Why is Jesus called a lamb?

Two times in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as The Lamb of God. He specifically says the first time in verse 29, “... Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This claim by John reflects back to the Old Testament and the law of Moses. As early as the accounts of Genesis, we see reference to a lamb for sacrifice. In Genesis 22:8, when Abraham answers his son’s question about where the lamb was for sacrifice, he replies, “... My son, God will supply for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” This is a clear picture that points to the substitutionary sacrifice for sin that Jesus would become.

Later in the Books of the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), we learn of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27), Passover (Exodus 12:21), and how the Israelites were to choose a lamb for sacrifice (Numbers 6:14). All of these were portraits of the Messiah that was to come—Jesus. For instance, on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice of a lamb was made in order to receive from God the forgiveness of sin. On Passover, a lamb was killed, and its blood was put on the door posts and lintel so that when the angel of death came, if he saw the blood of the lamb, he passed over that house and those in it were saved. In each case, the lamb was to be a male without spot or blemish. These things point to the sinless perfection of Jesus as the Lamb, our substitutionary sacrifice for sin.

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). In preparation for sacrifice, the priests would wrap the lamb in swaddling cloths and lay it in a manger to calm the lamb as they searched it for blemishes. We see a distinct similarity at Jesus’ birth. “And she brought forth her first born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Lastly, the first to come see Jesus in Bethlehem after His birth were the shepherds. The area outside Bethlehem was where they raised the lambs for sacrifice in the temple. And on the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on one side of the city (Matthew 21:1-11), would have been the same day that the lambs would be led into Jerusalem on the other side of the city for preparations to be made for sacrifice during Passover celebration. All these things point to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and to why He is called the Lamb. “And crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:10).

Jesus is The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!