The Lion in the Cave
“Look,” John says, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Christ is the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb-ness of Jesus resonates with us this time of year. The rich symbolism throughout the old stories of the Law, the heart-tugging sense of injustice we feel when we see pictures of white, sweet lambs being killed as sacrifices for the wrongdoing of people—this is, perhaps, why the symbol of the Lamb so grabs our attention when we look ahead to Easter.
The picture of the Lamb teaches us of the unthinkable act of love. We see images of a soft, white creature slashed with a knife, blood blazing against the cloud background of wool. Our hearts hurt when we look at the sweet little animal. And we wince when we see, beside it, a blood-smeared leftover of a man we recognize as our Lover, our Friend. Such images feel appropriate to the ashen, cloudy face of a Good Friday.
Then on Sunday, the sun explodes in gold. The burst of sweet candy in our mouths instead of eggs for breakfast. Lilac and yellow, blue and pink, splatter in crazy happiness all around us as we celebrate in our churches, practically yell out worship melodies….He is risen! From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, from complete dark to dazzling light, we’ve vicariously felt the manic-depressive roller-coaster that Jesus’ poor followers must have ridden. Utter black bleakness one day, confusion the next, then blinding delirious happiness the third day. Lamb on Friday. Lion of Judah on Sunday.
But wasn’t the Lion always there?
Maybe there’s a lesson for us in the disciples’ (and our) inability to see any spark of Lion before Sunday, whether it’s in the Easter season, or during a time of loss, confusion, or stress, where no windows show themselves. In those intervals, we might feel the lamb-like softness of God’s love pillowing our heads, and we’re glad. But what we also want, for some sense of hope, is a hint of Lion. We want to see, in the hollow pit, a divine wink.
We already know that Jesus wasn’t total Lamb during His ministry. He’s the one who sat kindly on a donkey on the way to Jerusalem, then slammed the money-tables in the temple with a furious roar.
The same gentle Rabbi, who softly prepped His learners about his upcoming death, growled, “Get behind me, Satan!” when Peter protested the idea.
In that beloved Lion story by C. S. Lewis, Aslan quietly makes an arrangement with the gleeful White Witch: with a lamb-like quietness, he plans the sacrifice which will save Edmund at Aslan’s own expense. Yet when the witch asks, “But how do I know this promise will be kept?” Aslan roars with such thunderous authority that “the witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.”
The same Jesus who kept meek and mute at His trial muscled his Lion-strength to take on both body-torture and spiritual abandonment. C. H. Spurgeon remarks, “To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue.”
His Lamb-like love gives us comfort. His Lion-strength gives us hope.
If I’d lived back in time when He was here in the flesh, and watched Him die, I think I’d have suffocated in the ink-black despair that comes when a small faith lets itself be deafened out by silence. Maybe there were some who had that spark of faith in the corner of their eyes, even in the confusion of unfathomable tragedy.
It’s a lesson they all had to learn. It’s a lesson we still have to learn, in our own witching hours. The lesson of the Lion in the cave.
It’s not faith in nothing. It’s not faith in faith itself. It’s faith in Someone who promised something, faith that strains itself, trains itself to see in the gloom that tiny pin-light that hints, It’s not over.
Like the end of a morose movie where we’re struck dumb by the tragedy we just witnessed on screen…the Hero is dead. But just before the credits start rolling—what is that?—one eye opens. Then whoosh—the picture blacks out, and we’re in our seats, waiting in hope, knowing there’s going to be a sequel. One tiny glimpse and we’re given the hint—in an almost playful, teasing way—that this is not the end.
Then our agonizing question is answered, after the silence is so long that we don’t think we can last through it any longer. The Lion breaks out of the cave with a Roar-Call that catches us up and out of the water with a huge gulp of oxygen and a burst of relief that makes it all seem as if it were only a bad dream—
And we cheer, as loudly as we can, “HE IS RISEN!!”
This is our Lion, and our Lamb.
As Mr. Beaver says to Edmund and the other children,
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
From Friday to Sunday and every day, may we be fed by His Love. May we be allured by His Power. May we remember, when we’re happy and singing in the radiance of light, that the Fire never really went out.