The definition of that phrase 'beasts of burden' is something used to carry a heavy load or perform some other heavy work. Certainly a donkey would be considered a beast of burden in ancient times. Used to carry loads of goods, to pull carts, for plowing, for grinding grain and often for carrying people. They lived a life of labor, filled with drudgery. There was one donkey though that I am sure somehow knew he was carrying a special burden. He was the donkey who carried a young woman carrying a very special baby.
This young woman named Mary was herself in a way a beast of burden. She carried a heavy load. She was carrying the Son of God in her womb. I can never hear the song 'Mary Did You Know' without crying when it comes to the line, "When you kiss the little baby you kiss the face of God". Can you even imagine that? I can't. To realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob chose YOU to bring His Son to live here on this earth. I am sure with the joy of that realization came fear also. The unknown was coming and who knew what this would all really mean for her and for her baby. I imagine that burden never really went away. As Jesus grew older; the time he disappeared and they had to go back to the city to find Him in the synagogue. Every mother has known that sharp prick of fear when they cannot find their child. Whether it is in the crowded grocery store, on an afternoon when it is getting late and they are not home yet, or when they have their driver's license and are out at night. A mother knows fear intimately at some time or another. Mary, I am sure knew that fear. As Jesus entered into the time of His ministry. She had to have heard the rumors. What was really going on? Was He the King coming to rule their people? The religious leaders of the day certainly had no fondness for Him. So there must have been a bit of fear niggling away in the back of her mind.
Both of my sons have been in the hospital with life threatening problems. Andy had asthma when he was younger. After helping his dad with some work under our house he became very sick. It's possible there was mold under there or something, but regardless he became so ill he could literally not get a breath in. He was in the hospital right at this time of year. Six days of hell. At one point in the middle of the night his heart rate was up to 240 per minute. I did not know if he would pull through. There were many hours of tears and prayers.
My oldest son Aaron was in a dirt bike accident. They rushed him down to a hospital in Phoenix; we did not know the extent of his injuries. They told us his stomach was filled with blood; his spleen had ruptured and surgery was needed immediately. It was touch and go for a time; again, many hours of tears and prayers. I know how it feels to think that my child might die. But I thank the Lord I was spared having to go through that loss.
Mary was not spared. I am sure as Jesus' arrest came and then His trial, she was beseeching the God who had given her this Son to please spare Him. The day of His crucifixion comes. Wait, He's the Son of God; can't He stop this? But no. Mary is on that hill called Golgotha. There, there is her beloved Son. He is whipped and beaten and wearing a crown of thorns. Do you hear that sound? The nails being driven into His hands and feet? The cries of anguish from Mary and those who had so loved Jesus?
But Jesus would not be spared that death. Because, so inexplicably, He also was a beast of burden. But He was born solely for the heaviest encumbrance. He was born to carry the sins of the world.
Have you ever carried something so heavy that your shoulders started to ache? Your arms grew weak and your legs started to tremble? A weight so heavy you feared you would not be able to go a step further? So maybe you laid it down for a moment. Took a breather to get your strength back up. With many stops and starts you finally get that load to it's destination.
Jesus carried a weight so much heavier than that. Can you imagine, really how it felt for One who had never sinned to carry that dirt, that darkness, that ugliness? His shoulders must have ached. His arms had no strength left, His legs trembled and shook. But He could not stop even for a moment to lay that burden down. To do so would mean the enemy had won. So He carried that burden alone. And it only got heavier.
Matthew 27:46 tells of Jesus crying out, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?". In order for our sins to be forgiven, Jesus had to carry them all. And although God loved His Son, He had to turn His face from all of that sin that He carried. God loved us enough that He let His Son die for us. He watched Jesus being beaten and then slain, and did nothing to stop it. Because His love for us was so great He wanted us to have a way to eternal fellowship with Him.
I guess you could add me and you and everyone else who has accepted that free gift of salvation to that list of beasts of burden. It is a burden that I take on of my own choice. My heart is so grateful for His love for me that I choose to lay aside my own desires and live for the One who gave me freedom. Because in doing so I know that my life will be more than I ever hoped. His perfect will for my life is far grander than anything I could dream up, as long as I will but trust Him. He will lead me, He will guide me in my journey. Every beast of burden has a Master, always leading them home.
*Just a footnote...
I have known for years that God had given me the gift to be able to teach; even more to write. But I always put it off. I couldn't imagine how what I wrote could 'get out there' for others to read. At that time it would have meant getting a book published and that seemed so far beyond what I could do. But in this age of the internet I have found a way to be obedient to His call. This post is extra special to me as this is really the first thing I knew that I was supposed to write all those years ago. This title has been rattling around in my head and my spirit all these years and to finally see it written gives me great joy. Thank you for sharing my journey with me!
Have a most blessed Christmas, filled with His love and joy!