All quotations are taken from the New King James Version
‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
These and other words by Emma L. Lazarus are engraved on a bronze plaque which is mounted inside the Statue of Liberty in the harbour of New York City. Many poor, needy, and oppressed foreigners were convinced that these words of invitation represented the sentiment of the American people as a whole to welcome and provide a home for them. A great number of these selfdescribed folks sailed for America in great numbers, especially from 1875 to 1925. The majority were processed at Ellis Island near the Statue of Liberty. Among those from war-torn and impoverished Germany came my mother and other of her relatives. Things were so bleak in post-war Germany that despite owning a restaurant, my grandparents had resorted to pulling off the wallpaper, scraping off the potato paste, and using that to satisfy their own and their family’s hunger.
We have witnessed a similar situation. Because of war many of those fleeing from Ukraine are ending up in Poland and other countries. There they are being invited by many individual families and also by charitable agencies -Christian as well as secular ones - to share their homes or residential facilities along with food and the necessities of life.
It is interesting that the Godhead is characterized throughout scripture as having an ‘inviting’ spirit.
This is evident by the frequent occurrences of the word ‘come’. Most of the uses of this verb are directed universally rather than specifically to individuals, families, or groups. Initially, God delegated surrogates such as prophets to declare these invitations. For example, throughout Isaiah invitations were specifically made to the Jewish nation but were extendable to the rest of mankind. Initially, He invited humans to undergo a ‘spiritual bath’ - to be cleansed from the deep-seated stains of sin that no human can remove. Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18 states, ‘“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool”’. Also, mankind is invited to experience a quenching of its spiritual hunger and thirst, ‘“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”’, Isa. 55. 1. Mankind is typically drawn to things which are free.
It was predetermined in eternity that the second member of the Godhead, namely Jesus, was to take up residence with His creation. One of the Messianic psalms penned by King David records Jesus’ intention, ‘Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart”’, Ps. 40. 7, 8.
Once on earth, God continued to extend invitations to mankind. The first recorded invitation was to Andrew and another unnamed future disciple to view Jesus’ dwelling place. Jesus said to them, ‘“Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour)’, John 1. 39. Another one of Christ’s earliest invitations was extended to the husband of the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well, ‘Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here”’, John 4. 16.
During His three-and-a-half years of ministry on earth our Lord invited those who were in need of spiritual sustenance to approach Him, ‘And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”’, John 6. 35. He also extended invitations to individuals who were burdened to approach Him to obtain spiritual rest for their inner beings, ‘“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”’, Matt. 11. 28-30. Mark chapter 6 verse 31 describes Jesus inviting His disciples to take a rest physically from their hectic lives, ‘And He said to them [His disciples], “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat’. Most importantly, He invited the unsaved to repent, ‘“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”’, Matt. 9. 13.
Also, it may be noted that our Lord invited children to approach Him - He was passionate about keeping open their access to Himself. Matthew chapter 19 verses 13 and 14 state, ‘Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven”’.
On another occasion our Lord invited a rich young ruler to follow Him but only after the latter divested himself of the riches on which he was depending. Even after Jesus heard about the rich young ruler’s consistent adherence to the law, He said to him, ‘“You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me”’, Luke 18. 22.
Now what was the overall response to our Lord’s kind invitations? John chapter 1 verse 11 reads, ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not’, KJV. The Jewish hierarchy did not put out the ‘welcome mat’. I do not believe that our Lord ever received an invitation to preach or teach from any group of people, including city fathers located in Galilee or Judea.
While on earth the most moving and powerful invitation delivered by our Lord occurred on the last day of the last Feast of Tabernacles that was celebrated by Him with His disciples in Jerusalem. He addressed a large multitude of Jews. John chapter 7 verses 37 to 39 records His invitation to them to come and slake their spiritual thirst, ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’.
Not long afterward, in a nearby location outside Jerusalem’s city walls, our Lord suffered extreme physical thirst on the cross during the three dark hours of agony when He was making possible the quenching of the spiritual thirst for believers in Him, ‘And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him’, Matt. 27. 33-35. I believe that our Lord’s purpose in not drinking at this juncture was His resolve to fully endure the sum total of the wrath of God against the evil thoughts, actions, and inactions of sinners, without having His own senses clouded or dimmed. John chapter 19 verses 28 to 30 carries on this narrative, ‘After this [the three dark hours on the cross], Jesus, knowing that all things [Him making full payment for the sins of those who would repent and place their saving faith in Him] were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit’.
The setting for the last invitation extended by our Lord was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Some disciples had fished throughout the nighttime and had caught nothing. They seemed unaware that Jesus was on the shore cooking breakfast for them. After loudly instructing them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, where an abundance of fish were snagged, John chapter 21 verse 12 records that ‘Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”- knowing that it was the Lord’.
Not only our Lord Jesus, but God the Father was and remains fervent about extending invitations to mankind. Remember that the Father took the initiative in sending His beloved Son to this planet, John 3. 16, 17. The Father is depicted in a parable that Jesus related near the end of His mission on earth. It is recorded in Matthew chapter 22 verses 1 to 9, concerning a king whose son is to be married. He is pictured inviting people to participate in His Son’s wedding feast. Comparing this account with that of Revelation chapter 19 verse 9, we deduce that the Father is passionate about honouring His Son by arranging for this wedding, namely, the so-called ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb’. He is lavish in His preparations and feels very hurt when the original invitees, namely, the Jewish people, decline to come. He makes a second appeal for them to attend. When His servants who personally deliver the second invitation are terribly treated, the King responds in kind. He then sends His servants to the outcasts of society - namely, the poor, the needy, the infirmed, and lepers, and urges them to come as guests to this wedding.
Finally, not only are the Son and the Father inviters, but the Holy Spirit as well. There is a final appeal made by Him and believers to the unsaved, urging them to come and drink spiritually. Revelation chapter 22 verse 17 states, ‘And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely’.
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