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The Shoulders of Jesus

Jesus must have had big shoulders.

While none of us know what the physical shoulders of Jesus looked like, we know that he shouldered the burden of our sins. Isaiah wrote, “he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). When he was condemned to be crucified, “he went out, carrying his own cross” (John 19:17). It is true that before he reached Golgotha, another had to carry his cross, but Jesus alone bore our sins. Again, from Isaiah – “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). No one but Jesus could carry that burden.

And the shoulders of Jesus are broad enough to carry the wayward sinner who returns home. In the threefold parable of Luke 15, after finding that one lost sheep, the shepherd “lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (v. 5). What the shepherd did not do is significant. He did not abandon the lost sheep to perish; he did not upbraid it for being lost; he did not callously drive the sheep home. Likewise, the Good Shepherd joyfully seeks the wandering sheep and lovingly brings it home.

We too can find joy when we shoulder the load of Christian service. We bear one another’s burdens. We forbear with one another’s weaknesses. We shed tears with those who weep. We seek those who are outside the fold. And when it is the love of God that moves us to shoulder the load, we will do it sacrificially. It filled Paul with joy to be “poured out as a drink offering” along with the sacrificial faith of Philippian Christians (Philippians 2:17). This is how we love one another in the way our Lord loved us – joyfully shouldering the load of sacrificial service (John 13:34).

It was the death of Jesus on the cross that made all of this possible. It was why he joyfully and lovingly shouldered the load of sin. As the Hebrews writer encourages us to look to Jesus, he reminds us that he endured the cross and despised its shame “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus found joy in the most unlikely of places – on a Roman cross – because it was there that his loving sacrifice provided salvation for lost humanity.

And that took big shoulders.

Thomas Larkin

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