He carried the sins of the world.
He carried the harsh words that I reserve for those I love most. He carried the bruising resentfulness of my pride. He carried every one of the petty excuses that I use to defend myself. He carried the puffed-up charade of my vanity: my self-importance and my self-reliance. He carried every wrong decision I have ever made. He carried those moments of wilful wrong-doing, where I have stared down the right path, seen what it would cost me, and chosen the easy road instead.
He carried the time I took delight in seeing someone suffer. He carried the times I have bullied and cheated. He carried the time I stole, and the time I fiddled my expenses claim, and the many times I separated sex from love, and all the lies I told, and the hundreds of times I never said thank you, and the thousands of times I was so self-obsessed that I was blinded to the good that I could do.
Why, I even stood in the street as he walked by, carrying all this for me, and I did not notice him. I passed by. And he carried this as well. He carried my negligence and my envy. He carried my broken promises. He carried my deceit. He carried all those little hurts where I have let people down, where I have sat on the fence. He carried my cynicism: all my carefully rehearsed answers, put-downs, excuses; all my reasons for not caring, not believing, not trusting. He gathered up all the fragments of my conceit, every piece of bread that I refused to share – and the baskets he carried were overflowing.
O come to me all who are weary and overburdened…
And he carried the big, global horrors born of our pretentious complacency. He carried the melting ice caps and the ravaged rain forests of our plundering the earth, imagining it was ours to do with as we pleased. He carried the xenophobic fantasies that have bred the genocides and holocausts that litter our history. He carried the poisonous hatred that built Auschwitz and the arrogance that invaded Iraq. And the economies that thrive on division; and the poor whose plight is a necessary part of the equation that makes others rich; and the exploitation and degradation, and the corruption of power, he carried it all. The raped child and the bloody horror of the rapist – he carried it. Every hair on our sinful heads he counted and carried. All the idols we worship. All the things we do with our power and our wealth: the towers of Babel we build; the bombs we stockpile; the sophisticated ways that we kill each other, and the money we pour into finding new ways; the crucifixes we erect; the palaces we adorn for ourselves, and the thrones we set in place, and the walls we build around ourselves, and the sentries we post. Everything we construct to keep ourselves in and everyone else out: he carried it all. The divisions were so vast that they had to be dragged together, united in him, nailed down. He saw everything that separates me from us, and us from each other, and all of us from God, and he pulled it together and carried it. He picked it all up and he took it to the cross.
Ringing in his ears, he carried the frightened denials of Peter. Still wet upon his lips, he carried the moisture from Judas’ kiss.
And as he went by we heaped more things upon him. We spat on him; we ridiculed him; we made fun of him; we gambled for his clothes; we jostled for a good view of his dying, or we fled in fear; and when he was thirsty we gave him vinegar to drink. And then we laughed at him some more.
This is what sin does. It isolates. It divides. It rules. It flourishes in the fertile ground of self-delusion, where every decision begins with me. It is an empire of isolation. It is to dwell in a crowded room and be completely alone.
And why does he carry this great weight? This impossible burden of everything that is warped and twisted? What possible good can come from it? Isn’t this stupidity just one more reason to sneer?
The answer will shame us. Unless, that is, you have let cynicism get such a grip on your heart that there is no room left for love. For that is the answer: love.
For God so loved the world…
I came not to call the righteous…
The weight is unimaginable, but the arms that bear the weight are stronger still, and they are true. He carries them because he wants to get rid of them. He will take them to the cross and crucify them.
Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do…
He will take them to the tomb and bury them. He will go on loving when all we can do is load insult upon injury. For this is what we do: we pass the buck, we blame each other, we evade the spotlight of responsibility, and we hide. We duck and weave. We squirm and sneer. And he carries it. He carries it for love. For when we say he carried the sins of the world, we mean every sin; and we mean that there is no such thing as a large sin or a small sin; and we mean every sin that separates us from each other, and we mean every sin that separates us from God; and we mean that sin is real; and most of all we mean my sins and your sins. It is all so horribly simple: I don’t do the things I want to do. And I end up doing the things I don’t want to do. I am compromised and defeated by all my wrong choices. I choose to call it something else, but I know it is sin. It is what I know to be wrong and I don’t need God to know it. I am stranded. I am weighed down.
But if I look very closely I can see something else that he carries. Not just my sins as if they were separate from me (I am dead in my sin, I am not the person I want to be, I am already isolated and alone). He is carrying something else: carrying something which is very precious; something which needs to be restored; something which he knows can be beautiful; something which can be loved back to life. He carries me. And I am not heavy to him.
Hold something that is broken. Something that seems impossible to mend, like the torn off petals of a flower: see if you can rearrange them. Feel how hopeless it is. Watch them fade.
If you are in a group, use just one flower. Take off the petals. Carefully pass them round. Try to reconstruct the flower or at least put it together in some way.
If you are on your own, break up the flower and having held it for a while try to reassemble it as best you can.