Kris and I were at a lion park in South Africa, not far from a place called Pilanesberg National Park, a game reserve. We had driven with some friends through Pilanesberg hoping we might see a lion in the wild. We did see baboons and elephants and giraffes and some other animals that show up in the U.S. only in zoos. But no lions. So our friend, Attie Nel, took us to the lion park nearby to see real lions.
It began with a petting zoo where we touched and held some baby lions, and then we heard truly hair-raising stories about how they teach lions to hunt and what happens to a lion when it realizes it’s not just a little fellow that gets petted but is actually a ferocious beast.
It was about then that I heard a lion roar, and it shook me. Something inside me was intensely scared by the sound of that lion roar. The male lion in the area behind us had realized something and it let out a roar that reverberated off walls and trees and made my vertebrae tingle.
Lions spend most of their days sleeping and lounging and swatting flies with their tails and rolling over and looking around and just generally being big cats. But when they want to be noticed, when they want the world to know their lionesses are their lionesses and their babies are their babies, when they want you to know their food is their food, they roar. The whole park hears, the whole continent hears, the world backs off, and only a fool takes no notice.
No lamb would ever challenge a lion. Ever.
The lamb has no chance. Ever.
But one Lamb did.
One Lamb became the One.Lion, one Lion became One.Lamb. The Lamb of God is also the Lion of Judah and the Lion of Judah is the Lamb of God. What does that mean for you and me as followers of Jesus?
One generation after the hideous injustice of Golgotha, one generation after Jesus had been unjustly slain as the Lamb of God, one of Jesus’ closest followers, the apostle John, is found weeping because he yearns for someone who will establish justice in this world. He yearns for the Lord’s Prayer, for the Dream of all Dreams to become a living reality. No one, he realizes, is worthy of opening the scroll containing God’s plan, so he weeps and weeps. Then suddenly he is told that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”—the one who paradoxically in the previous chapter of Revelation was the Lamb—is worthy.
Why is the Lamb-Become-Lion and Lion-Become-Lamb worthy? Because he triumphed (see Revelation 5:5). How did he triumph? He has been raised from the dead, he has conquered death, and now the Lamb-Who-Is-Lion is on the throne of God. The cross is not the final word; the final word is Life, the life that raised Jesus from the dead to sit on the throne as the Lion. Amazingly, that Lion’s job, this grand finale of books in the Bible tells us, is to install Jesus’ followers as a “kingdom and priests” and our task is to “reign on the earth” in God’s kingdom.
Do you hear the roar? The Lamb-Who-Is-Lion roars from the distant horizon. The Lion has been inside the grave and down into the depths of death, but God raised him from the dead and is now roaring. He came back to life and he ascended into the throne room of God, where he reigns. From that distant horizon, the Raised One now roars. He roars to let us know he is Lord. He roars to let us know that Caesar is not Lord, he is. He roars to let us know he’s sent the Spirit to make us one and to empower us to live as God’s beloved community. He roars to let us know we are gifted to serve in that community. He roars to let us know God loves us. He roars to let us know that justice, love, wisdom, and peace matter to him. He roars to inform us that he’s watching. He roars to let us know that he’s coming again. He roars to let us know that Death is not the final word.
The last word is the roar of the Lamb-Who-Is-Lion-Who-Is-Life.
That Lion’s roar doesn’t frighten us. No, that roar gives us confidence to press on with the Cross.Life. That roar empowers us to pick up the cross daily and follow the Lamb-Who-Is-Lion. That roar enables us to fight through our doubts and to struggle through defeats. That roar wakes us up and gets us going and keeps us going straight along the cross path. That roar points the way toward the Kingdom.Life and urges us to give up our One.Life to him. The Cross.Life, the roar tells us time and time again, is about a cross that is empty and about a grave that is empty and about a throne that is full.
If the Lamb becomes a Lion, so too do we. Those who carry the cross can roar too. Our roar echoes the Lion’s, who is Lord of the Kingdom. Give your One.Life to the roar.