Jesus Our Lord – His Shoulders
April 14th, 1981 @ 12:00 PM
JESUS OUR LORD: HIS SHOULDERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-14-81 12:00 p.m.
As Charles Bristow said, this is the thirty-seventh year that I have conducted these pre-Easter noonday services. And the theme this year is our Lord Jesus: tomorrow, His Hands; Thursday, His Tears; Friday, His Wounds, His Blood; yesterday, His Face; and today, His Shoulders.
In the incomparable prophecy of Isaiah chapter 9, verses 6 and 7:
For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
It is an unusual thing, one that was at least unusual to me, to learn in my reading in the Bible that you could almost tell its story by the shoulders of the men and women who figure in it. We are told in the Scriptures that Shem and Japheth, two sons of Noah, put a covering, a coat, on their shoulders and went backward into the tent where their father Noah lay in drunkenness and thus covered his nakedness [Genesis 9:23]. We are told in the Scriptures that when Abraham sent Hagar away with her child, Ishmael, that he gave her bread and water and placed it upon her shoulder [Genesis 21:14].
In the incomparably beautiful and romantic story of Eliezer seeking a bride for his master’s son Isaac, he prayed God, saying, “Let the girl who comes to the fountain of water with a pitcher on her shoulder and she lowers it and gives drink to me, let this be she that the Lord hath chosen for my master’s son” [Genesis 24:14]. And it happened just as he had prayed. Rebekah came carrying a pitcher on her shoulder and lowered it that Eliezer might drink [Genesis 24:15-18].
In the story of the Exodus, that night of the Passover, the Scriptures say that the children of Israel took their kneading troughs with the bread unleavened and carried them on their shoulders [Exodus 12:34]. In that same Mosaic law, the garments of beauty and glory are described for the high priest and on either shoulder he is to wear an onyx stone with the names of the tribes of Israel engraved on the stones [Exodus 28:9-12]. In that same Mosaic legislation, the Bible says that at no time is the ark of God ever to be placed in a wagon, but it is to be borne on the shoulders of the sons of Kohath, the second son of Aaron the high priest [Exodus 25:12-14; Numbers 7:9]. In those Scriptures it says that when Joshua carried the people across Jordan, that the men took a great stone, each one, out of the Jordan, and bore it on their shoulders, and placed it there at Gilgal as a memorial when God stopped the waters and the people went over Jordan into the Promised Land [Joshua 4:3-8].
We are told that Samson, mighty Samson, tore down the gates of Gaza and bore them on his shoulders to Hebron [Judges 16:3]. And the same mighty Samson in his blindness had the boy put one hand on one pillar of the temple of Dagon and one hand on the other pillar of the temple of Dagon, and, bowing his shoulders with all his might, he pulled down the idol house of Dagon [Judges 16:26-30].
In Samuel we are told that Saul, the new anointed king of Israel, was shoulders and upward higher, taller, than all the children of Israel [1 Samuel 9:2]. And in describing Goliath whom little David slew with a slingshot [1 Samuel 17:49-50], in describing him, the Scriptures go out of the way to speak of the great armament on his chest and on his back between his shoulders [1 Samuel 17:5-6].
Then when we read in the prophecy of Isaiah—out of which we have taken our passage today, on The Shoulders of Jesus—in the prophecy of Isaiah, the prophet addresses Shebna, who is the administrator of government, and he speaks of Shebna in terrible, judgmental, prophetic language: the proud and imperious and evil Shebna shall be destroyed [Isaiah 22:15-19].
Then the other facet of the prophecy: “And the key of the house of David shall be laid upon the shoulder of the saintly and godly Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah” [Isaiah 22:20-25] When we read therefore of the prophecy that continues, “The key of the house of David shall be laid upon his shoulder” [Isaiah 22:22], in the beautiful prophecy of our Lord: “A Child to us is born, a Son to us is given: and the government,” the key of the house of David, “shall rest upon His shoulder…And of the increase and blessing of His government” upon the throne of David, “there shall be no end for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it” [Isaiah 9:6-7]. The imagery back of the prophecy is the transfer of the government from evil and imperious and proud Shebna to the saintly and godly Eliakim [Isaiah 22:15-25]. So God says the administration and the government of the god of this world, Satan [2 Corinthians 4:4], shall someday be invested in the Christ, the Son of God, the key of David shall be placed upon His shoulder [Isaiah 22:22; Isaiah 9:6]. Satan, the Scriptures say, presides over this world of death [2 Corinthians 4:4], universal. The earth is nothing other than a cemetery in which to bury our dead, and he is the king over the darkness and despair that characterize all human history [Matthew 4:16; Colossians 1:13].
One of the most unusual visits I ever had in my life was with Dr. Black, who was the president of Robert College in Istanbul. He had married a Bulgarian and was there when the communists took over that little nation, and he said to me, “I cannot describe, you’d have to experience it, the evil of that communist movement; an evil that can be touched and felt.” He described to me children who would inform against their parents, knowing that their fathers and mothers would be executed in their witness against them. And he, describing that to me, said this sentence that burned in my heart: “There is a kingdom of evil and darkness in this world presided over by Satan himself.” But not forever, not forever will death reign. Not forever will Satan be king of this earth, and not forever will sorrow and despair bring tears and heartache to the people.
