Sunday, December 8, 2019


I have always had kind of a thing about broad shoulders. Guys with broad shoulders are handsome. When women walk confidently, swinging their shoulders, I love it. I like the saying about Chicago being the city of broad shoulders (the real quote, from Carl Sandberg’s poem, is “City of the Big Shoulders”).

In Isaiah, and in the Messiah, it says about Jesus, “the government will be on his shoulders.”

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Don’t you love that part of the Messiah?

Last Sunday we read the 9th chapter of Isaiah (with “the government will be on his shoulders”) as part of an Advent devotional. As I read it, I got another image -- Jesus with a lamb on his shoulders. We often see that image when listening to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep in Luke:

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? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”   ~Luke 15:4-6

Statuette of the Good Shepherd. Vatican Museums, Pius-Christian Museum.
Same shoulders. Jesus’ shoulders bearing the government -- being the king and ruler of all -- and Jesus’ shoulders carrying the lost sheep -- loving a tiny, powerless creature. At first I thought how opposite these two images of Jesus are. That powerful leader of all vs. a tender loving caretaker. But thinking more about it, maybe not.

When we think of a king, the leader of the world, we think of power, someone who can do anything he wants to do, and make others do his bidding. The image of the loving Shepherd seems the opposite of that, someone putting the needs of a poor helpless lamb before his own. But the Kingdom of God is often called the “Upside-Down Kingdom.” As this sermon from Len Betterink says:

Over and over we see things getting turned around, turned backwards, turned upside-down. Jesus said that in his kingdom the first will be last and the last will be first (Matt. 20:16).

He said that whoever wanted to be great would have to be a servant (Matt. 20: 26).

The apostle Paul said that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, that he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27).

According to Paul, Jesus was equal to God, and then he emptied himself and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:6-11).

Jesus was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that through his poverty we would become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

After a while, you get used to the pattern. Things that make a person important in our world become unimportant in the Upside-Down Kingdom. And the things that seem weak and humble and poor — they make us better people and take us closer to the heart of God.

In the Upside-Down Kingdom of God, Jesus with both the government and the lost lamb on his shoulders makes perfect sense.

Thank God for his upside-down amazing love.


In Heaven, Southwest

Thursday, November 2, 2017
In Heaven, Southwest
boards C60-C1, B, families/
extra assistance, then A.

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