Jesus' Invitation to You, Part 3

A Message from Matthew 11:28-30

If we were to open our mail and find invitations from royalty to attend their banquet, would we go? Probably some of us would but some of us would not. We might feel shy and intimidated. We may not like crowds.

But what if we knew that our host was gentle and humble in heart? What if we knew he had sacrificed everything, and spared no expense, to prepare a place for us and make us welcome? Would we go to his banquet?

This is how it is with God. He invites us to the marriage supper of His Son Jesus. He has prepared a place for us in advance and eagerly desires our presence with Him. Jesus Himself, the humble creator of the universe, invites us to come to Him for rest and discipleship.

In Part 1 of three articles, we noticed that Jesus gave His invitation in the middle of exchanges with various groups about His identity. He shares good news in the presence of those who want to crush Him. He reveals His gentle, humble and loving character to the babes, the weary and the burdened.

In Part 2 we discussed how we can share Jesus' gracious invitation in ministry to others in small groups, individually and in sermons. In this last article we put what we have learned together in one example, among many possibilities, of a message from Matthew 11:28-30.

How Do People Think of Jesus?

How do people in the malls, offices, and community centres where we shop, work, and play, think about Jesus today? Do they think about Him at all? We sometimes hear His name used in these places in derogatory ways, as a common thing. What do people really think of Jesus today?

Some think of Him once a year as a baby in an artificial manger. Some think of Him as a banner over their religion: He stays high in the sky while they just do what they want. Others are mad at Him; they use His name in anger. Others are just incredibly cynical about Him because of those who profess to follow Him. They've seen it all: religious leaders who pilfer money to line their own pockets, who seek sexual favours, who abuse others and lust after power all in the name of the Christian faith. Others are sincere in their beliefs but not really sure; age wears hard on their faith, it becomes a set of rules. Guilt weighs them down.

You know, things weren't a whole lot different when Jesus walked on the earth. If you don't believe me, consider this from Matthew 11. Jesus' relative John ended up in prison for doing the right thing. He wasn't quite sure if Jesus really was the Christ, the Messiah. He sent some of His followers to find out. Instead of scolding him or saying, "Oh what's the use?", Jesus told him about what He had done (11:4-6). Jesus made the blind see, the lame walk...He even raised the dead. He preached the good news to the poor. He loved them so much, He was about to die for them. He blessed those who would not stumble over this. Then He commended John to the crowds.

And what did the crowds think about Jesus? Some of them were cynical (11:16-19). They were like boys and girls playing a mock-wedding, or a mock-funeral game, without getting a response from their playmates. The people didn't like the serious message of John, or the joyful promise of salvation from Jesus.

What about Jesus' own countrymen? He did powerful miracles in the cities around the sea of Galilee (11:20-24). How did they respond? They did not allow Jesus' love and compassion to affect them; they would not change their hearts. Matthew goes on in chapter 12 to tell us that the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees, accused Him of being a lawbreaker (12:2). They said He "casts out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons" (12:24). They "counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him" (12:14).

Come to Me

In the middle of this controversy, the middle of this confusion, the middle of this chaos, ...came a clear and calm voice.... It was the strong and controlled voice of Jesus saying, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (11:28). "Come to me." Jesus invites us to drop the old heavy burdens of rules, and laws, and our own feeble efforts to save ourselves.

Notice that Jesus' invitation involves three commands: 1) come, 2) take, 3) learn. He is the Expected One, the strong one, the one with the authority to reveal who God is (11:27). And who is He likely to reveal Himself to? The "babes" or little children; those who are spiritually open to Him. Not to the cynics, or to those who plot against Him, but to those who are humble enough to trade yokes. Are we willing to trade our yokes for Jesus'? Are we willing to come to Him for rest? This is the rest God promised from long ago. Not the rest of idleness, but the rest of His presence, being in tune with our Father.

What do we do when we say "Yes" to Jesus? We take His yoke upon us. Notice that Jesus does not put the yoke on us, we take it and put it on ourselves, voluntarily. And what is a yoke? It is something we use to pull a load. Yes, it makes the pull easier, but it is for work. And we work in tandem with Jesus, not on our own any longer. The work is His; He sets the agenda. We abandon our objectives for His.

Jesus tells us to learn from Him; He invites us to be His disciples. A disciple is one who learns, who adheres, who practices the disciplines of his master and mentor. We hang on His every word, taking them into our lives, making His thoughts ours. And this is more than classroom learning: it is following Him through the streets and market places and hospital corridors; facing the same opposition He faces; being misunderstood like He is; giving up ourselves for others like He does; setting our sights on heaven like He did.

In doing His will we find rest for our souls. The struggle is over. We have come home. We are receiving God's promise of rest and refreshment for His people. Notice what His yoke is like. His yoke is still a yoke, it is an instrument of work, but it is easy. It fits well. It is shaped and honed for the job. It is perfectly fit for His burden. His burden is light. Will we come to Jesus, take His yoke upon us, and learn of Him?

Paul Birston

December 2000©

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