The Lamb Is Worthy
Open Your Bible
Revelation 4:1-11, Revelation 5:1-14, Isaiah 6:1-6, Ezekiel 1:26-28
One of my sons’ favorite bedtime stories is The Sword in the Stone. As a child, I grew up watching the animated version of this tale, in which a lanky, awkward boy named Arthur unwittingly prepares to become king. Set in twelfth century England, the legend describes a country in turmoil, where the king has died without an heir to take his place. In order to resolve this dilemma, a wizard named Merlin places a sword in an anvil with the following words inscribed upon it: “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise King born of all England.”
As the story goes, plenty of strong men and mighty warriors attempt to remove the sword, but every one of them fails. That is, until Arthur. This young, scrawny, misfit approaches the sword and is able to pull it from the anvil, finally restoring order to the kingdom.
The legend of Arthur is only a myth, but it echoes a story that is not. In chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, we encounter a similar scene, but in place of a sword we have a scroll (5:1). We don’t know what exactly is inside the scroll, but New Testament scholar N.T. Wright speculates: “We rightly guess… that it contains God’s secret plan to undo and overthrow the world-destroying projects that have already gained so much ground, and to plant and nurture instead the world-rescuing project which will get creation itself back on track in the right direction.”
Much like the sword in the stone, what is significant about the scroll is not simply what is inside of it, but Who is able to unseal it. Like the sword, there is only one who is worthy to unleash its power. That chosen one, we soon discover, is Jesus—the “Lamb,” the “Root of David,” the “Lion from the tribe of Judah” (5:6,5). Christ alone can initiate God’s plan to rescue and redeem the world.
That is how the two stories are similar. This is how they differ:
In The Sword and the Stone, Arthur does nothing to earn the title of king. Although legend holds that he was secretly a royal heir, Arthur’s worthiness (much like Abraham, Moses, and David) comes solely from the fact that he is chosen for the task. He does not earn it, and he does not deserve it.
Christ, on the other hand, is a different kind of hero. He is not simply plucked from thin air. Instead, the Lamb is worthy for two important reasons. First, He is worthy to redeem the brokenness of the world because He is the only one who did not contribute to it. And second, He is worthy to rescue humanity because He purchased us by His blood (5:9).
Unlike most of our favorite heroes, Jesus was not chosen in spite of Himself. Even our greatest heroes, our noblest heroes, our most perfect heroes are still only a shadow of the Hero we have in Christ. By virtue of His identity and by the power of His blood, He alone is able to open the scroll and initiate God’s plan to redeem the world.