The Lamb and the Sheep

The Revelation of John seems to shroud everything in mystery and mythic language, but it is, as its title proclaims, a revelation, an unveiling of that which was hidden. Sometimes an image in Revelation, a simple description of a mysterious scene, reveals more than we are initially aware of. The Lamb sits upon the throne of God in Revelation. So normal is this image that we forget that John is showing us that the Lamb is also God. The high Christology of Revelation is regularly overlooked, though it agrees with that of John’s Gospel, where in the Good Shepherd passage Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.”

And Revelation unveils even more—for instance, that “the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd.” We are so used to the image of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that we might not immediately attend to the incongruity of the two images together: A lamb is our shepherd.


The imagery of Jesus as lamb has profound theological and sacrificial implications, especially in Johannine literature, which presents Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But the imagery of the Lamb offers us another image: the lamb is one of us, the sheep. In a homily in 2013 Pope Francis asked that priests “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” Jesus literally embodied this principle in the Incarnation by becoming the shepherd who joins the flock.

This is why Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can say, “I know my own and my own know me,” for he became one of us and knows intimately who we are and our lives. Jesus also says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” But this statement is a provocation for some of us. If I am described as a sheep who follows, am I only a thoughtless follower?

The derogatory term sheeple, a combination of “sheep” and “people,” is used online today to describe people who are led mindlessly and easily controlled because they have no will or thoughts of their own. But the image of Jesus the Lamb tells us that our God came to be one of us, to walk in solidarity with us, to die for us, not to control us. The Good Shepherd knows who we are, cares for us, and has our best interests at stake. If we are we willing to hear the Good Shepherd, we will know our true worth.

In fact, knowing that we belong to the Good Shepherd is the source of all of our value. God loved us enough to become one of us. To know God is to know ourselves and our worth; to love God is to love ourselves for who we are: sheep who know the shepherd, who hear his call and who respond to the voice of God.

Both Revelation and John’s Gospel indicate why God, the Good Shepherd, became the Lamb of God and where God is leading us. Jesus says in John’s Gospel that his reason for calling his flock is because he gives “eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” The sheep are following the shepherd to paradise. Their care is eternal.

In Revelation, John receives an image of the flock, not a tiny, rump herd, but “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” Though these members of the flock had suffered earthly loss, the Shepherd’s promise was true: “They will never perish.” In fact, it is not just life that the Shepherd gives but also the promise of abundant life: There will no longer be hunger or thirst or even the harshness of a scorching sun, “for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The Good Shepherd, one of us, a sheep like us, is the very God who has prepared for us an eternal home and who leads us home to paradise.

John W. Martens

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William Rydberg
2 years 12 months ago
That Jesus is a Divine Person, not a Human person is unequivocal. The fact that "..the Sheep Know me..." is a clear reference to Jesus' anticipated opening of the minds of the disciples to understand the Hebrew Scripture and Tradition beginning with Moses as well to recollect what Jesus taught them during his mortal Time on Earth. (Don't exclude the Risen Jesus Teachings to the Apostles). Because no matter how great a factual wonder the Resurrection is, what is most important is the WHY. Sadly many German liberal protestants that adhere to a brand of skepticism that doggedly excludes the supernatural, hang on the WHY and downplay the importance of the factual bodily Resurrection (perhaps as a way of demonstrating a very human faith-for Faith (properly understood in the Apostolic Tradition) is in fact Supernatural in Origin, according to Traditional Christian and Catholic teaching).. The way to understand is using the Via Media which in this case, gives equal weight to both facts. Understood properly, is the Traditional Apostolic Christian Teaching. Catholic Dogma. Catholic Tradition. Catholic Scripture. For when looks at our Exemplar -Jesus-God come in the flesh, one always gets WORDS AND DEEDS. And we haven't even begun to discuss the marvels of God-The Holy Ghost... Such Good News... Christ resurrects the whole Man, body and rational soul. For to paraphrase Genesis, we were created in God's image... Finally, never exclude the operation of Grace...(I am using the Catholic definition here, for the Protestant understanding is different). (Final Note: It's really important to understand the Catholic definitions of Preternatural and Supernatural. Sadly, the word definition of Supernatural is used as a catch-all in some elements of the secular culture as something "unexplained"-see the Catholic definition of Supernatural.) Just my opinion. in The Risen Christ, Blessed be the Holy Trinity... Mother Angelica of Irondale, pray for us...
Bruce Snowden
2 years 11 months ago
Lamb was not a favorite food, until I gave it an unprejudiced, test. Then, how good it turned out to be! Cover a piece of Roast Pork with beef gravy and its tame flavor may fool you into thinking you’re eating a piece of beef. Not so with Lamb, which has a distinct un-disguisable taste, just like Jesus, the Lamb of God metaphorically speaking. Jesus, once “tasted,” activates the “taste-buds” of the soul and while it may take awhile to get used to it, once you do, what an altogether wonderful spirit-filled gastronomical treat is experienced! You’ll want to go back for more – and more – and more! The disguises of Jesus as in Lamb, or Shepherd, are many. According to soon to be Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he can also be seen disguised in the destitution and smelly misery of the poor. This reality is well understood by Holy Father Francis, but the simple truth is, not by some laity, priests and Bishops, who unfortunately prefer frilly comfort zones. That’s sad, considering that Redemption happened through the sweaty, smelly, and bloody destitution of the Man God, Jesus, as Second Person clothed in the splendor of Triunity, a very great mystery! All of this is bewildering to Sheep-People, who in visual uncertainty as did the man along the way in his first stage of healing to fully restored sight in the Gospel story, when asked what he saw, replied, “I see men like trees, but walking about!” When Jesus touches the “walking trees” on the way to becoming all they (we) really are, with the blessed taste of the Lamb of God taste-buds salivating, an invigorating scent permeates pastures of grace and suddenly to smell like sheep becomes a gift, because to smell like sheep is to smell like Jesus. Nothing could be better! You ask, which reflection on Jesus as Lamb or Shepherd is preferred. The two belong together, each imaging the other, so I cannot separate. Yes, I do feel comfort being a sheep and do at least partially ignore the call of the Shepherd, but am most attentive to the Shepherd when wolves are around - they love the taste of lamb! which for me is 24/7.


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