When my daughter was little she looked up at a lifeguard sitting on a tall chair and said, “That’s the king, isn’t it, Daddy?” She didn’t quite have everything figured out yet, but even at two or three years old, she knew that great people were lifted up. However, when Jesus gives us two metaphors to remember him by, he doesn’t use images of thrones or crowns or power. The metaphors he chooses are rather astonishing. And they help to reframe our understanding of this King who was called the Lamb.
Here in this True Story of Easter Series, we’re talking about the King who is a Lamb; Jesus is the lamb who dies so the people go free. Today, we’re going to talk about several metaphors that the Bible uses, which I hope will shed new light on this amazing story which I’m going to retell—with Jesus gathering his disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover, the night before his crucifixion.
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Bible Passage: Luke 22:7-20
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Music: Cade Popkin Music
Storytelling Element of Metaphor
Our Bible is rich with metaphor. I think it’s because there are two realities. There’s the physical realm that we live in, but there’s also a spiritual realm. God could just tell us the spiritual story that is unfolding in abstract terms. But he’s like a father who helps his children understand by using metaphor. He’s saying, “Come here, let me show you…”
A simile is when you say something is like something else. A metaphor is when you say something is something else. It’s stronger. It’s even more concrete. So when Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches,” we’re meant to think about how branches that are pulled away from the vine shrivel up and die, but branches that are connected to the vine produce grapes that are brightly colored, and sweet. We’re meant to tuck all of those thoughts and ideas about vines and branches and transfer them to our relationship with Jesus. The point is that we find life when we are connected to him.
Jesus is the Lamb
Here in the True Story of the Lamb, Jesus is showing us that he is the Lamb of God, who rescues his people. Understanding this image is a little more complicated, though. With a vine and branches, we immediately understand the metaphor. But we don’t look at a lamb with its fluffy white wool and say, “Yes, I see! A lamb is a deliverer.” To understand the metaphor, we have to understand the history of the nation of Israel. We have to look back at an event called the Passover.
I hope you were able to listen to my conversation with Erin Davis where we talked about this at length. It was such a rich conversation!
Here’s how an image of a lamb connects to the concept of deliverance, you have to know about the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. And you have to know about how—per God’s instructions—they all smeared the blood of the lamb on the door that they escaped through the next day. Without the lamb’s blood, the angel would not have passed over. They would have experienced death in their household, not deliverance and freedom.
The Lamb Dies and We Go Free
So Jesus is the lamb, who created an escape—not just for one household, but for all who will trust in him. His blood, spilled on that wooden cross is like the lamb’s blood spread on the wooden door frame; It creates a door to exit our slavery to sin, and be set free. See the metaphor?
Well, here’s the thing. The disciples did not yet see. They did not think of Jesus as the lamb yet. They still thought of him as the conquering King. That’s who they thought their Messiah was going to be. And here is Jesus, in his last evening with them, showing them—yes, I’m going to be the great King who one day sits on the throne, but even then, I’m going to be remembered as the Lamb.
See, the whole theme of the lamb being connected to deliverance was God’s idea. For centuries, the story of Israel—the nation that God chose and promised to bless—has been shaped by lambs dying so that they could be delivered.
- Remember when Abraham was ready to sacrifice his oldest son, and then God provided a lamb? A lamb died, and Isaac went free.
- Remember when the oldest sons of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites lived because of the lamb’s blood on the door? A lamb died and the Israelite firstborns went free.
- Remember when God gave the people instructions for bringing lambs to be slaughtered as sin offerings? A lamb would die, and the people who had sinned would go free.
- And now Jesus is going to die on the cross. The lamb will die and we will go free.
But Jesus knows that the disciples aren’t putting things together, so he gives them a really strong hint, here during their Passover meal. He offers them two more metaphors, to explain what type of King he is.
The imagery Jesus gives them isn’t a crown. It isn’t a throne. It doesn’t tie to power or wealth or the other things that leaders want to be known for. Instead, Jesus gives his disciples the images of torn bread and an empty cup.
