The Great Includer
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:28a-c (Holman) “Come to Me, all of you. . .”
This Great Invitation, offered by the Great Inviter, is extended to “all of you,” thereby making Jesus the Great Includer. He desires everyone to be saved.
Christ is “not willing that any should perish” (2 P 3:9). Wanting people to open their hearts to Him, Jesus opened His heart wide to all peoples everywhere by extending an all-inclusive plea, the cry of a loving heart, yea, a huge heart. Due to the vastness of His love, Jesus could not exclude any from being invited.
The word “all” is little, yet encompassing, a small term with huge meaning. When Jesus spoke the word, He knew the worldwide magnitude it encompassed.
“All” bespeaks our desperate plight, how far-reaching the need for salvation is. Every descendent of Adam, no exception, needs this. May we never be guilty of shutting out others, by default, due to artificially contrived divisions intended to exclude anyone due to race, color, nationality, ethnicity, or religious persuasion.
“All” are to be included in the Great Inviter’s Great Invitation. Christianity is her best when displaying her Master’s world-wide heart. Only one God created this world. Thus He alone can be the rightful God of its every inhabitant. Only one God died for the sins of the world. Thus He alone can be its rightful Savior.
The need is huge, “All.” The invitation is as huge, “All.” Majesty merges with tenderness. The offer is bold, powerful, world-wide, yet also gentle, loving.
Matt. 11:28d “. . .who are weary. . .”
This does not refer to those who are weary from the general troubles and trials of life. Difficulties and burdens will be dealt with in the “rest” of verse 29.
In verse 28, “weary” (KJV, labor) refers to those who are trying to earn their own salvation, to make enough brownie points to merit Heaven. The weary are those laboring hard to overcome a sense of sin and guilt. Conscious of separation from God, they know they need salvation. They fear danger, desire deliverance.
“Weary” bespeaks people working to the point of exhaustion to find truth and earn salvation, toiling tediously and laboriously to earn God’s favor, doing difficult things to merit salvation. Feeling compelled to undertake the whole task of salvation upon themselves, they stress and strain, struggling under the load.
In our text, Jesus invites all who have tried in vain to gain assurance about going to Heaven. Jesus beckons all who strive to achieve salvation, but always seem to fail. A lack of confidence is one thing all works-based plans of salvation share in common. They can not offer assurance. Religious people try to do right, making a noble effort to merit Heaven as best they understand how, yet however hard they try, it never seems enough, a sense of failure lingering as an after-effect.
Any concept of salvation based on merit is risky, a huge gamble, chasing speculative pursuits. We can never know when we have done enough good works.
God never meant for people to be insecure about having Heaven. From the first, God ordained people would be saved by faith. Abraham “believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (GN 15:6 HCSB). But after Abraham, something went haywire. The orchestra of salvation still grinds on in discord.
Jesus came to correct this error, telling people to stop seeking Heaven based on works as merit. Effort is futile, an attempt to fly in the face of God’s intent.
Nevertheless, despite the plain teaching of Scripture, people are determined to try to earn Heaven. In an effort to merit the mercy of a watching God, they keep laws, give to charity, worship idols, turn to fetishes, and practice ceremonies, making their lives “a pious slavery” (Spurgeon). They try and try, all to no avail.
People attempt convoluted, complex religious rituals, whereas Jesus came to make the process of salvation simple and plain. People even try to make long pilgrimages to holy places, but the greatest pilgrimage of all is the one to Jesus.
There is no salvation in outward ordinances of worship. People who labor to find salvation in them grow weary searching for a shadow that satisfies not.
Many wear their fingers to the bone in an effort to spin a garment of their own righteousness. When finished, it is no more substantial than a spider’s web, and lasts no longer than fading autumn leaves. People who try to earn Heaven repeat the heartbreaking error of Israel. Paul grieved over his people, “Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness” (RM 10:3 HB).
I now hasten to say, there is a silver lining in this dark cloud. Striving after God does at least manifest a heart hungry for spiritual things. The first condition for coming to Jesus for salvation is that we really care about spiritual matters.
Salvation begins with a cry for help, a sense of spiritual need. People who are satisfied don’t consider coming to Jesus. A sense of desperation is required.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin before He forgives us. The first step in salvation is realizing we need to find a way to God, the second step is to find the right way.
Our text offers no consolation for the hard of heart. The Galileans rejected Jesus because they felt they were already saved. They felt no need to labor, to try.
If complacent, not caring about spiritual matters, we won’t even attempt to come to Jesus. “Labor” for salvation can help in that it at least shows spiritual inclination. People entirely given to physical, earthly, material matters set no value on heavenly, spiritual issues, and thus remove themselves from eligibility to accept the Great Inviter’s universal invitation. They feel no need to come to Jesus.
One of the best soulwinners I ever knew, Paul Kirkendall, Founder/Director of a rescue mission in Blytheville AR, opened every soulwinning opportunity with the question, “Have you been thinking about spiritual things lately?” Paul said the answer to that question told volumes about one’s possible receptivity to salvation.
There is no comfort anywhere in the Bible for anyone who doesn’t care about being saved, who is nonchalant about spiritual matters. As the church at Laodicea (RV 3:16) learned, lukewarm is not one of God’s favorite temperatures.
Desperation paves the road to salvation. The prodigal son would have never come home had he not grown disgusted with life (LK 15:16). The tax collector prayed in the temple, so smitten by his sin, so desperate for God, that he “kept striking his chest” (LK 18:13) as he pled for mercy. Peter preached at Pentecost; his hearers were “pierced to the heart” (AC 2:3), desperately crying out, “What must we do?” Saul was shattered, unable to eat or drink for three days (AC 9:9). A Philippian jailer fell down trembling, “What must I do to be saved” (AC 16:29).
What about you? Have you been seeking and reaching and striving, yet feel you have not yet arrived at assurance? If so, this text is for you. In our text, Jesus is offering to give you what you have thus far felt you could not earn or purchase.
If you are like most people who are concerned about life after death, you are working hard to earn God’s favor through works. These are the very people Jesus is speaking to in our text. He’s not saying salvation is available to the complacent, or to those who feel they keep all the rules, obey all the laws, and never sin.
Jesus here beckons those trying to construct an edifice of merit out of their own good deeds. He is saying to these, “I don’t want your works. I want your attention and affection.” There is no reproof or upbraiding in His voice, only love.
A final thought–it is illogical to think works can save us. How can anything be good or meritorious if it is done with the intent of benefitting ourselves?
Can any selfish virtue (so called) that seeks primarily the doer’s own good truly be called a virtue? Can selfish works commend themselves to God?
We are saved by grace, and then spend the rest of life doing good works, not to earn Heaven, but to please the One who came down from Heaven to save us.