

    This same pattern of God's lamb would continue in Israel, especially in God’s instructions concerning the morning and evening sacrifices.  We read for instance in Exodus 29:38 

“Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously." 

    The Jews were always reminded of this pattern of God's lamb. Consider other examples, such as Numbers 28:3,8, and verse 13.

Numbers 29:3 "You shall say to them, ‘This is the offering by fire which you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs one year old without defect as a continual burnt offering every day."

Numbers 28:8 ‘Then on the sabbath day two male lambs one year old without defect, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and its drink offering"

Numbers 28:13 "and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering for each lamb, for a burnt offering of a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord."

    This pattern of the lamb was so emphasized by God. He as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had already planned for the Son to come, become incarnated, and go to the cross as "The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). This agreement between the Persons of the Trinity, called by theologians "The Covenant of Redemption", was worked out before creation. The cross was no accident. The Son of God becoming man and going to the cross (as a lamb going to slaughter), was no "plan b". It was the only plan. The only pattern. 

    As we loop back to Cain and Abel, we find the New Testament commenting on these two brothers. Abel, by faith, embraced this pattern of God's lamb. Whereas Cain spurned the pattern, choosing to make a pattern of his own. 

Note what we read in Hebrews 11:4 

"By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks." 

    Jude, Jesus' half-brother according to the flesh, remarks about Cain in his short letter in Jude 1:11a “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain….”. May you and I not go any other way than the pattern of the Lamb of God. Now let's notice a second truth about the Lamb of God...

2. Prescription of a lamb. Exodus 12:5-7,13

    Once I was prescribed an antibiotic for a virus. For whatever reason, I did not follow the doctor’s orders. I ended up get worse. I thought I knew better. How often do people treat spiritual matters pertaining to eternity? They think they can come up with their own prescription. 
Think of what happens when we ignore God’s prescription. It can spell doom for the soul. There is only one prescription that can cure the sin and separation problem between God and the sinner - trust in Jesus Christ alone by grace alone through faith apart from good deeds.

    The first part of the Book of Exodus centers around God's redemption of the Jews out of Egypt (Exodus 1-23). On the eve of their Exodus, God, through Moses, gives them their first festival, celebration, to commemorate His deliverance - The Passover. Notice what we read in Exodus 12:5-7 

"Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 12:13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt."

    As I noted already, the context here is the final night for the Jews in Egypt. God sent nine plagues, and Pharoah refused to let them leave. The final plague would involve the death angel passing over the land (which is why the feast here is called “Passover”, translated from the Hebrew “Peschach”). Those who did not have the prescribed blood of the lamb upon their door posts or gates would find their firstborn sons dead by the morning. 

    Pharoah saw his dynasty end that night because he had not taken the prescription. The poorest slave in Egypt saw his future end because of not having the blood applied. But do you know, those who had the blood applied were exempted from God’s wrath.  

    Paul describes Jesus as the Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:7 "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed." The Apostle Peter likewise utilizes language from Exodus 12 in 1 Peter 1:18-19 "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."

    Preachers of old would often press the truths found in the Passover to their listeners. In applying the above texts to you, dear reader, may I ask you: have you had the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, applied to the doorposts of your heart? 

    We know that those who ignore God's prescription can only expect the wrath of God (see John 3:36). By faith alone can you take in the Lamb. Only His blood, shed for you on the cross, can wipe away the guilt of sin (expiation, John 1:29) and satisfy the wrath of God against your sin (propitiation, 1 John 2:1-2). Now notice a third truth about the Lamb of God...

3. Predicted Lamb. Isaiah 53:7-9

    We read the following in Isaiah 53:7-9 

"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth."

    This remarkable prophecy was penned by Isaiah under Divine inspiration some seven-hundred years before Christ came into this world. It has been called by many "The Fifth Gospel", due to its detailed description of what Jesus underwent going to the cross. This text is quoted or alluded to some fifteen times in the New Testament. Let me mention just two of them as we consider how the Lamb of God was predicted.

Acts 8:34-35 "The eunuch answered Philip and said, 'Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?' 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him."

1 Peter 2:21-24 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."

    Both of these passages explicitly tell us that Isaiah was prophesying about the coming Messiah. He came as the fullfillment of God's pattern for the lamb of God. He came as the prescribed Lamb of God. As God in human flesh, He came to fulfill this prediction about the Lamb of God. Notice with me a fourth truth...

4. Prevailing Lamb. Revelation 5:6-9

    We have witnessed God's pattern, prescription, and prediction about the Lamb of God in the Bible. These and many more Scriptures point us to the cross of Christ. No doubt, the Lord's Table (or what we could appropriately call "The Lamb's Table") reminds us of what Jesus achieved. 

    However, we must not forget that Jesus did not stay dead. He raised from the dead three days following His crucifixion. Furthermore, He ascended forty-days after His resurrection. As the prevailing Lamb of God, Jesus Christ will soon return. The Lord's Supper points us forward to His soon return, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."

    We find a remarkable text written by the Apostle John in Revelation 5 that speaks of Jesus Christ as the previaling Lamb. Notice what we read in Revelation 5:6-9 

"And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” 

    Later on in the same chapter, John writes again in Revelation 5:12-14 

"saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped."

Why the Table of the Lamb?

    As we draw this post to a close today, I hope this may be used by some to prepare for the next time they participate in the Lord's Table. I had mentioned earlier how we could nickname this "The Table of the Lamb". Indeed, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the One who prescribed it for Christians in His Church. As I close this post today, how can we apply what we learned about the Lamb of God in the Bible to the Lord's Supper?

A. This table reminds us of Christ, our  

B. This table reinforces your need for Christ, 
    God’s prescription.

C. This table remembers how Christ came to 
    be the predicted Lamb of God.

D. This table renews us to look forward to
     His coming as the Prevailing King of
     Kings, Lord of Lords, the Lamb who was