The Bible sometimes uses animals as symbols of Jesus. Each creaturely picture of Christ has striking elements that make it memorable, sometimes because it fits so perfectly and sometimes because it is completely unexpected. These wildlife images help us understand important aspects of His nature and accomplishments, from His love to His might, from His sacrifice to His victory. Here are five animal symbols of Jesus.
1. The Lamb
Perhaps the most famous animal symbol of Christ is a lamb. John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God, because Christ bore the sin of the world on the cross just as sacrificial lambs bore the sin of Israel under the Law of Moses. The sacrifice of Jesus, however, took away our sins once and for all, and no further sacrifices are needed. Imagery of Jesus as a triumphant lamb who overcame death and brings salvation fills the book of Revelation.
2. The Lion
Another famous animal symbol of Jesus is a lion. Revelation 5:5 calls Jesus the Lion of Judah. Judah is the kingly tribe of the Jews, and Christ is the eternal king of Israel as well as the eternal king of all the earth. One day everyone, willingly or not, will bow before Him. Imagining Jesus as both a lion and lamb helps us see different facets of His character, for He is fierce and mighty as a lion, yet gentle and tender as a lamb, the punisher of the wicked and the Savior of the humble.
3. The Hen
Some other animal symbols of Christ are perhaps not as well known as the lamb and the lion. One of these is a mother hen. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus says that if the people of Jerusalem had come to Him, He would have taken them under His wings like a hen does to her chicks, but He mourns that they are unwilling to come. As His people, we must always be willing to humble ourselves and seek salvation under the wings of our Lord.
4. The Worm
Another little known animal symbol of Jesus is a worm. Psalm 22:6 prophesied that the Messiah would be seen by mocking masses as a worm and not a man. This came true when the crowds demanded that Jesus be crucified. They gave Him scorn instead of worship, treating their long-awaited King and Savior as worthless. We too may find ourselves treated like a worm by those who hate our faith, but God sees us as precious and will raise us up as He raised up His Son.
5. The Bronze Serpent
Perhaps the strangest animal symbol of Christ is the bronze serpent. After God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, their complaining caused Him to send a plague of deadly snakes among them. When the people repented, God was merciful and had Moses build a bronze serpent that saved anyone who looked to it. In John 3:14-15, Jesus compares Himself to the bronze serpent, saying that all who look to Him will be saved and receive eternal life.
The Purpose of the Symbols
All of the Bible’s animal symbols of Jesus plant vivid imagery in our minds, reminding us who Christ is and what He did for us. He loves us and sacrificed Himself for us. Forevermore He will be our king, our comforter, our brother, and the Savior of our souls. Whenever we see a lamb, lion, hen, worm, or snake, perhaps it will turn our thoughts to what the Bible says about Christ in connection with that creature and lead us to gratefully praise God.