The Burden Bearer: Isaiah 53:5-6

by Erik Hawkinson

Preached at Covenant Beach, Washington, July, 1938 and Transcribed by Carolyn Johnson of Yakima, Washington

I love every portrait of Jesus, both the prophetic portraits in the Old Testament and the historical portraits in the New. I love him as a miracle-worker. I love him as a teacher. I love him as a familiar friend. I love him as a returning Saviour. But under present circumstances, I think I love him best as the burden-bearer. I don't know of any picture that touches my heart quite so much as the picture of my Lord stumbling along under the burden of the cross — for you and for me.

Jesus is a burden-bearer. To a pitiful number he is a burden, but, my friend, if Christ is a burden to you, you haven't learned to know him right. He may give you a burden to bear, as we shall undoubtedly hear before the evening is over, but the primary experience with Jesus is that he releases us from burdens and, above all, the burden of sin. I hope that you have learned to know Jesus as the one who releases you from your burdens and fills your heart with joy and gives you sustaining courage and power and revives your being — for Jesus is a burden bearer.

He is here tonight to come under and lift. He is here tonight to be wings under us to lift us to higher levels of human experience. At Calvary, my friend, an open road to God begins. Don't you love an open road? Sitting at the wheel of a good car — and you see the open road ahead? And from Calvary there is an open road to the very heart of God.

Jesus identified himself with sinners, and he is here to do that tonight. Jesus doesn't touch the sinner, as it were, with only a 10-foot pole, as we often do. Do you remember how he touched the leper and he said, "Be thou clean?" and in identifying himself with sinners, sinners hung him on the tree. But when they had hung him on the tree they realized that God was love. When we realize that God is love, there is an open road to God's heart.

You don't have to be afraid of Jesus. He is the best friend you have. He is here to save you tonight, to cleanse you from all sin, to enable you to live with power, hope, joy, and good cheer, and to enlighten you mind, for he himself said, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." Jesus is a burden-bearer.

I have a very precious remembrance from childhood days that helps me to understand this truth. One morning as I was leaving home, my father said to me, "Eric, I have had my shotgun down at the blacksmith shop to get it fixed and I wish you would get it. Here is some money; I want you to stop at the store and get a box of 12-gauge shotgun shells." So, I did it alter school and I had my schoolmates with me.

On the way home we decided it would be fun to see if the gun was really working, but what should we shoot at? There was the sign — I remember it still — "W. W. WHITE — BUILDER AND CONTRACTOR." So, we started in on the sign. We didn't help the looks of the sign any

While we were shooting, Mr. White came out. I still remember the rage in his face. He said, "I am going to send you all to reform school." I had never heard what a reform school was, but I didn't like real school too well and I thought, if reform school was worse, I didn't want to go there. After he had raged a while, he said, "It will cost you 60 cents apiece, and I will let you off.

That was a lot of money. We decided that the only thing to do would be to talk to our dads, to be frank and open about it. Then we had to decide on our itinerary. I am sorry we said we would leave my dad to the last, because I feared the old gentleman. But none of the other gentlemen would help us. They said it would be good for us to figure a way out of this mess.

I remember still when we all came to my father. It was hard to see if he smiled because he was a bearded gentleman, but it seems to me that I saw a twisting of the whiskers that said, "I will not only help you, but I will go with you to Mr. White." And he did. How well I remember that day when my father went with us to Mr. White and paid the bill — and the burden rolled away. God bless you, Dad. Across the years you made me understand what Jesus did for me in vaster, greater measure.

He is our burden bearer. Why do you carry such burdens, my friend, when you can be released from them in Christ?

"At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away."

My Christian friend, take your burdens to the Lord. And my friend out in sin, bring your burdens to him and we will leave here tonight, a joyous, released, happy company of people who believe in Christ.

There is another truth here. Once released from burdens, Jesus wants those of us who are his followers to be burden-bearers. He says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Particularly in this aspect does Jesus want us to become burden-bearers; he wants us to identify ourselves with sinners. About the only thing we have been able to do with it in recent years is to publicize it. We have heard a lot of sin-preaching, and it has often not been very kind, has it?

We need sin-preaching, but we need a tearful kind of sin-preaching. We need a sin-preaching that identifies the preacher with the sinner, and you know it is awfully hard to identify yourself with a sinful person, isn't it? And yet, he bore our sins in his own body upon the tree. If you and I knew how to take the sins of other people on our body, I think we would have a revival pretty soon.

