The Great Inviter
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:28a-b (Holman) “Come to Me,. . .”
Favorite Bible verses evoke wonderful stories, and inspire beautiful works of art. One of history’s most perfect sculptures is Thorvaldsen’s 1821 depiction of Christ. Displayed in Copenhagen, the statue stands on a pedestal engraved in Danish, “Come to Me.” The sculpture has Christ in a beckoning posture, arms open wide. Even cold, hard stone can portray the warm, soft heart of our Savior.
It is Jesus’ nature to scatter blessings of kindness to people. He holds out His essence as well as His hands, saying, “Come to Me.” Jesus has a huge heart.
Let us quote aloud the well-known King James Version rendering of our text. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These relished words are wonderful, memorable, fraught with meaning.
In Galilee, Jesus wrought many miracles of compassion, but the invitation, “Come to Me,” was His kindest, greatest gift. Since most of the people rejected His miracles, He offered something better, Himself, the ultimate gift one can give.
Preachers and teachers may use all the study and arguments they can muster, yet still be unable to move a hearer. The last ditch effort is to spend and be spent, to throw into the mix heart, soul, mind, strength. In Winnipeg I heard a preacher plead earnestly for his people to serve Jesus. When done, he sat alone at the end of a pew, held his posture upright a few seconds, and then slumped. All was gone. He gave himself. I wanted to put a hand on his shoulder to say, “Good job, Son.”
We now turn the focus of this lesson to Jesus, who earned every right to be called “The Great Inviter.” He beckoned Galileans, saying, “Come to Me.” Today He woos sinners, saying, “Come to Me.” He welcomes to Heaven dying believers, saying, “Come to Me.” On Judgment Day, He will say to His own, “Come to Me.” Jesus, “The Great Inviter,” asks us to come to Him now. How should we come?
First, come to Jesus expectantly. Jesus is the Treasure Chest of salvation. All things pertaining to our living with God forever in Heaven are entrusted to Christ. Salvation is found only in Jesus. In addition to saving us, as if this were not a gift large enough to satisfy His giving heart, Christ offers an extra bonus.
Jesus, Treasure Chest of salvation, has in Himself yet another treasure chest, assurance of salvation, which lets us rest. To be saved, to go to Heaven when we die, is the best treasure. Second best is to know we’re saved. Jesus provides both.
What a wonderful gift it would be if we could offer a charm to erase every one’s worry about their everlasting condition. This is precisely what Jesus offers.
Adherents of manmade religions feel they never do enough to feel assured they have earned Heaven. A nagging sense always gnaws inside them, ever saying more needs to be done. Manmade religions offer no assurance of salvation. They instead require more work, and load on heavier burdens. Jesus, though, gives rest.
Second, come to Jesus personally. Come not to a philosophy, a doctrine, or a code. Come Person to person, One on one, to Jesus. Christianity is Christ.
The rest He offers is found in the relationship, not in coming to hear Him be preached about, not in attending church, not in taking a sacrament or ordinance.
We come to Christ not through these roundabout, circuitous routes. We use the latter later, as outward expressions of the fact we have already come inwardly.
Third, come to Jesus spiritually. In Galilee, many approached Jesus bodily and physically, but found no rest. We come to Jesus by moving not our body, but our spirit, the part of us created to have union with God, who is Spirit (JN 4:24).
The context of our text also indicates salvation requires coming to Jesus for the specific purpose of being saved. This is vital to our coming to Him spiritually.
We come with the spiritual part of our being, and for a spiritual reason. In our dealings with Jesus, we rightly come to Him later on for material, physical, mental, and emotional reasons, but we must begin with a spiritual request, for salvation. We first seek His help in the spiritual realm, coming solely to be saved.
Fourth, come to Jesus only. Identify Jesus as the only door to Heaven. Coming to Jesus means moving away from every other confidence, from every other grounds of reliance, for salvation. In an undivided movement of our whole innermost self in total surrender, we come to Him as the only Savior. Come with the mind, knowing we need Jesus as Savior. Come with the heart, loving Him as Savior. Come with the spirit, with faith to trust only Jesus to be our Savior.
Puritans called it recumbent faith, lying completely on Jesus, putting all our weight on Him. They said, “Lean hard on Jesus.” The act of trust saves. Depend solely on what He has done. Hold nothing back. Trust no one, and no thing, else.
The rest we desperately desire, assurance of salvation, is found in a personal relationship with Jesus only. Don’t try to come through intermediaries, preachers, family members, priests, or beatified saints. Between God and people, Jesus, no one else, is Mediator. A Mediator mediates, leaving no need for other mediators.
There is no one else to turn to anyway. When Jesus fed the 5000 they loved Him. When He detailed the costs of following Him, the roar of a throng forsaking Him was heard. He asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
Thank you, Simon Peter. I ask us, to whom else other than Jesus will we go for the words of eternal life? In our culture, we often find ourselves dizzy, going in circles, due to the many divergent voices screaming for our spiritual attention.
Are you trapped on a carousel, lost in a maze, running a treadmill, clueless, perplexed? Above the din, one voice cuts through all others, overwhelming them.
Fifth, come to Jesus confidently. He is never untrue, never disappoints or fails. Having created human hearts in the first place, Jesus is highly qualified to reshape and satisfy them. He soothes hearts aching for a love only He can give.
Was His inviting us to Himself brazen? Was Jesus an egomaniac, totally self-absorbed? No. He said come to Him because there is no other hope for us.
He died for us, bore our sin debt, is our God-appointed Substitute. Had He pointed us to anyone other than Himself it would have been cruelty, false humility.
Jesus knew we can find rest only in the Father, and also knew He was the only way to the Father. Jesus thus knew He was the only One who can save us.
He knows He alone is the Physician who totally heals us, the Friend who always sticks closer than a brother, the Savior who saves forever, the Son who introduces us to the Father, the Joy-giver who gives joy we can find nowhere else.
He has seen firsthand the delights of Heaven. Having lived there, He knows how wonderful it is to live forever in a place where God’s throne sits, where all tears, pains, and hurts are gone. He knows if we don’t come to Him, we will never come to any of these blessings. But if we do come to Him, these will all be ours.
Sixth, come to Jesus gladly. Harbor no reservations. Before He created us, He knew we would rebel against Him. He made us anyway, and wants us to come.
Rejoice. Jesus truly cares. We may not worry about our everlasting destiny, but He does. We may laugh at the idea of eternal condemnation, but He doesn’t.
Revel in the invitation to come to Jesus. Blind Bartimaus did (MK 10:46ff). The crowd, embarrassed over a local beggar yelling at a visiting celebrity, tried to shush the blind man, but Jesus said, “Call him here.” When they told Bartimaus Jesus was telling him to come, it was music to his ears. Let it be to yours, too.
The crowd was Bartimaus’ obstacle. There usually seems to be one huge hurdle to get over to come to Jesus. Our coming to Jesus often is not so much a coming as it is an ending of the will to stay away. The test is, are we willing to clear the way? We have to drop what we are holding and fall into Christ’s hands.
Long ago, Jesus looked down from Heaven to view the inhabitants of Earth. Seeing lostness everywhere below, Heaven could not hold Him. He still longingly looks at sinners. We scorn Him, yet He comes to us, bidding us to come to Him.