Invitation or Imperative?

How do you read the following words of Jesus?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28)

I know that when I have preached on this well-known verse I have talked about the great invitation that Jesus makes to those worn out and broken by life’s heavy load. And nothing I am about to say changes the meaning of Jesus’ words. If you are feeling weary and burdened, then really there is no substitute to coming to Jesus and asking Him to take your load.

But the linguist in me notices that Jesus’ word to “come” is a command, or imperative, rather than invitation. As I have charging around madly this week, I have been reflecting what happens when we refuse to obey Jesus’ words, when in fact we disobey his command.

First of all, we cling to our burdens and our heavy weights. Maybe they have become so much part of our life, we refuse to let them go. Maybe we feel that we have broad enough shoulders that we can bear them on our own. Maybe we don’t really believe Jesus is able to take them from us. Whatever the reason, the Bible calls such disobedience of Jesus’ commands sin. We are in effect declaring that we can manage on our own, thank you very much, and that is an insidious lie we need to recognise and repent of at the foot of the cross.

Secondly, we undermine the very good news that we claim to believe in day by day. As I am about to preach tomorrow, the heart of the Christian faith is grace. We are saved not by our good works, but by the work Jesus has done for us on the cross. Yet when people see Christians labouring with all kinds of heavy burdens they probably oughtn’t to be bearing, they might well conclude that actually a real Christian is one who has to be busy the whole time, who measures God’s love for them by how much they are doing for God. Tired, exhausted Christians have trouble demonstrating the rest Jesus promises to those who obey this command.

I am writing this as much to myself as anyone else. Keen readers of this blog will notice this is my first entry for nearly a month. I can plead a busy schedule and the fact I have been doing lots of worthwhile things, but … no excuses, really. Next time you hear me complain how busy I am, refer me back to this verse, for my own good. After all, God carries on working even when we stop, and sometimes it’s when we stop, God works most effectively.


2 Responses to Invitation or Imperative?

  1. Jing Li Sidey says:

    Our own habit some time block the relationship with our Lord. Thank you for another block as a leader of church and as a person to help me to practice…Specially on the busy ward: if I stop running but focus on Jesus: things seems much more calm and easier…

  2. Jing Li Sidey says:

    Sorry not “block” but “blog”.

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