(text and images Copyright 2015 by Barbara Bjelland)
I received a new insight, as I re-read the Parable of the Lost Sheep:
Luke 15 (NIV)
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
The part that spoke to me was verse 5—I saw that the shepherd joyfully put the sheep on his shoulders. In other words, the sheep was not a burden. I realized that I am not a burden to God. Jesus delights to carry me with all my sins, weaknesses, faults and failures.
During Lent, you may think about the burden of sin Christ bore on the cross.
But remember, you are not a burden to him!
Hebrews 12:1,2 says,
Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, …looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (RSV)
Jesus lived in a culture where public execution, naked on a cross, was very shameful as well as very painful. He took our shame as well as our sin and sorrows, on that cross. He endured for the joy of bringing home the lost sheep.
Shame is the feeling that “I am a mistake.” Shame is the feeling that, “I am not…enough” or “I am too much…” Shame is a burden that God does not want us to carry, and it is a burden God does not want us to place on others.
Here is a Lenten prayer by Nerses the Gracious (1102-73):
In lieu of the tree that ushered in death, once planted in paradise, you lifted the wood of the Cross… Lift up my soul…, O Lifter of the heaviest burden, as you lifted up the sheep upon your shoulder. Take my soul up from earth to its promised place. (The Encyclopedia of Prayer and Praise, Hendrickson Publishers, ed. Mark Water, 2004, p. 165.)
During Lent, as we repent and turn to Christ, may we know that he first came near to us. May we know that he lifts us with joy upon his shoulder.