Back in the Old Testament, before Jesus, God's people had to bring Him various sacrifices based on the deeds they'd done wrong. Or maybe just for fun. Or fellowship. Or whatever it happened to be. Leviticus lays out what all these sacrifices mean, how to perform them ritually correctly, what to do with the leftovers, who gets to eat what. The people were required to bring various forms of rams, lambs, bulls, goats, grains, oils, etc. But if you couldn't afford the animal, you could substitute it with a couple of birds. That's right. Birds.
But wait. Jesus is the Lamb of God. He wasn't a bird.
Let's look at the facts. Here's how you sacrifice a traditional animal, much like the lamb:
Slaughter it in the Lord's presence on the north side of the altar. Aaron's sons, the priests, will throw the blood against the altar on all sides. Then cut it into pieces. The priest will lay the head and the fat on the wood burning on the altar. Wash the internal organs and legs. Then the priest will burn all of it on the altar. Leviticus 1:10-13
Sound at all like Jesus' sacrifice? Not really. Which means if Jesus is the Lamb, He was not sacrificed as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. That's kind of what I'm looking for in a sacrifice - I need something to please my God, to atone for me. Right?
Stay in Leviticus and go a few more verses. This is where we hit the heart of it.
If your offering to the Lord is a bird, you must sacrifice a mourning dove or pigeon. The priest must bring it to the altar. ...First, he will drain the blood against the side of the altar. Remove the gizzard with its filth and throw it on the east side of the altar on the place for the ashes. Then pull on the bird's wings to tear the bird open, but don't pull the wings off. Then the priest will lay the bird...on the altar. Leviticus 1:14-17
That sounds more like my Jesus. First, His blood was poured out - through the whipping, through the beating, through the crown of thorns that sent drops of red streaking down His face. His blood was poured out on Calvary.
Then His arms were pulled apart to break His body open, although they were not torn off. He was laid on the altar. We more commonly call this, "the Cross." Can you see it? Can you see how this is the pleasing sacrifice?
Jesus was a bird.
Then why do we call Him the Lamb of God? There are really two reasons. First, and it seems silly, "the Pigeon of God" just doesn't have the same ring to it. And also, well, you know what kind of reputation pigeons have. But primarily, I think it's this:
We are but poor men. We have nothing worthy to bring before our God. But we made His Son our pigeon and brought Him to the altar anyway, and now God calls Him the Lamb because He wants us to feel like we're rich. That's all. God says, "I have accepted this sacrifice of the poor man, and the poor man is no longer poor; he is rich. His pigeon has become the Lamb."
Thus it is so.