Behold, the Lamb!

By Derek Kreider, May 7, 2019

As some of you may know, we celebrated Easter a week later here in Romania. This is because the Orthodox church has continued to adhere to an Easter centered around an older calendar which ensures that Easter never precedes the Jewish Passover. They think it rather strange that we Protestants could celebrate Christ's death on a day that precedes Passover some years. While I don't think the date of Easter matters all that much, I do appreciate the Orthodox perspective and its link to tradition (grounded in the Passover traditions established at Nicea and beyond).

There's another tradition the Orthodox have (or maybe it's just the Romanians) which I've come to enjoy. That is the traditional Easter meal is a freshly slaughtered lamb. What makes this meal particularly meaningful for me is the fact that our daily walks in the springtime take us out to a large field behind our house where we see the goats, cows, horses, and sheep grazing. Knowing that we were purchasing a lamb for Easter, our walks in the weeks prior to the celebration were pensive. As we went out to the field and saw the little lambs playing and suckling, we wondered which lamb would be killed for us. It was somewhat somber in that we were able to frequently gaze upon the innocence of these lambs throughout their short little lives, knowing what their ultimate fate would be at our very own hands.

Hopefully you can understand that I am not being a sadist here. I don't take pleasure in the slaughter of lambs. But what I do enjoy is the tangible nature this tradition brings to the Easter story. While the gospel stories are heavy on the crucifixion, and rightfully so, they also paint a very vivid picture of Jesus's life and ministry. As a good evangelical and a proponent of substitutionary atonement, I sometimes wondered why God would take so much space to tell us about the Christ's life when what really mattered is the transaction He made on the cross. Sure, Jesus had to live a sinless life, but you can sum that up in a sentence or two. "Jesus did tons of miracles and always did the right thing." Done. But here in Romania, I've come to see a little more how wonderfully important the life of Christ was.

Innocent Lamb of God, Led to Slaughter
While Christ's life is important for a multitude of reasons, namely so we ourselves know how to live kingdom lives, one of the main reasons I think the gospels spend so much time on Christ's life is to paint us the incarnational picture of Isaiah 53. Jesus was a lamb. He was innocent. He was silently led to the slaughter. A slaughter in and of itself is violent and terrible, but a slaughter of the innocent is unfathomable. While Christ's life is filled with examples we are to follow, it is also a picture that helps us understand the true nature and consequence of sin. Jesus Christ died for our sustenance. While the Easter lamb here in Romania died for my temporal, physical sustenance (amplified even more so through the traditional Easter fasting), the Lamb of God died for my eternal sustenance. He is the living bread and water. We must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. We who know the end of Christ's story should somberly gaze upon the depiction of his life each time we walk through the gospels. The innocent, perfect, humble, peaceful lamb we gaze upon will be slaughtered for our sustenance.

Though the Romanian Easter paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the Easter story, I'd be remiss to end the story here. Each Easter, until the Lord returns, will see thousands of lambs slaughtered in Romania and around the world as reminders to God's gracious provision. But Hebrews is very clear that our Savior's provision is not like this. His sacrifice was once for all. What Jesus did on the cross was sufficient and will never be repeated. So as we celebrate Easter here in Romania, we do so more somberly than ever before, as we vividly see Christ's sacrifice depicted to us in our meal. But at the same time, we worship a risen Savior who conquered sin and death and has promised us a life through Him, a life in which we will live in an innocence which will never be assaulted or corrupted again.

Derek Kreider serves with MTW in Brasov, Romania. 

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