Monday, December 11, 2023

The Mighty Lion of Judah

“Is he—quite safe?” [asked Susan] “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children get quite a shock when they learn that Aslan is a lion—an animal known for its raw power and fierceness. Using a lion as the Christ-figure in his allegorical fantasy, Lewis certainly gives us much to think about.

Popular Western images of Jesus present Him as a mild and gentle soul with a vaguely pleasant stare. Indeed, the circumstances of His birth were far from glamorous. The Christmas hymn, Once in Royal David’s City says in verse two:

“He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.”

When C.S. Lewis chose a lion, I can’t imagine him not drawing from Jesus’ role as the Lion of Judah. We see this most clearly from two passages, book-ending the whole of Scripture:

The first is from the book of Genesis:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

The second passage is found in the book of Revelation:

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed”(Revelation 5:5).

A descendant from the line of Judah will be a conquering, victorious King. All the earthly descendants of Judah fell short of this perfect description. Even King David was only an image of the Messiah to come.

In her book, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Asheritah Ciuciu explores Jesus as the Lion of Judah. Opposed to the simple, unimpressive image of Jesus we see in religious paintings and antique prayer cards, the Jesus we see in the Bible had such a rich character that no one human image or metaphor could capture His likeness. Maybe that is why C.S. Lewis stepped outside the bounds of human form for Aslan.

Ciuciu says, “Though Jesus humbled Himself as a servant to all, He is not a pushover. Do not confuse His humility with weakness. Humility can best be understood as power under control. From being birthed in a manger to being hung on a cross, Jesus’ valor lies exactly in the fact that He restrained His glorious might when He could have obliterated all who stood against Him. Jesus is fierce. Like a young lion, His raw power makes His enemies scatter.”

There is no doubt a lion is mighty, especially one in the position of power and protection over his pride of other lions. This is an image of great faithfulness. The other lions can depend whole-heartedly on the leader of the pride.

We have One who is likewise worthy. A King of Kings who is sovereign and wise, full of valor, justice, and might. And from Genesis to Revelation we see His faithfulness; His promises fulfilled through every peak and valley of an often-unfaithful line of descendants.

Is He safe? Of course He isn’t safe. But He is good. He is the King.


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