Hail, hail! Lion of Judah!

Icon by Robert Lentz, OFM from Trinity Stores -- https://www.trinitystores.com

Icon of the Lion of Judah by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5)

It’s got to be at least 25 years ago now.

A group of Episcopal campus ministers from around Illinois were gathered at Brent House, the campus ministry at the University of Chicago, for a weekend planning session of some kind.

At Eucharist one evening we sang Victory Chant (Hail Jesus) by Donnie McClurkin, and I remember being powerfully moved by the refrain:

Hail, hail Lion of Judah!
How wonderful You are!
Hail, hail Lion of Judah!
How powerful You are!

Hail Jesus! You’re my King!
Your life frees me to sing
I will praise You all my days
You’re perfect in all Your ways

At the time, I think it was the music that impressed me most — the joyous, rhythmic chant sung by friends who were all excellent singers.

I’ve written before about how I ran across this icon of the Lion of Judah by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM, but today it really cements in my mind the powerful “otherness” of Jesus.

That is to say, it helps me understand that the Risen Jesus is always more than we think, always other than we think.

He is both Lion and Lamb. He is not only Jewish, but Gentile. He is not only Mediterranean, but Indian and Chinese and African (and even English and Scottish, Irish and Welsh). He is both Judge and Lover, both King and Suffering Servant.

Part of Jesus’ “otherness,” to my mind, is his power.

“Who is worthy to open the scroll?” asks the terrible angel. “The Lion of Judah,” says the elder, “because he has conquered.”

Jesus has conquered death, we proclaim every Sunday, trampled down death by death. His power, though, is not just for himself but for us. His life — his conquering life — overcomes even our powerlessness and frees us to sing.

Hail, hail! Lion of Judah!

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