Why is he comparing them to "lambs"?
In fact, Jesus was also compared to a lamb. Who did, and why is that?
The word "lamb" in these contexts is being translated from ἀρήν (arēn) - meaning a sheep or a lamb.
Many sectarian teachers teach that Jesus is a lamb because he died for our sins - comparing this to sacrificing animals as discussed in parts of the Old Testament.
As if Jesus' role was simply to die for our sins.
Many, in fact, interpret this from John's statement about Jesus:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)But we see here that Jesus is also comparing his disciples and students to lambs. Is he also saying that they will be killed and sacrificed as animals?
Don't be ridiculous. In fact, neither John the Baptist nor Jesus ate meat - let alone did they sacrifice lambs or any other animals. They were not utilizing the word "lamb" to indicate someone who gets sacrificed.
They are speaking of the concept of obedience and dedication. A lamb or sheep is known to follow the sheep-herder and obey him (and his sheep-herder dog). They tend to have a trust in the sheep-herder and will easily be taken from one field to the next. This is where the expressions "sheepish" or "sheep-like" come from - the notion that sheep will innocently follow the sheep-herder without a lot of commotion.
This is confirmed by Jesus' use of the word "lambs" in this statement about his very own disciples. They were being "lambs" because they were obedient.
Technically, a lamb is a young sheep. Most consider a lamb to be less than a year old. Over one year, it becomes a sheep. But here and throughout the scriptures, there is no distinction given between lamb and sheep in the Greek and Hebrew. It is the same word. But because the tradition among ecclesiastical English translations has been to translate both the Greek ἀρήν (arēn) and the Hebrew word כֶּבֶשׂ (kebes) to "lamb" even though both words actually refer to a sheep or a lamb - and in the case of the Hebrew, also a ram.
So is John and Jesus referring to their respective students (yes, Jesus was a student of John) as "lambs" because they were to be slaughtered and sacrificed?
That would be a grotesque assumption, one that can only come from a "wolf."
Who are the "wolves"?
Yes, the "wolves" that Jesus is describing to his students - those they would face - describes those ecclesiastical Jewish groups - the pharisees and the sadducees and the various priests and their cohorts and followers. These ecclesiastical institutions had assumed fanatical and inaccurate interpretations of the teachings of Moses and the prophets. So they were opposed to Jesus' and John's teachings.
Why? Because John and Jesus - and Jesus' students - were teaching love for God. They were not fanatics. They were teaching the core message of Moses and all of the prophets: to love and serve the Supreme Being.
But those ecclesiastical institutions of Jesus' times were focused upon the various rules and regulations of the Jewish teachings, and not upon the core teachings of the prophets like Moses and David, who focused their attention on loving and serving - and praising - the Supreme Being.
This is confirmed by Moses:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)
"Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut. 11:1)
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul--" (Deut. 11:13)
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live..." (Deut. 30:16)
"...love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life..." (Deut. 30:20)And Jesus' teachings mirrored Moses' -
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
Rules and rituals of fanatics
Those fanatical sectarian institutions today who put their focus upon their respective rules and rituals while losing sight of the purpose of these core teachings of Jesus should also be considered "wolves" in this context.
The bottom line is that both John and Jesus referred to their students as "lambs" or "sheep" because they were devoted followers of the Supreme Being.
Remember that John said about Jesus:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)"Lamb of God" illustrates that Jesus is serving God. He belongs to God. He is following God. He is dedicating his life to God. Not that he is some sort of sacrificial animal.
Did Jesus' persecution remove our sins?
John's statement, "takes away the sin of the world" has been misconstrued by fanatical sectarian institutions. They teach that Jesus' death on the cross automatically removes the sins of the world.
That is a ridiculous assumption. If it were true, then why is sinning still going on? Why are some people still murdering others? Why are some people dealing drugs? Why are some people bombing innocent people? Why are some people raping women? If the "sins of the world" were automatically removed by Jesus' "dying" on the cross then why are these sins continuing?
Oh, but many ecclesiastical teachers will say they are talking about the consequences of sin. As though now that Jesus died for our sins, we don't have to suffer any responsibility for our sins? That a murderer no longer has to spend the rest of his life in jail or be sentenced to death as a consequence of that sin? Or a rapist doesn't have to spend 20 years in jail? Aren't these some of the consequences of sin?
Then fanatical sectarian teachers respond by saying that we have to "accept" that Jesus died for our sins in order for our sins to no longer have consequences. Wow, that's easy. Why then are so many Catholic and Protestant followers in jail today? Many of them went to church as youngsters at least. Why did they have to suffer the consequences of their sins after they had gone to church and "accepted" that Jesus "died" for their sins?
The fact is, we still must suffer the consequences of our self-centered activities (sin), regardless of how many times we go to church and do communion or whatever other ritual commemorating the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
What John the Baptist is talking about when he said that Jesus "takes away the sin of the world" is that Jesus saves people through his teachings. It is through Jesus' teaching love for God and loving service to the Supreme Being that Jesus is able to remove the propensity to sin. John isn't talking about removing the responsibility or consequences of sin (self-centered activity).
In other words, John is referring to the ability of Jesus' teachings - and the example of his life - to change our consciousness. He is talking about Jesus' teachings being able to change our consciousness from self-centeredness to being God-centered.
Any activities that are self-centered produce consequences. This is the law of the physical world. But activities performed in the service of the Supreme Being - to please God - do not have physical consequences, because these are spiritual activities. These activities elevate and purify our consciousness.
Purification through service
As we are elevated through service to the Supreme Being - our consciousness becomes cleansed. As our consciousness becomes cleansed, our inclination to sin (self-centered activity) decreases.
This is the process because this is how the Supreme Being designed it.
So Jesus is comparing his students to "lambs" here because he, like John, sees that his students will be working on behalf of the Supreme Being by passing on Jesus' and John's teachings, while the "wolves" will be trying to stop those teachings. Their teachings, because they reflect Jesus' and John's teachings - which reflected Moses' and David's and other prophets' teachings - will have the ability to save people by cleansing their consciousness.
Oh, but you don't believe that Jesus was passing on John's teachings? Here Jesus is instructing these 72 to teach the following:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" (Luke 10:9)Sound familiar?
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 3:1-2)Then once John was imprisoned, Jesus began to teach the same message:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 4:17)And as it states here in Luke, Matthew also confirms that Jesus told his students to teach the same message:
"As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matt. 10:7)So we find that Jesus certainly was teaching the same message as John, and telling his students to pass on the same message.
Meanwhile, the "wolves" will be trying to keep people in their fanatical camps so they can continue getting paid and being "top-dog" among their temples and villages.
Thus we find that history repeats itself with respect to the Supreme Being and His loving servants who are trying to spread His message. Why? Because the lessons the physical world teaches are set up by design. There is historical repetition because the physical world was designed by God to teach the same lessons, and thus consequences will repeat themselves as different people throughout history are taught those same lessons - if indeed they learn them.
If we don't learn these lessons when we have the opportunity to, we will lose that opportunity.