In like a lamb, out like a lion

A familiar proverb points us to God’s Lamb and our salvation.

Glenn L. Schwanke

Each year, when March 1 rolls around, I remember how my parents became meteorologists—at least for the day. The dinner table discussion usually revolved around the old adage, “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” That’s how my parents sagely predicted the weather as the snow swirled outside. Our hope was that March’s early storms would be winter’s last hurrah and warmer temperatures would soon speed spring on its way. But what if March was unusually mild, and we were enjoying a thaw? Then the old adage was reversed, “In like a lamb, out like a lion.”

I always wondered why adults could be so pessimistic about such matters. And then, many years later, I found out. I moved to Houghton, Michigan. Here in the month of March, winter is usually just getting its second wind. We’ve already shoveled, plowed, pushed, and “panked down” some 200 or more inches of snow. But March, April, and even early May can see us plow right through the 300-inch mark of the white, fluffy stuff.

Here in the Copper Country, when we look out our windows on March 1, we usually can’t see much outside. That’s because the deep snow on our roof has been shoveled off once or twice and the snowbanks next to our buildings block our view. And yet this year, on March 1, I want to shout, “In like a lamb, out like a lion!” Not because I’m craving another back-breaking, two-hour bonding experience with my snowblower, but because Lent starts on March 1. And, dear friends, Lent always comes in like a lamb but goes out like a lion!

In like a lamb

It’s a special lamb, and certainly not the thousands upon thousands of sacrificial lambs that were killed morning and evening as part of the daily sacrifices at the tabernacle and later at the temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 29:38-42). Nor is Lent about all those Passover lambs that were sacrificed century after century—lambs that helped God’s people remember how the Lord had freed them from bondage in Egypt and how the Lord’s death angel had passed over those houses where the lamb’s blood was painted on the doorframe of the home (Exodus 12:11-13).

Rather, Lent is all about the Lamb that all those Old Testament sacrifices foreshadowed! Lent is all about Jesus, God’s Son, to whom John the Baptist could point and say, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

But how? How could Jesus take away the world’s sin? Every murder. Every rape. Every robbery. Every atrocity committed in war. Every terrorist attack. Every word we blurt out in anger and later regret. Every doubt. Every anxious moment. Every fear. Every playground prank. How could Jesus wash it all away?

Only by being God’s Lamb. Only by being our sinless substitute under God’s law. The prophet Isaiah explained, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:6,7).

In Lent, we pause and take a long, hard look at God’s Lamb. We watch, with a sigh, as his captors spit on him, hit him, beat him, and flog him. Roman soldiers mock him by placing a reed in his hand, by draping a purple robe over his shoulders, and by jamming a crown of thorns on his head.

On Good Friday, at the end of Lent, we gather in our churches once more. The altar is stripped bare. The lights are turned down. The hymns we struggle to sing are somber. And the Scripture we hear? “Therefore they took Jesus away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle” (John 19:16-18).

Out like a lion

In like a lamb. To pay for all sins. To suffer hell itself. And then the lamb died.

But not before he “shouted again with a loud voice” (Matthew 27:50). “He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). As God’s Lamb breathed his last, “the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. . . . When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, ‘This man really was God’s Son!’ ” (Matthew 27:51-54).

Out like a lion! That’s what Lent is all about too! Those Good Friday miracles prove that the Lamb who died for us is also the Lion prophesied by Jacob: “Judah is a young lion—my son, you return from the kill. He crouches; he lies down like a lion or a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until He whose right it is comes” (Genesis 49:9,10).

Out like a lion! It was the Lion of the tribe of Judah who summoned death on Good Friday and met it head-on. Then three days later, on Easter morning, God’s Lion roared again! And “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Out like a lion! Some six decades later, an aged apostle John was in exile on the island of Patmos. It was the Lord’s Day, a Sunday, when John was “in the Spirit” and allowed to glimpse heaven’s throne room. And what did John see? Our Savior! But how did our Lord appear? John saw “the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,” and “One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders” (Revelation 5:5,6).

“In like a lamb, out like a lion.” One day, with our own eyes, we believers will see the one who is our Lamb and our Lion. And we will fill heaven with his praise! “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

All Bible references are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.



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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017

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