“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The passage (right) is a favorite of millions the world over. It is only for sinners. Self-righteous people don’t get the point of the invitation. It’s from Jesus who also said:
“I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners…” (Matthew 9:13).
You get the point, of course. But there may be something about this marvelous passage that we have never understood. We’ll get to that later, but first we have to ask some questions.
First: Who is talking here?
Well, that’s easy. It is Jesus, true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as the chapters here portray Him.
Second: How do I really know that He means ME?
That’s easy too because we are among millions who labor and are heavy laden by sin. We know the Ten Commandments by which we know well our guilt and death. We are all part of a corrupt, selfish, condemned world.
He’s talking to you. You know you are a part of this whole mess. So take it personally.
Third: What is this “rest” He talks about? That’s pretty easy too because here is Jesus on His way to the cross. He predicts that it will happen and why.
It’s for you and all self-centered people. That includes everyone, doesn’t it! Such selfishness deserves death, and Jesus is on His way to pay that price. Only sinners really know the peace He provides to heavy hearts by His Word of forgiveness and justification. You’ve experienced it many times in your life. It’s free. And it lasts forever – into eternal rest.
Finally – and this is the big question that not everyone can answer in response to Jesus’ “Come to Me” – how do I know when I have arrived, that I actually have come to Jesus? How do I, the hearer of this invitation, ever fulfill the “coming” that is expected of me?
Many Christians do not know for a certainty and are troubled by it. Some have even gone so far as to seek to figure out ways to approach Jesus – maybe by making a decision to come to Him, or somehow making oneself believe in Him, or making some kind of effort or performing some kind of work.
He Comes To You!
Stop that right now! Because you don’t have to do anything! The very fact that you hear Jesus’ invitation means that He has come to you!
I’ll say that again: The very fact that you hear Jesus’ invitation means that He has come to you!
Guess who’s coming! Whenever and wherever the gospel is taught and proclaimed, there He comes. Whenever and wherever the Sacrament of the Altar is administered, there He comes. Whenever and wherever a person is baptized, there He comes.
There’s really no guesswork to it anymore.
Your “coming” to Him is not something that you have to work out. He works in you by His Word and Spirit when He comes.He chooses you–not vice versa!–through the Means of Grace.
This is what distinguishes classic Lutheranism from virtually all other Christian denominations. There are believers in other Christian churches, though they aren’t all sure how faith is worked in them and/or what it works in them.
In the season of Advent we sing and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” By the time you learn to say that, He is already here! You see this in the great hymn “Oh, come, Oh, come, Emmanuel…!” For what else does the word “Emmanuel” mean but “God With Us”?! See Psalm 46: “The Lord of hosts is with us.” And Matthew 28: “Lo, I am with you always”!
“I have come…” Jesus says in John chapter ten. He comes and releases us from the grasp of death, transferring us into His abundant life. He chooses us – not vice versa, remember! He takes and leads us into His Kingdom. And it’s all gift. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works…” (Ephesians 2).
So it is that we do not dwell on our coming to Him but on His coming to us.
Guess Who’s coming? He is!
And not just in Advent, but at Christmas and all the year – around. For example, we can sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” even in July! The message of that hymn would go well with any sermon, any devotion, any time – and it’s a perfect distribution hymn during the Lord’s Supper.
He comes… He’s here!