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How can Jesus be lamb and shepherd at the same time?

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

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"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11)

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    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 23:33
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    For roughly the same reason he can be both priest and sacrifice at the same time.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 5:52
  • At least there is no "contradiction" tag on this question
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 14:50

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Because they are metaphors.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, ESV)

The Lamb of God refers to his sacrificial death as atonement for our sins.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (John 10:10–14, ESV)

The Lamb of God signifies Jesus' atonement. The Good Shepherd signifies his love.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12–14, ESV)

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One might also ask, "How can Jesus be the sacrifice and the High Priest at the same time?", Or, "High Priest and King at the same time?

The Levitical system was full of these metaphors that pointed to Jesus as Messiah:

  • Jesus was the fulfilment of what the sanctuary/temple typified, John 2:19-21, Heb 9:1-28, 10:1-18
  • Jesus represented the foundation of the temple as well, 1 Peter 2:4-8 (Compare Isa 28:16, Ps 118:22)
  • Jesus’ body was represented by the curtain in the temple, Heb 10:20.
  • Jesus was the bread of life, John 6:35, 41, 48 (compare Ex 25:23-30, Lev 24:8).
  • Jesus was the light of life, John 8:12, 9:5 (compare the lampstand Ex 25:31-39, Lev 24:3, 4, Isa 53:11, Ps 56:13, etc)
  • Jesus provides the water of life, John 4:13, 14 (Compare the laver Ex 30:17-21. See also 1 Cor 6:11)
  • Jesus is the promised seed of the woman Gal 3:16 (compare Gen 3:15, and the Abrahamic Covenant)
  • Jesus was the Passover Lamb and thus the promised Messiah, John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19 (compare Ex 12:1-14).
  • Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant in fulfillment of the Levitical covenant, Heb 4:14-16, 5:10, 7:23-28, because He was “pure, blameless, set apart” exactly as the Levites were. See also Heb 9:15, 12:24.
  • Jesus provided the blood of the new covenant of which the communion ceremony was to be a memorial, Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 1:19 (compare Ex 24:5, 8).
  • Jesus was also the promised eternal king of Israel ie, the Kingdom of Heaven, or, Kingdom of God, Luke 1:33, John 1:49, Acts 13:23, Rev 11:15. Compare Jer 33:14-17, Eze 37:22. Thus, Jesus inherits the Davidic Covenant. He is also the “Son of David” (Matt 1:1-16) and “Son of God” as predicted in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7); and His kingdom will never be defeated and is eternal, Luke 1:33, Heb 1:8, Rev 11:15, compare Ps 61:7, Isa 9:7, Ps 146:10. Jesus is now seated on the eternal throne in heaven at the right hand of God, Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62, 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:33, 7:55-56 (standing), Rom 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22. See also Ps 110:1, Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Acts 2:34, Heb 1:13, Rev 5.

Jesus Himself also said:

  1. “I am” the Bread of Life (John 6:35-51)
  2. “I am” the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  3. “I am” the Door of the sheep (John 10:7-9)
  4. “I am” the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11-14)
  5. “I am” the Resurrection & Life (John 11:25)
  6. “I am” the Way, Truth & Life (John 14:6)
  7. “I am” the Vine (John 15:1-5)

We should not read all Scripture in a very literal sense else we end up with absurdities by making metaphors real which they were never intended to be.

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Revelation 7:14-17. "And I said to him, My lord, you know." And he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Vs15, For this reason, they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in the temple, and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. Vs16, They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, no any heat. Watch verse 17!

Vs17, "for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life, and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes."

Jesus Christ has two natures and referred to Himself as the "Son of Man" and as the "Son of God." He's the "Son of Man" on His mothers side which makes Him a human being. He's the "Son of God" on His Father's side which makes Him deity.

John the Baptist said this at John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus stated the following at John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they shall follow Me." Verse 28, "and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one snatch them out of My hand."

Verse 29, "My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them our of the Father's hand."

John 10:30, "I and the Father, We are one." Jesus had just said that the sheep are equally safe in His and in His Father's hand. The power of the Son is equal to that of the Father. Jesus is asserting the essential unity of the Father and the Son in the word "one" (hen). It is a neuter number to indicate equality of essence, attributes, design, will and work.

Jesus distinguishes the "I" from the "Father" and uses the plural verb "are" denoting "we are." Meaning these words separate the persons within the Godhead, but "one" asserts their unity of essence or nature as identical.

At John 10:34 the Jews asked Jesus to tell them plainly who He was. This verse is plain. He does not say "I am Christ," but "I and my Father are one"--God! At verse 31, the Jews understood Jesus correctly. There could be no mistake about His meaning. "Again refers to John 8:59 at which time the Jews also attempted to stone Him for blasphemy. Of course both times they intended to kill Him.

The Jews would not just go around killing someone for being one in purpose/unity which some have tried to point out from John 10:30. Jesus prayer at John 17:20-21, "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; vs21, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me." So to answer, "How can Jesus be lamb and shepherd at the same time? This is how?

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Both "lamb" and "shepherd" were well-known prophetic images of the coming Messiah. The "Lamb" is from Isaiah 53:7:

Is. 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Isaiah 53 is the passage about God's Servant who will lay down his life as an atonement for the sins of his people.

"Shepherd" is often used as a metaphor for leadership and is found in several messianic prophecies. Most relevant to John 10 is Ezekiel 34, when God denounces the "bad shepherds" (bad leaders) of Israel who are exploiting the people and driving them away from faith in God. He declares that he himself will come as the shepherd who will rescue his lost sheep:

Ezek 34:11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out...15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.

The New Testament is full of images from Old Testament prophecy that recall promises of God's coming redemption. The assumption is that the reader knows these prophecies and will grasp the profound implications about the identity of Jesus as the coming Messiah.

Extracting disjointed statements from the Bible and constructing logical proofs out of them will generate nothing but nonsense. Don't forget that not only is Jesus both the "Lamb" and the "Shepherd," he is also the Lion of Judah too! (Rev. 5:5)

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Because he is the Great I Am, the beginning & the end, the Holy Trinity. With all due respect, He can be whatever He wants & we are privileged to live in His world as His children. On earth he was a teacher in preperation to his disciples & followers of becoming the Sacrificial Lamb. This is what they call "The Good news" because that is when Jesus rose from the grave & came back before His desciples as their Shepherd & for anyone else who wants to believe in Him for everlasting eternal life. I call that Awesome!

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