"Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:36)
Springtime evokes many pictures from spring bulbs full of vibrant blues, yellows, oranges and reds. The fields and woods start to appear to produce baby animals and we start to point out lambs in the fresh, green fields. It’s a great time to raise livestock as the spring grass is rich with nutrition unlike the autumn grass which may keep growing but does not have the same goodness in it.
Sheep, lambs and shepherds appear often in the Bible despite the climate in the Middle East being much different from these islands on the eastern side of the Atlantic ocean. Nevertheless sheep and goats do exist in that region which from a distance would look arid.
The first reference to a lamb being offered to God comes soon after the garden of Eden as Gen.4:4 (GNT) says "Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering," So, early on the offering of the first lamb was pleasing to God.
Many generations after the days of Noah and the deluge we meet Abraham and his miracle son Isaac. Now a young man Isaac and Abraham set off for Moriah to make an offering. They collected wood and went to where the heavenly Father had told them. Isaac asks the question, "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" His father replied "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering". We all know what happened next and Isaac who is a type or picture of Christ finds himself ready to be offered in the place of the lamb before God provides a suitable animal in replacement.
Over 400 years later we find Moses and the children of Israel in subjection to Egypt under harsh conditions. At this time it is a Passover lamb that features. This lamb was perfect and it was taken from the sheep or the goats. It is killed and the blood placed over the doors to each home so that when the angel passed over as long as the firstborn were under the blood of that home then he lives, leaving the firstborn of Egypt dead. This is full of meaning to the Christian.
After this the Passover was instituted as a feast to be observed annually and this command was left for Israel to follow during the rest of Moses’ life through the time of the Judges and Kings. The priests and Levites offered the lambs at the appropriate date and time according to their calendar as they did during the time Jehoiada was active. However because of idol worship and disobedience the nation spent seventy years in captivity.
After the captivity they returned to the land as recorded in Ezra and Zechariah when the Temple was rebuilt. All Israel was looking for the Messiah, "the prophet like unto me" that Moses had prophesied. We meet him in Zechariah’s prophecy lowly and riding upon an ass.
John the Baptist met the Messiah, at Jordan and declared "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" This was the start of his ministry. Three and a half years later we see him riding in to Jerusalem as described by Zechariah. John 12 records Jesus’ statement "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me."
So it was. He was crucified at 9 o’clock at the time of the morning sacrifice and died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon at the time of the evening sacrifice which was also the time that the Passover lamb was slain.
But it’s not just about death but life. Jesus was raised on the third day and began the process of drawing all people to him. He began with the "little flock" and will end with the whole world in due time.