“I lay my sins on Jesus”

The first stanza of a popular hymn says, "I Lay My Sins on Jesus." I know of many places in Scripture where we are taught that God has laid upon Jesus the sins of the entire world, and I believe that. But, where in Scripture is it taught that we are to lay our sins on Jesus? Is it even possible for us to do that? Some have suggested that this hymn refers to repentance. But, it seems to me that we would not be able to repent if our sins had not already been laid upon Christ. What are your thoughts on this?

It would be interesting to know exactly what Horatius Bonar had in mind when this hymn was first published in 1843. Information from The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal explains that Bonar wrote the hymn (perhaps his first) for children. He acknowledged that the hymn “might be good Gospel, but that it was poor poetry.”

God certainly laid on his Son the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:6; John 1:29). Children of God enjoy forgiveness of sins through Spirit-worked faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). Because we continue to sin, Jesus invites us to receive forgiveness for our sins through his gospel in word and sacrament (Matthew 26:26-28; Colossians 1:13-14). The Lord invites us, people who are weary and burdened, to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28). The “rest” that he provides is forgiveness of sins.

I am content to understand that the title of the hymn speaks of Jesus living up to his name, which means “Savior.” God put my sins on Jesus. I enjoy full and free forgiveness of sins through the saving faith the Holy Spirit has worked in my heart. My comfort is knowing that if I am plagued by the memory of past sins, I can put them at the foot of the cross—laying them on Jesus, in that sense—and have full confidence that I stand in God’s grace (Romans 5:2). These are some thoughts that come to mind when I think of that hymn title.