Divine Invitations – From the Son

Divine Invitations – From the Son

Divine Invitations – From the Son.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  (James 4:8).

Human history began with divine fellowship in the Garden of Eden. But Adam and Eve broke that intimate fellowship with God, and ever since, God has yearned to return to that vital relationship with us. The Lord will do whatever it takes, even to die, to restore that personal union and companionship with His people. The Bible begins with the preincarnate Christ walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in Paradise. Unfortunately, that divine friendship was fractured, and throughout the rest of Scripture God is pleading with people to return, to come back to Him. Come, says the Father. Come, says the Son. Come, says the Holy Spirit. I so desire for you to move from there to here, He says. I initiated the communion between us, says the Lord, and now I want you to return to Me. A common thread through Scripture is God issuing invitations to come to Him. And our response? “Lo, here I am, I come… I delight to do your will, O my God.” (Ps. 40:7-8).

#1 – “Watching as they were casting their nets into the water, Jesus called out to them and said, ‘Come after me, follow me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God.’ Immediately they dropped their nets and left everything behind to follow Jesus.”  (Matthew 4:18-20).

Here we have the ultimate divine invitation, the defining moment of every disciple of God. In those days, when a well-established rabbi chose someone to be a student of his, he would approach the man and simply say, “Come after me.” And this has become the universal call to all people. In this scene, Jesus is on the shore of Lake Galilee, watching two fishermen in particular as they cast their fishing nets into the water. These two brothers, Simon and Andrew, were called by Jesus to come after Him, to follow Him, and they didn’t think twice. Their response was immediate, and their answer was yes. Because Jesus had earlier been preaching all around that area, it was likely that they both were well aware of who Jesus was and what He taught.  Jesus’ call to them was two-fold: First, follow after Jesus; second, learn how to catch people for God just like they were catching fish for people. His call to these two brothers is echoed to each and every person on earth… Come after Me, Jesus says. Follow me. And I will make you fishers of men.

#2 – “Jesus turned around and saw two of John’s disciples following Him from a short distance, and He asked them, ‘What do you want?’ They responded, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ Jesus answered, ‘Come and see.'” (John 1:38-39).

Those two new disciples asked Jesus a simple and logical question, and He, as He often did, replied with an answer that had many layers of meaning. He could have responded simply with where He was going. But he chose not to answer that way. He seemed to want to playfully give them a glimpse of the future if they wanted to stay with Him. He wanted them to get used to the idea of trusting Him. He wanted to inspire even a small measure of faith right at the start. Do you really want to follow me, He asks. Then you should learn to be more concerned with Who you’re with than where you’re going. Jesus offered to those two disciples a call to adventure, a life where they may not know where they are going from one moment to the next. Following Jesus is a life of discovery, of exploring new ground, literally and spiritually. Jesus said Come and see. If you want to learn to follow Me and trust Me, this is a good time to start. Where are we going? I guess we’ll know when we get there.

#3 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus stands there in a crowd and opens His arms wide. “Come to Me,” He says. Come to Me if you are finding life burdensome. Maybe your heavy burdens are all these extra regulations from the Pharisees that are laying heavy on you, and all their laws that seem meaningless and too demanding. Maybe your heavy burdens are due to all the responsibilities you carry that are difficult to manage. Maybe the heavy burdens you carry are simply the guilt you have from your sinfulness. Maybe you feel heavy burdened because life just isn’t turning out be the way you wanted and you don’t know what to do about that. Whatever your burdens, come to Me for a real rest and refreshment. If you share My yoke with Me, you can watch Me work, watch how I do things. You can learn My way while at My side. And we can be partners in carrying your load of burdens. Share your burdens with Me, and they will seem lighter to bear. For I am not a hard-driving taskmaster full of pride and ambition. I am easy to please. for I am meek, with My strength under God’s control. I am lowly and have learned to depend on God. With Me, your burdens will be more meaningful, satisfying and lighter on your spirit. Come to Me, and you will learn “the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Peterson). To help ease your burdens with the Temple leaders, I will soon be very clear in My complaints against them: “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in a bundle of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.” (Matt. 23:4, MSG). You know that the other meaning of yoke is a rabbi’s teaching, submitting to a teacher’s instruction of Torah. Well, My yoke, my teaching, will not give you more burdens to bear. My instruction will be delightful, wholesome, comfortable to wear. If you come to me and submit to my Torah teaching, it will not be burdensome or heavy on your spirit, for I will help you live in the way I’m speaking about. It will be light and easier to bear. Speaking of Torah, you realize, don’t you, that I referred to two wonderful quotes from Torah in my words here… First, when Yahweh said to Moses, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.‘ (Ex. 33:14); and I love this Scripture from Jeremiah: ‘And thus says the Lord, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (6:16). Come to me, and I will fulfill those Scriptures before your very eyes.

#4 – “There was such a swirl of activities around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal. So Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.’ ” (Mark 6:30-31).

