"The Master's Invitation"
All of this teaches us the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Come!” The Gospel is not a command; it’s an offer. It’s not a demand; it’s a gift. It’s not a royal fiat; it’s an invitation. It’s the Master’s invitation to share in the unbelievable joy of the Kingdom of God.
“Come!” God is expecting you. He wants you to join in His feast. He is ready for the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. He is ready for those who spend their lives in the highways and byways of life. He invites everyone: “Come, for everything is now ready.”
Just as a shepherd seeks for his lost sheep; just as a woman gets down on her hands and knees to look for her lost coin; and, yes, just as a father eagerly waits for his lost son to return home and looks down the road for him—in the same way God is always seeking, calling, inviting us back into loving, joyous relationship with Him.
God cries out: “Come, for everything is now ready.” Come, you who seek meaning for life. Come, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come, you who falter under the burden and shame of your original sin, your actual sins, and even death itself. Come, you who are anxious and fearful. Come, you who mourn.
“Come you all; enter into the joy of your Lord. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one; let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let none grieve over their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let none weep over their sins, for pardon has shone forth from the grave; let none fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free.” (John Chrysostom - Easter homily)
You see, Christianity is not first and foremost a religion that says, “Do this and don’t do that.” Yes, we do receive God’s Law, especially in His Ten Commandments. And, yes, based on those Ten Commandments, we know that we sin in thought, word and deed. But that’s not what makes Christianity Christianity.
Instead, Christianity is first and foremost a faith that says, “Come!” The great “magnetism” of Jesus Christ comes not in His “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots,” but in His invitation: “Come to Me.” Come, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Come, be filled with the life and energy of God’s presence. And when we do come to Him, we will surely do certain things and live a certain way—not merely because we “should” do those things or "should" live that way, but because we delight in living with our loving Father and Savior. We delight in living and doing as the expression of our love for the One who laid down His life for us. We delight in living and doing with the One—Jesus—who gave His life on a cross to give us life.
In the 4th century, Pastor John Chrysostom commented on the Master’s invitation, “Come to Me all you who labor.” He said these precious words: “His invitation is one of kindness, His goodness is beyond description. ‘Come to me, all’ – not only rulers but also their subjects; not only the rich, but also the poor; not only the free, but also the slaves; not only men, but also women; not only the youth, but also the old; not only those of sound body, but also the maimed. All of you, He says, come! For such are the Master’s gifts. He knows no distinction of slave and free, nor of rich and poor, but all such inequality is cast aside. ‘Come,’ He says, ‘all you who labor and are burdened!’ And see whom He calls! Those who have spent their strength in breaking the law, those who are burdened with their sins, those who can no longer lift up their heads, those who are filled with shame, those who can no longer speak out. Why does He call them? Not to demand an accounting, nor to hold court. But why? To relieve them of their pain, to take away their heavy burdens.”
Now when Jesus says, “Come!” He does not stand on the top rung of a long, high ladder in heaven to signal us to start climbing. After all, He Himself has climbed down that ladder to stand alongside us. He has come to us. “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” “She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger.” He came and was born in a stable. He came and died on the cross. He came and rose victorious from the grave. He came to prepare the banquet of life and salvation for us. And now – today – Jesus sends His servants to extend His invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.” There is nothing that you can or need to add to this feast. He has prepared it all. “It is finished!” He cried from the cross. He has prepared the feast of salvation for you. The only thing He asks of you is that you let Him serve it to you, and that you enjoy and delight in it.
But sadly and tragically, the invitation is not always accepted. This gracious invitation is too often rejected. “I have bought a field…. Please have me excused…. I have bought five yoke of oxen…. Please have me excused…. I have married a wife…. I cannot come.” And so flew the excuses. It was and is the response of so many of His own people. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive Him.” Is this not the same response today? Tragically, and sadly, we end up accepting the wrong invitations in life. We miss the banquet, the abundant life of Christ, and we settle for the lesser lunches and the fleeting feasts. And Jesus still laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
“Come, for everything is now ready.” “But I am not worthy to come,” you might object. “My clothes are not suitable. I wouldn’t know how to act in the Master’s palace. Besides, I’m just too busy and have too many other things to do.”
None of this makes any difference. The invitation goes out to all: to those who are on the back streets, to those who live in dirty, little houses, as well as to those who live in fine homes. Come! The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect to come. Come as you are—come with all of your sins and sorrows and shame; come with all of your weaknesses and failures; come with all of your problems and anxieties. Come to the only One who can forgive you and heal you. Come to the One who on His cross opened wide His arms to welcome you. “Come, for everything is now ready.”
And coming to Jesus is not a one time thing. Let no one say: “Oh, I did that years ago.” Coming to Jesus is a way of life. It begins with Baptism. It involves living out our Baptism in daily repentance and sorrow for sin, and in turning from that sin to God. We come to Him and find Him right where He has promised to be for us. We come to Him in the Divine Service. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.” We come to Him in reading our Bibles. As Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” We come to Him in regular and faithful Communion. As Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” Yes, He who came down from heaven to meet us on our level, and to die in our place on a cross, still comes to meet us on our level.
No, He does not stand at the top of the ladder and call us to climb home. Instead, He stands at the bottom, lifts us up on His strong shoulders, and carries us up the ladder Himself. When we lay aside the excuses and dare to accept the invitation, then we truly know the wonder of the glorious banquet hall. Then we know the goodness of the food of life. Then we know the joy of amazing fellowship with God Himself. Yes, dare to accept it daily—today, tomorrow, the next day and all the days of your life. Live in the promise that our Lord will one day speak the greatest invitation of all: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Amen.