Lamb of God is one of the names often given to Jesus. Week by week as we gather for our Eucharist, we say the Agnus Dei…literally lamb of God…who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. In the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the paschal lamb (paschal referring to the Passover or Easter). The symbolism of this is deep. You must go back to the first Passover when God delivered his people Israel from slavery in Egypt. On the night that they escape God told the people to prepare for the Exodus by preparing a lamb, one without defect, and to take some of the blood and sprinkle it on the doorposts of their houses so that God would ‘pass over’ them when he brought his judgement to bear on Egypt. His people would remain unharmed, and they were then to eat the lamb they had prepared and follow God to freedom.
In John’s Gospel Jesus celebrates the Passover meal the night before Passover so that, according to his timings, as Jesus is judged, mocked and crucified, in the temple the sheep are being slaughtered for the Passover. Why? Because John wants to make the point that Jesus is our Passover lamb.
For me this powerful painting by the 17th Century Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran speaks of both the willing obedience of Christ and the cost of sacrifice. Bound, helpless, mute -Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.