The key of the house of David shall be taken from Shebna and bestowed upon the godly and saintly Eliakim [Isaiah 22:20-22]. And the key of the government and administration of this whole creation one day shall be laid upon the shoulder of this One called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Son and the Child given to us [Isaiah 9:6].
Now when you study the Scripture, there is an amazing and unbelievable programming of God in the transfer of that administration, that government from the god of this world, from the god of death and despair and darkness, to the kingdom of light and life in Jesus Christ. Number one: the answer in that administration is found in the shoulders of Jesus in a way you’d never have thought; for the key of the house of David turns out to be a rugged cross. Would you have thought it? In the gospel story they took the cross and put it on the shoulders of Jesus. And He, bearing His cross, made His way to “a place of a skull,” called in the Hebrew tongue Golgotha; in Latin, Calvary; in English, “a place of a skull” [John 19:17-20]. Would you have thought that? That the key to the new government and the new day and the new life and the new administration, the new kingdom, the key is a cross? Lord, Lord, it is beyond my understanding, and I cannot enter into the depths of its mysteries. “He was made sin for us, He who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]; dying for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], in His atoning grace, bringing life, and light, and forgiveness, and salvation to us [Romans 5:11; Ephesians 2:8], a cross on the shoulders of Jesus [John 19:17-18].
One other: the key of the house of David is found in the shoulders of our Lord, compassionate and sympathetic and understanding. Look: “The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying,” houtos, “this guy” [Luke 15:1-2]. It’s a word of contempt and scorn and disdain, translated here:
This Man, houtos, receiveth sinners, and He eats with them. And the Lord answered,
A man had a hundred sheep, lost one of them; left the ninety and nine and went after that which was lost until he found it.
And when he found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing,
saying when he came home, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you likewise, joy shall be in heaven over one somebody who turns, than over ninety and nine supposedly self-righteous persons, who think they need no turning.
[Luke 15: 2-7]
Now isn’t that a remarkable thing? This Savior in sympathy and compassion, seeking a lost sheep and finding it, “bringeth it home, rejoicing, on His shoulders” [Luke 15:4-6]. What a King! And what an unusual Savior, but how meaningful to folks like us. He didn’t say, “You stupid, senseless, simple-minded, silly sheep wandering away from the fold!” But in compassion and understanding, He sought the sheep and when He found it, He laid it on His shoulders and brought it home, rejoicing [Luke 15:4-6].
Never, if I live to a thousand years, will I ever forget an unconscious rebuke that came to me in my study across the street. You see, when children come into the church, I ask the parents—after they’ve been taught a little book I’ve written on the meaning of what it is to be saved, and what it is to be baptized, what it is to take the Lord’s Supper, and what it is to be a good church member—after they’ve been taught that, then I ask the parents to bring the child to me and let me visit with the little boy or the little girl. On this day a mother brought her little girl, and I didn’t know that the child was retarded. I wasn’t aware of it. So as I visited with the child, to ask the child about conversion, the forgiveness of sin, about baptism, the meaning of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, I developed in me an impatience; tried to hide it, but it was all the more there because I had—I felt not to show it. I was frustrated. The child seemingly had learned nothing and knew nothing. As the moments passed, the mother, sensing, I’m sure, the impatient disappointment in me, went over and sat by the little girl and began to talk to her in the tenderest, and sweetest, and gentlest, and most precious way, saying to her, “Now, sweet, do you remember we talked about this? And do you remember?”
“Oh, yes, Mother,” and then she’d answer. “And then, child,” she said, “do you remember this?” I began to realize then that the child was retarded and I didn’t know it. And the thing that burned in my mind and heart and soul ever since, is that picture of that darling mother with that child who needed infinite sympathy and support. And I thought, “That’s God with us.” He does not say to us, “You stupid and senseless and simple-minded sinners, who drift away from God and into every evil thought and practice of which human life is capable.” Rather, in deepest sympathy and understanding, He seeks us, and finds us, and lays us on His shoulders, and carries us to His home.
And I close with this one other observation: do you notice it is “a” sheep—one? [Luke 15:4]. That’s God. He never thinks of us in terms of gobs and masses and oceans-full; God thinks of us by our individual names. He knows you and loves you and seeks you. He knows all about us and still loves us. We are somebody in God’s sight; maybe nobody in the world’s sight, but in God’s sight we’re somebody, somebody for whom Jesus died [1 Corinthians 15:3], and He calls His sheep by name. They hear His voice and He brings them home on His shoulders [John 10:3; Luke 15:4-5].
There was a man talking to another fellow about a revival meeting at the church, and he said, “It’s a failure. It’s a failure. We never had but one little boy saved in the whole revival meeting.” And another man, overhearing—they turned and said, “Wouldn’t you call that a failure?” And the man replied, “It all depends. If the one little boy who was saved had been my little boy, I would have called it a great success.” That’s God! To the world we may seem nothing, just one of the uncounted masses, but to God we’re somebody. He knows us and calls us by name [John 10:3], and bears us on His shoulders [Luke 15:5], and gives us eternal life [John 10:27-30]; He takes us home.
Our Lord, what an infinite revelation! The wonderful Savior, who one day shall assume the prerogatives of kingship; the Lord of life, and peace, and glory, and happiness, and heaven, and our Master—that He loves us [Revelation 1:5], and seeks us [Luke 19:10], and bears us on His heart in sympathetic love and understanding [Ephesians 5:25-27]; O, how could we praise His name enough? Amen.