We have a queer way of treating sinners in the church — and a cheap way. So often we, as church members, have hardly said "Hello" to sinners in the church over a space of years, and then we have called a stranger in to win their souls once or twice a year, but that doesn't work.

Sinners have to be loved, and sinners are not lovely. I was serving a church many years ago now. Just before I was going on a vacation, I had occasion to deal with a member of mine in the church and I had occasion to say some rather strong words to that member. But I was definite in saying, "I have full confidence in your Christianity. I think you are wrong, and I think you should correct yourself." I went away on my vacation.

I came home in a little less than a month and the first Sunday I came home in a little less than a month and the first Sunday morning when I walked out on the platform, I felt a chill in the audience. I thought maybe my people felt that the preacher had had a little too long a vacation. Yet, the chill was there when the day was over. I was heartened after the evening service when the chairman said they wanted to have a meeting with me. I thought it wasn't so bad — that they wanted to have a surprise party on me.

It was a surprise party! I came to the meeting; the whole board was there. Members who didn't come otherwise were there that time. The secretary got up and read nine accusations against the pastor on doctrine. That word I had spoken had become perilously ugly in less than 30 days.

They said, "What have you to say?" When the individual to whom I had spoken came to the meeting, he said, "I would be willing to swear on the Bible that the pastor said this very thing." Well, what was there for me to do? Nothing. I went home that night torn in my soul. I didn't want to start strife. I suppose there would have been a few people in the church who would stand with me, but I didn't dare to do that.

In the night a voice said, "Why don't you go and ask for forgiveness?" and I said, "Never." And the voice said, "Do it anyway."

The next morning I walked rather slowly over to that home and I asked for forgiveness for something I had never done — one of the hardest things I have ever done and one of the most rewarding — for that man is a friend of mine today and the church is growing, healthful. This once God gave me the grace to carry sin in my own body upon another tree. Don't you think if God would give us grace to be that way a little more, things would go better in our churches?

Someone has said that religion is not taught, it is caught. That isn't altogether true. Religion is taught. It has to be taught. But it is true that it is also caught; and it is caught in a friendly intercourse of life through the years.

I would like to say to you older friends tonight, it isn't so easy to be young these days. Don't forget to bear the burdens of the young people and the children in the church. Because, in the measure that we bear the burdens of the children and the young people, in that measure they are going to rise up in the tomorrows and call us blessed of God.

I was horrified when I heard that a young father had stood up in one of our Chicago churches and pleaded for English in the church, and an old Swedish gentleman had gotten up and said, "If your children don't understand Swedish, take them to a church where they do understand."

We will never build a Covenant that way. We have no future that way. I know, my friends, what a job it is to give up Swedish. I don't know when I was as happy as last Sunday when I could speak Swedish. But, my friends, the times have changed and the gospel must be proclaimed. Let us get under the burden. It is a burden, but let us carry it, and our children will rise up tomorrow and call us blessed.

My boy is president of the Junior League at North Park. I don't know what kind of a president he is, but he has the job. He came to me some weeks ago and he said," We are having an outing and I would like to borrow you and your car." I said, "That is impossible, because that is the day I prepare my sermons." But, he kept after me off and on during the week — clever little kids we have got.

Saturday morning he came and he said, "Well, Dad, how about it?" His face was so pleading and so beautiful — to me, of course — that I said, "All right, I'll come."

At one o' clock I was outside of the North Park Church and he filled my car up with girls. He probably thought his dad liked girls better than boys. I must say it was a most enjoyable ride to their outing. They sang and they talked and I felt a bit younger again. And, I felt as if life were real and I was doing something tangible; but my real reward came that evening when my boy said "Goodnight."

He said, "Thanks, dad, you're a good scout after all." He said, "Why is it so hard to get someone to do something for you in the church?" I wondered how many other little lads and girls feel that way in the church. They have their dreams, their little empires — these children of ours. We have got to carry their burdens and so fulfil1 the law of Christ.

He is here to take our burdens away tonight. We are here, as Christians, my friend, to help you with your burdens if you don't know Christ. I think we all need to come to Christ tonight and thank him, first of all, for that wonderful release from sin and despair and then to ask him for grace to carry on in the spirit of the burden-bearing Christ.

Erik G. Hawkinson is the former Dean of North Park Seminary. Dean Hawkinson was beloved by many. He died May 15, 1984.

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