Jesus had sent out the Twelve into the Galilean villages to cast out demons, preach, and heal the sick. They are now returning to Jesus and excitedly reporting what they experienced. Jesus noticed that the Disciples were exhausted and hungry, and yet they couldn’t even eat because of all the people, all the clamor. Being the Good Shepherd, Jesus said to them, Come, let’s take a break and find a place to rest. Jesus offers rest to His laborers, not just spiritual rest, but also mental and physical rest. Give yourselves permission, Jesus is saying, to take some time to yourself in a quiet place, to recuperate. One doesn’t have to burn out when doing good work. Don’t treat Me like I am some hard taskmaster, because I’m not. You won’t do anyone any good if you are depleted, exhausted, and ineffective. And when you take a break, follow Jesus into your rest. Let Him guide you to a place of refreshment. Come away with Me, He says. And I will help you get the rest you need.

#5 – “Now on the final and most important day of the Feast, Jesus stood forth and He cried in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink! He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out from his innermost being springs of living water shall flow.” (John 7:37-38).

The three most important religious festivals of the ancient Jews were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. During the eighth day in the Feast of Tabernacles, water is a major theme. There were many celebrations during this Feast, culminating in the Water Purification Ceremony, when the High Priest would lead a parade of people to the pool of Siloam in order to draw water into a golden pitcher. They would then all return to the Temple to pour the water onto the altar. This ceremony was to commemorate the water flowing from the rock in the wilderness with Moses (Ex. 17). Right in the middle of this energized crowd, while everyone is gathered in the Temple courtyards, a young man from Galilee stands up boldly in their midst and shouts for all to hear, “Come to me and drink, all you who are thirsty! If you believe in Me, rivers of living water will flow out of your hearts!’ The people were dumfounded, for Jesus here claimed to be the fulfillment of two messianic prophecies, Isaiah 44:3 and Isaiah 55:1. Here is Jesus claiming to be the Messiah, able to pour God’s Spirit on all who came to Him. Many who heard this claim believed it and called Jesus the Christ. Others wondered how the long-awaited Messiah could come from Galilee and not Bethlehem. Most people had not yet heard the story of Jesus’ birth. Temple officers were dispatched by the Pharisees to arrest Jesus after His claim, but the officers were as captivated by Jesus’ words as almost everyone else. Jesus was not arrested after all.

#6 – Come, for all things are now ready.” (Luke 14:17).

Jesus was a born storyteller. One of His parables was told by Him when at a supper hosted by a Pharisee. One of the diners, well aware of the Messianic Banquet prophesied in Isaiah 25, was inspired to say, “Blessed is the one who eats a meal in the kingdom of God!” In response to this wonderful comment, Jesus tells a parable about the Great Feast. This is a story about a man who wanted to host a big banquet. He sent out the invitations through his servants, and all were expected to attend. The man then summoned everyone to come, for all things are now ready. But all those invited started sending in their regrets, one lame excuse after another. The angry host then made a second guest list and invited everyone who were never invited to anything as grand as this banquet. The poor were invited, the crippled, the alien, the traveler, the complete stranger. Finally, the house was full and the party could begin. Jesus said His kingdom looks like that. All are invited, and only a few accept the invitation. As it turns out, Jesus is the life the party, His heart is as big as the world, and His banquet hall always has room for more.

#7 – Come to the Wedding Feast!” (Matthew 22:4).

Another parable from Jesus is the one about the king who wanted to host a huge joyful wedding banquet for his son, the bridegroom. The king sent out the invitations, and surprisingly, all the invitations were rejected. Some of those invited even went so far as to kill the king’s servants who brought the invitations. So the furious king punished those evil-doers and gave new instructions to his servants… Invite anyone you can find, it doesn’t even matter if they are worthy or not. So the invitations were extended far and wide to people known and unknown, and before long, the wedding hall was filled with these unexpected guests. The king was determined to have the wedding for his son, and he desired a joyful celebration with whomever accepted his invitation. And the king got his wish. In this story, Jesus the Bridegroom provided yet another picture of the kingdom of God. “Blessed are those who are invited to feast at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!”  (Revelation 19:9).

#8 – Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34).

Is this, Christ’s last parable before His Passion, a parable or a prophecy? How about both? We see here Jesus as He sits on His throne at the final judgment, the universal judge. The sheep are the accepted ones who followed the Good Shepherd and served Him by caring for the least in works of mercy. The goats are the rejected ones who did not live a life of merciful works toward the poor and the needy. Neither the sheep nor the goats were even aware of how they served or rejected Jesus in their lives. God’s criteria for the final judgment was a complete mystery to them both, since they responded with, “Lord, when did we see you hungry…?” The sheep were welcomed into the kingdom of heaven with these words that amount to an engraved invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Only sons and daughters can inherit, so it’s clear that God has adopted the sheep into His family and they have become His children for eternity.