by Fr. John Teebagy


‘And Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My father!’ And he said; ‘Here I am my son. ‘He said; ‘Behold; the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said; ‘God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering my son.’ So they went both of them together.” (Genesis 22:7-8)


This quote taken from the Book of Genesis illustrates how important a sacrifice, namely of a lamb was in being an offering to God. The Jews, at this time, killed or sacrificed lambs as a way of giving an offering and of cleansing themselves of their sins. Throughout the Old Testament, we read of a lamb that will come. It is foretold that a ‘lamb,’ a sacrificial lamb would in fact come. As we read in Isaiah 53, however, we see how this lamb will be treated by those who would reject it (the lamb). This lamb will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. This lamb will be oppressed and afflicted. This lamb will be lead as a sheep to the slaughter and will not say a word on behalf of himself. This lamb will be killed even though he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth. This lamb, who was prophesied, is our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who bore the sins of many and was made and still is an intercessor for us sinners.

It is interesting to note, that when we prepare the communion at each and every liturgy, the words from Isaiah 53 are read when sacrificing the lamb, which will become our bloodless sacrifice.

The Old Testament prepared us for the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, who will save us from eternal death. “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding,” (Jeremiah 3:15). Along this same line of preparing us for the Messiah, we read about John the Baptist, who is commonly referred to as the forerunner of Jesus. “He (John) came for the testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him,” (John 1:7). John was baptizing to cleanse those who had sinned. “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’,” (John 1:29). After this, Jesus wanted to be baptized but “John would have prevented him saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me’? But Jesus answered him, saying ‘Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:14-5). Thus, Jesus, the only sinless one, is baptized, identifying Himself with sinners, whom John had baptized.

Besides being referred to as the lamb, Jesus is also described as a shepherd, who watches over his flock (mankind). Jesus is the “good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” (John 10:11). We also know that even when we feel abandoned and alone, Jesus, the shepherd, will not flee or leave us desolate. This is so because “he who is hireling and not a shepherd whose own sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I (Jesus) am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep,” (John 10:11-5). This quote is extremely important and beautiful, in the sense that it gives a real life depiction of the love that the shepherd has for his sheep, or a parent to his children. It also relates to us the passionate love God has for us. If we follow the shepherd and listen to him, he will “give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand,” (John 10:28). Jesus is always faithful to us and gives us a chance for eternal life with Him, His Father, and Spirit in their Kingdom, but like Judas we have betrayed Jesus and like Peter we have denied Him. Because of these acts, Jesus was arrested and turned over to the Romans. They “stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him and platting a crown of thorns, they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him,” (Matthew 27:28-31).

Jesus, Son of God the Father, suffered this humiliation for us. By His death we live, by His descent into Hades we ascend into Heaven. Jesus is our paschal lamb, our sacrifice, the true sacrifice.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut,” (Revelation 21:22-5).

Father John Teebagy is the pastor of St. George Church in Lowell, Massachusetts.

From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
May 1990
p. 13