“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
Jesus invites you to come. To Him. Right now.
Of course, other people have called you to “Come here!” but not like this. Soren Kierkegaard noted just how radically different is Jesus’ invitation.
For example, people have called you over before, usually, so you can help them with some trouble they’re having:
Well, there is nothing amazing when someone who is in danger and needs help, perhaps fast and immediate help, shouts: Come here! (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, p. 11).
But Jesus is not asking for your help; He’s offering His.
You’re also used to receiving invitations from salespeople in the mall to come over and check out the latest miracle cures:
Nor is there anything amazing in a quack’s shouting: Come here, I have a cure for every disease! Alas, for the quack the untruth is all too true that it is the physician who needs the sick (p. 11).
But Jesus does not want to sell you anything. He’s not like a quack trying to sell you snake oil, but neither is He like a specialist doctor who is difficult to get in to see:
ordinarily it is the case that the person who is able to help must be searched for, and once he is found it may be hard to gain access to him, and when one has gained access one perhaps must still plead with him for a long time, and when one has pleaded with him for a long time, he perhaps at long last lets himself be prevailed upon—that is, he sets a high price on himself (pp. 11-12).
No, Jesus does not play hard to get—He wants you to come to Him.
But he who sacrificed himself, sacrifices himself here also, he is himself the one who seeks those who have need of help, he is himself the one who goes around and, calling, almost pleading, says: Come here (p. 12).
Instead of waiting for you to seek Him out, He takes the initiative:
He, the only one who is able to help and help with the one thing needful, who is able to rescue from the only, in the truest sense, life-threatening illness, he does not wait for anyone to come to him; he comes on his own initiative, uncalled—for he is indeed the one who calls to them; he offers help—and such help! (p. 12).
When a wealthy man gives away his money, or a surgeon or lawyer donates his time pro bono, his philanthropy usually has a catch:
as a rule he does reserve for himself one thing—to make a selection. However willing a person is, he still does not wish to help everyone—he will not abandon himself in that way (pp. 12-13).
The rich man only has so much money to give, so he reserves the right to choose which causes to support. Likewise, the surgeon chooses her patients, and the lawyer chooses his clients.
But Jesus invites everyone and anyone to come to Him, with no strings attached:
But he, the only one who in truth can help and in truth can help all, consequently, the only one who in truth can invite all, he makes no condition whatsoever (p. 13).
There is no condition to come to Jesus for help. Whoever you are, He wants you to come. If you labor or feel burdened, then His invitation is for you.
You might wonder, though, what Jesus meant by “labor” and “burden.” What kind of burden must you have? And how much do you need to qualify for His help? Jesus doesn’t say. He leaves it vague. And that might be the point. Leaving it vague means leaving the invitation wide open:
The only thing he is concerned about is that there might be one single person who labors and is burdened who does not hear this invitation; as for the possibility that too many might come, he has no fear of that…he is so sparing of words in order not to be narrow-hearted. Precisely this is love (because love is for all), lest there be one single person who may become anxious by brooding over whether he, too, is included among those invited (p. 14).
Usually, helpers will invite you to come, assess your situation, explain what you need, and then invite you to go and see the doctor, shelter, soup kitchen, or government program that might help. But Jesus invites you to come and stay, because He is the help you need:
No, he who opens his arms and invites all—ah, if all, all you who labor and are burdened, were to come to him, he would embrace them all and say: Now remain with me, for to remain with me is rest. The helper is the help. Amazing! (p. 15).
If you think Jesus’ invitation is for you, you’re right, it is. If you don’t think it’s for you, you’re wrong—it is. And if you’re not sure if it’s for you, I assure you, it is!
Come here, all, all, all of you; with him is rest. And he makes no difficulty; he does only one thing: he opens his arms (p. 19).