We turn to the classic Scripture where we have “Christ’s Call to the Heavy Laden.”
God’s Word in Matthew 11:28 states, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These words were spoken by the divine Son of God. Two persons He mentions in the text: the divine “Me” (with a capital M) and the human, personal “you,” thus bringing together the restless and the resting place. The personal Savior speaks, “Come to Me and I will give.” There is a personal coming, “Come all ye,” and a personal promise, “I will give you rest.” It is a very personal call to a specific, particular group, the laboring and heavily laden. It also has an absolute exclusiveness about it; Come to Me! It is not come unto some queen, or mshatma or guru, or some ecclesiastical star, but, exclusively, Come unto Me! As He himself said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Also there are two divine things here: a command (to come), and a promise (I will give you rest.)
A further promise He gave in, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:65). This is not all so easy, as it is today often presented. For man is totally spiritually and morally impotent, so that he is incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, and that is why “no man can come unto Me, except the Father who hath sent Me draw him” (6:44). With that divine drawing, then “all that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (v. 37).
Now, I. The Call Itself. Notice in these words we do not have an offer, a proposal or an invitation, which allow place for declining. It is not a sin to decline an invitation. It would be to refuse a legal summons. An offer or proposal implies both the right and the power to accept it. It implies the natural ability of man. This is not in harmony with man’s spiritual inability. An offer makes the outcome of it all dependent upon man, whether he will accept it. But this divine imperative, Come unto Me, is a most effectual order, of double efficacy, having power to bring about the result intended, and bestowing an enabling which works a willing response to it. This must be, for Christ is speaking to spiritual Lazaruses in His resuscitative demand, To Me! Hither! Out! Thus Jesus draws, and we come; and as Martin Luther put it, “I do not come of my own reason or strength.” Christ’s call and command endow with life, enabling me to come.
This is a divine sovereign command. Who issues it? Christ, but in what capacity? As a king commands his subjects: “I say to this man, Go! and he goeth; and to another, Come! and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this! and he doeth it” (Matthew 8:9). He speaks as God who raises the dead, calling the things not being as being; as the Lord of life who in Spring renews the face of the ground, who causes the birds to lay their eggs, and the cattle to drop their young, who causes babies to be born in the issue of the Church Latent into the world! He said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” This call goes sovereignly to whomsoever the Son wills it (v. 27). He says, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).
The promise here is also unconditional. It is not the future, I shall give you; but the relative, I will give you rest. Not merely, I can, but I will! “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). It’s an infallible pledge, with no ifs, prerequisites or conditions for us to fulfil. Already condemned (John 3:18) and dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), what conditions can we fulfil! “Come!” does not imply a condition we must fulfil. When He calls and draws, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom,” then His blessed heirs enter the kingdom of glory.
II. The Called Ones are identified in the test – not all men, for these things are hidden from the so called wise and prudent (v. 25); and not those who “labor in the very fire”, who, in pursuit of their own selfish interests “weary themselves for very vanity” (Hab. 2:13), for they “labor in vain…and they shall be weary” (Jer. 51:58). They are the “people laden with iniquity” who are unmindful of the burden, and so in sin they “labor for that which satisfieth not,” for “what profit hath he that laboureth for the wind?” (Eccles. 5:16). Jesus calls those laboring because heavily laden and overborne with the load of sin and guilt, and who are grieved with that burden. They never found relief under the oppressive yoke of the law, not peace in the tradition of the elders, not rest under the law of Moses, not satisfaction in the pleasures of the world.
The promise is then to all who come, for it is made to comers. Christ has no promise for me, whether they come or not. “He that cometh unto Me,” He promises, “I will in no wise cast out.” Jesus, you see, does not beg men to come to Him. He does not stand at the crossroads of the crowded ways of life frantically trying to get as many as possible to listen to Him and go His way. He does not hand out blank checks, which you must accept, endorse and take to the bank to cash. He is not running around in circles handing out invitations which most cast aside and few bother to notice at all. His words are no pleading, but a pledge; no invitation, but an injunction; no proposal, but a promise; no offer or overture, but an order; no mere commiseration, but a command; no solicitation, but a summons; no entreaty, but a demand. It is not an appeal to man’s will, but an imperative of God’s will. “I will give” puts God’s will first before man’s.
III. The Promise to the Called is the guarantee of rest. “All ye that labor, I will give you rest.” Mothers, in the bringing forth of children know what laboring is. To those laboring under the burden of sin Christ says, My rest shall end your laboring forever. I will give you rest, relief and make you recover. With so much evil in the world today, we are almost afraid to live. And man is by nature afraid to die. With these fears we cannot look God in the face. We are prepared neither to live nor to die and meet our Maker face to face. But Christ’s promised rest is preparation for life now and heaven hereafter. The Lord speaks of His gift: I will give you rest. It is no standing offer of rest which depends for its enjoyment on my acceptance of it. What if I get to be too sick in the pain of dying to accept it? Can’t He give me rest without my doing something? If no, what hope is there for dying men? The sinner, weak, weary, sad and worn desperately needs rest, not some more laboring to do. What He gives me is deliverance, tranquility and peace of soul. I have nothing to give Him in return. Nor is my gratitude for His rest a kind of pay for the gift. It is all of His pure grace and mercy. When He calls me to come into His rest out of my sin and misery and agonized laboring under sin’s burden with its wracking pain then I rest, not in something I give Him, but in what He has given me. Christ’s eternal, spiritual and saving rest of soul is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. But he that thinks of boasting, let him boast in the Lord.
When you get to that “Me” in Come unto me, you find the place of rest. That quiet and wonderful place of peace, relief and release is not in the monastery, the nunnery, nor where some have, strangely, have sought peace and rest of soul in flagellation, self-mutilation (like the old Baal-worshipers) and in hunger-strikes. None of these things does the Lord Jesus Christ require. “Not of works of (supposed) righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5), and gave us rest. Why, then, seek futilely that rest in “new thought”, in any neology? It cannot be found in new cults or modernized philosophies. Come unto Me! I will give you rest. So it is limited, narrowed down exclusively to Christ. To look for rest anywhere else is to search in vain.
How shall I come to Him? Like the man with faint faith: “If Thou canst do anything, have compassion and help us!” Like the leper with quivering, questioning mind: “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” Or like the military man with full assurance: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Amen!
(Prayer) Heavenly Father, Lord of heaven and earth, reveal and bestow the rest of salvation upon the poor, needy, restless sinner. Turn us from the wearying enslavement of sin, from the grueling treadmill of service to mammon. Our souls are restless until they rest in Thee. Comfort all believing souls with peace in the Prince of Peace. In His most blessed name, Amen.