Torn Bread and an Empty Cup
Luke 22:19 says, “And he took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus’s body is about to be torn. He gave his body over to sneering Roman guards to be ripped and torn for them; for us.
Luke 22:20 says, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus’s blood is about to be poured out, just like the wine in the cup. He allowed his blood to be spilled on the cross for his disciples; for us.
These images are important and Jesus wants us to hold on to them. He wants to be remembered by them. Torn bread and an empty cup represent the way Jesus physically emptied himself of the dignity that he deserved. He clothed himself—not in kingly robes, but in humility. He went to the cross the way a lamb goes to slaughter.
Greatness in the Kingdom
But, why? That’s what I want to ask. And the disciples don’t readily understand either, because this is a foreign concept in our world. Humility is not what the world calls great. In my book, Comparison Girl, I talked a lot about the world’s idea of pursuing greatness through measuring up and getting ahead, and how the greatness of the Kingdom is the opposite of that. Philippians 2:5-11 gives these instructions to us, the followers of Jesus:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So Jesus is explaining, not only the type of King that he is, but the type of Kingdom we are part of. It’s a Kingdom where the greatest honor goes to the One who displayed the greatest humility.Comparison Girl, you’ll see that there is a measuring cup being poured out. Throughout the book, I talked about how the world points to the lines on the side of our cup, saying, “You want to be great? You have to measure up.” But Jesus’s example of greatness had nothing to do with the lines on his measuring cup and everything to do with the spout. Jesus's example of greatness had nothing to do with the lines on his measuring cup and everything to do with the spout. Click To Tweet
If Jesus had a measuring cup, it would be bigger than the whole world and brimming full. And what did Jesus do with all of that greatness? He emptied himself. That’s why God has given him the name above all names. See how comparison works in the Kingdom? It’s upside down. The great ones are those who humble themselves.
From the beginning, God has been weaving together a story about a lamb who was slain. A King who emptied himself. That’s how we’re to remember Jesus. And that’s how we’re to be like him: by humbling ourselves and lifting others up.
Retelling the Story of the Lamb
From Luke 22:7-20:
The day before Jesus died on the cross is the day the people would sacrifice a lamb and prepare it for their annual Passover feast. So Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare the meal. “Go into Jerusalem,” he says, “then you’ll see a man carrying a jar and he’ll lead you to a place where we can eat the Passover.”
So it’s now time and Jesus is reclining at the table with his disciples and he says, “I have earnestly desired to share this Passover with you before I suffer. And here’s my pledge. I won’t eat it again, until it is fulfilled in my coming Kingdom.” This is Jesus’s last Passover. He’s about to die. But one day, in his kingdom, he will host another feast and every one of his disciples (including us) will be there. Jesus will abstain from eating the Passover from now until then in eager anticipation of that day.
The disciples don’t realize the significance yet of what Jesus is doing, but they will. The Passover was the meal designated for remembering their deliverance from Egypt. This new meal that Jesus is instating will be for remembering the day Jesus delivered them from sin.
So during this very significant meal, Jesus gives his disciples two metaphors to remember him by. He tore a piece of bread and said, “This is my body. I give it for you.” Then he lifted his cup and said, “This cup is my blood poured out for you.”
Jesus wanted them to regularly look back on this meal and remember their King who chose to humble himself; to be torn and emptied on the cross. When we eat the cracker and juice together, it’s our way of remembering the way our King humbled himself and became the Lamb so that we could be delivered.
Next Time: The True Story of Judas
I hope you’ve enjoyed this “Retelling the Story of the Lamb” episode, and I hope you’ll take some time in Luke 22:7-20, treasuring this story up in your heart so that you can recall it for yourself and share it with others—especially at times when you’re confronted with the world’s false narrative, about greatness. The world says, “You have to measure up. You have to get ahead.” But Jesus wanted us to remember him as the great one who emptied himself.
We’ll be back next Wednesday for the True Story of Judas. In this Episode, Lee Nienhuis and I will further explore this scene at the dinner table as a scene of suspense, with Jesus’s betrayer sitting next to him at the table.
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