An Application of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: “And the Burden of My Heart Rolled Away…”

June 13, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

You will remember that this journey upon which Christian set out was predicated by the discovery of a great burden which he carried upon his back. For the whole of his life he had taken notice of this burden. But when he came into possession of The Book, he became aware not only of his burden, but also of the destruction which was to come upon that place in which he had dwelled all of his life. From that point on, Christian had set himself to escape his burden and the inevitable destruction with which it was accompanied. So he fled the City of Destruction, and began his pilgrimage to the Celestial City.
As he began his journey, however, his burden remained. He would not make much progress toward his intended destination while this burden he continued to carry. Indeed, no one could complete this journey, much less enter into the glorious City, with such a burden yet upon his back. Was it possible to be relieved of that with which he was so wearily weighed down?

It was. At the very beginning of his journey, Christian had met that good man named Evangelist, and Evangelist pointed the way. “Do you see yonder Wicket Gate?”, Evangelist had asked. Christian did not. “Do you see, then, yonder shining light”? Ah, yes. The light he saw. Evangelist bid him continue directly toward the light, which would lead him to the Wicket Gate, and having gone through the Wicket Gate, he would find the relief which he so desperately sought to attain.

Not perfectly, and not without difficulty, Christian had followed the counsel of Evangelist. He arrived at the Wicket Gate, entered in, and after enjoying the hospitality of the house of the Interpreter, he had arrived at the place of deliverance.

When Christian set eyes upon it, he ran, his desire to be relieved of his burden being very great. The path here was fenced on either side by a wall called Salvation, and although it was difficult, for the burden thus far remained upon his back, he ran, nonetheless.

There it was. Upon a hill stood a cross, and at the bottom of the hill, a tomb. A sepulcher. As Christian approached, he felt suddenly…lighter. The straps which had held his burden so securely to his back, were loosed. The burden fell from him, and tumbling down the hill end over end, fell into the tomb, disappeared, and was seen no more.

And he wondered. Well, that’s the word Bunyan used. We might say that he marveled. Christian stood there in astonishment that the cross should relieve him of his burden. And in his astonishment, and his relief, he wept.

As he wept, there appeared to Christian three Shining Ones, whose purpose, it seems, was to confirm to Christian the reality of what has just taken place. The first declared, “Peace be to thee. Thy sins be forgiven.” The second removed from him the rags he had been wearing and dressed him in new clothes. The third set a mark upon his forehead and gave him a scroll with a seal upon it, which would be the credential needed to enter at the gate of the Celestial City.

Is the cross, to you, a wondrous and marvelous thing? Perhaps you are now well upon your journey. Your pilgrimage has been difficult and full of trials. Perhaps it is all that you can do to put one foot in front of the other, as you progress toward the Celestial City.

Look to the cross, and remember. Look to the cross, and be astonished once more. Look to the cross, and weep over the grace which has come to you through the gospel. Look to the cross, and recapture the awe which you once knew.

God has become man! The perfection of holiness became sin! The Father gave His own Son! The Creator died! In that death is life, and life eternal! That which looked very much like defeat, is shown to be victory in the resurrection! In that sacrifice, our sin is removed and cast into a tomb of its own, and cast as far as the east is from the west, forever! Our sin is forgiven! Our filthy rags are stripped away, and we are clothed with new garments…the righteousness of Christ! We are branded with a mark, with the seal of the Holy Spirit which identifies us as His! And when we finally arrive at the gate of the Celestial City, we will be met with trumpets, and cries of welcome, and shouts of, “Enter ye into the joy of our Lord!”

Because of the cross.

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