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Upon My Father's Shoulders

Luke 15:4-5

I do not remember the exact date. Nor do I remember everything that took place on that warm sunny afternoon, in 1974. What I do remember is the sun shinning on my face, sitting upon my father’s shoulders; arms stretched out wide with my eyes closed and enjoying the cool breeze as we walked together down Brighton Beach. Like most little children, I saw my father as invincible; he was strong, brave, more or less intimidating, and in comparison to my small six-year-old frame, a giant. I remember thinking that nothing could go wrong so long as I was safely upon his shoulders. Up there, I was the giant, towering far above all the imaginary threats that prowled dangerously below. I felt as if I was higher than the highest mountains, and stronger than the myriad of people that watched curiously, as we passed by. I was king of the world, I was invincible; I was upon my father’s shoulders, and there was no better place for a six-year-old boy to be on a warm sunny afternoon, in 1974.

The image I have of my father carrying me upon his shoulders reminds me of the Bibles description of the shepherd and his sheep. I am as found of the biblical accounts as I am of the memory itself. The Good Shepherd is one of the most popularly depicted scenes in early Christian art, and has been illustrated in almost as many ways as one can imagine it. We find many images of Christ walking with His sheep, sitting with His sheep, feeding His sheep, watering His sheep, watching over His sheep, and defending His sheep, for He is the great shepherd that cares for His flock. However, more then any other scene, the most beloved image is that of Christ carrying upon His shoulders the lost and wandering sheep. This scene is repeatedly found in cathedrals, on challises, in tombs, and even drawn on the pages of old manuscripts. There are statues in catacombs, and carvings on sarcophaguses. They can be found in Rome, Greece, Italy, China, Russia, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East. It has been reproduced in one form or another by famous painters and sculptors all over the world for more then 2000 years. From stain glass windows to frescos on domed ceilings, the image stands as an illustration of God’s power and protection as the believer’s mighty shepherd. The lost sheep has nothing to fear concerning the arduous journey through the wilderness, for he is carried on high by the great shepherd, the defender of the flock. Up there, tenderly placed upon the shoulders, nothing can go wrong. The sheep become like the giant, towering far above all the threats that prowl dangerously below, and there is no better place for a lost sheep to be. The shepherd joyfully carries the lost sheep, bearing its burdens as He onerously travels back to the flock. He is as loving and tender as He is powerful and mighty. He is the Lion and the Lamb, He is the king and the servant; He is the Shepherd, and upon His shoulders, the lost find refuge and free passage to safety.

Christ, when challenged by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for welcoming the company of sinners, said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them does not leave ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing (Luke 15:4-5).” Another time He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).” The psalmist when speaking of the Lord as his shepherd wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).” It is beautiful imagery painted with words; Christ, our shepherd, stretched out his arms and placed upon His shoulders the lost sheep of the world. Rejoicing, He will carry us all on high through the darkness and the wild as the world curiously watches as we pass by.

Now, the truth must be told. As most children do from time to time, I had wondered off by myself and gotten lost on that beach, in 1974. My father, after finding me, and after a few swift and attention-grabbing wallops on the bottom, carried me back to our towels where I spent the rest of the day watching everyone swim. However, in my reminiscence I would prefer to forget that part of the story. Nevertheless, Christ, our mighty shepherd, even in our times of wandering and wayward behavior, tenderly comes to our aid and places us upon His mighty shoulders far above the threats that prowl dangerously below. He is our shepherd, the defender and provider of His flock, and with arms stretched out wide He joyfully carries us home - and there is no better place to be, whether young or old, then on the shoulders of a loving father.   [mp]

Copyright © 2007
Michael D'Urbano
All rights reserved

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