Through the looking glass
Jesus Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 is rightly regarded as one of the great evangelistic texts: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. But do we realise how much this Scripture has to say, not just to the evangelised but to the evangelist?
Notice first Christ’s perception of those around him – he saw them as burdened and bowed down. He wasn’t referring to the sacks, pots and baskets they carried. The rest he offered was for their souls not their bodies (v.29) and the crippling weight they bore was the burden of their sin.
On another occasion he saw the people as ‘sheep without a shepherd’ and was ‘moved with compassion’ (Matthew 9:36). The metaphor is different but the truth is the same. Both Scriptures give us insight into the Saviour’s heart.
So how do we view the people around us who throng the supermarkets and shopping malls? Our neighbours and colleagues? Yes, even our children and family members? How do we perceive our fellow men?
A politician looks at people and sees voters. An advertising agent sees spenders. What we are determines to a large extent how we see others. And if we are followers of Christ we should perceive people through his eyes.
Someone once declared: ‘I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand’. We smile, but are we affected by the same mindset? We love missions and support missionaries. We approve the great commission as a good and necessary thing.
But when we look on the actual people who mill around us day by day, we are indifferent to their spiritual needs. We feel no responsibility for their eternal welfare and sometimes, to our shame, cite the sovereignty of God to justify our stance. We remain untouched by the compassion that drove Christ to seek and save the lost.
True evangelism is not so. It sees men as Christ sees them – burdened with sin and in desperate need of salvation.
Notice secondly that right perception leads to a fitting invitation. Christ calls burdened sinners to himself – ‘Come to me’, he says. We can deal with this more briefly, but its importance is central.
Too often we invite people to church or to our meetings and events. We may seek to interest them in our theology or our distinctives. After all, we are ‘not as other men are’.
None of this is necessarily wrong, but in our evangelistic activity we can easily forget that the rest that comes from sins forgiven is found in Christ and him alone. We are ‘accepted in the Beloved’ or not at all.
To this end, therefore, we must preach ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’, so that sinners come to him and not to us (1 Corinthians 2:2). That was Jesus’ invitation and it ought also to be ours.
Christ also tells those who come to him what to expect – they will bear his yoke. Notice that he does not promise peace first and then the option to become his yoke-fellows. Read the verses carefully and you will see that soul-rest in Christ is the consequence of taking up his yoke.
A faithful evangelist will explain that salvation in Christ entails being joined to him as by a yoke. We will be crucified with him, becoming dead to wilful sin and deliberate wandering. We will be raised with him to newness of life, henceforth yielding ourselves to Christ as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6).
Where he leads we will of necessity also go, for we are yoked with him. His pace will be our pace; his purpose will be ours also; we shall be guided by the mind of Christ rather than the wisdom of the world.
To evangelise aright we must tell people what it means to come to Christ and know his rest. Only then will we make genuine disciples.