Why are you here today?
You are not here today because you are wise or good. You are not here because you have considered every religion and chosen the right one out of your fine discernment.
Christ says, "Father, You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes." It is not to the wise, not to the intelligent, not to the discerning, but to the foolish and meek and lowly. It is to you and me.
Christ actually thanks His Father that these things are hidden. "These things" are the Gospel truths that He has been preaching. We may think it strange that Christ is glad that His Gospel is hidden from the wise of this world. But it is the nature of the Gospel that is does not go to those who choose it. It does not go to those who are worthy. It goes to the unworthy. It goes to the ones who cannot stand on their own two feet, spiritually speaking. It goes to the weak. Therefore, no glory goes to man for his salvation. Glory goes to God alone.
That is why Christ also says to us, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden." To labor and be heavy-laden is the state of all men who struggle under the pains of sorrow over sin, anxiety, and the terrors of death. For man in his sinful nature tries to work hard to make himself worthy of heaven. But this leads only to sadness and worry, since no man can ever be certain he is good enough. Men may delude themselves into thinking that they have made themselves ready for the Gates of Paradise. But if a person sees things as they are, they will be filled with fear at their sins.
So Christ says, "Come to Me." That is to say, He invites us to believe in Him. Trust in His merits, and the merits of His life and death. Trust that His Resurrection is yours. Trust that His holiness is yours. Trust that forgiveness was won in His Blood.
Now, we Lutherans get a little nervous whenever there is an invitation to come to Jesus. A little alarm sometimes goes off in the back of our minds that someone is being invited to do something that will make them saved. Obviously, there is nothing we in our wretched sinfulness can do to make ourselves saved. So this nervousness at invitations is really a good thing.
But here, Christ Himself issues the invitation. He speaks His command, "Come!" and the command itself contains the power to create faith in us. The Word of Christ brings us to Him. He is not inviting us to earn our salvation by making ourselves worthy. Precisely the opposite - He is telling us to stop trying to make ourselves worthy and trust in His merits alone. Look to His Cross and believe, and stop looking at yourself.
It is a good thing that Christ issues this invitation to us. Only He can reveal the Father to us. Only Christ can show us the true nature of the Father - that He is loving and merciful and freely gives out eternal life. Our reason cannot reach that conclusion. The wonders of nature cannot reveal this to us. Only Christ through His Word and Spirit can reveal the Father's heart to us.
This is a divine action of God, to not only call sinners to salvation, but to bring them as well. We cannot make ourselves born again, nor can we make others born again. Only Christ and His Word do that. Whenever we try to help Christ out, we get in the way. Whenever we try to insert good works somewhere, as if our love can bring new sheep into the fold - we only put up barriers.
But Christ is the One who overcomes all barriers. He has smashed through the devil's fortifications. He has shattered the gates of hell. He has breached the grave's dark prison. So He has also lifted the heavy burden of sin from our weak shoulders, and replaced it with His light, easy yoke. His yoke is indeed easy - He has done all the work! He has conquered, He has suffered, He has bled, He has died. What is left for you to do but simply enjoy what He gives?
In this way, Christ calls all sinners to Himself, inviting them to His effortless salvation and His removal of burdens. For Christ earnestly desires that all men should come to Him and let themselves be helped. He wants us to get out of the way and let Him do all the work.
So He offers Himself in His Word, and it is His will that men hear His voice and do not stop their ears or despise it. He promises the power and operation of the Holy Spirit to keep you steadfast unto eternal life. He gives all to you, as He is giving it right now in this Gospel.
This is because the words of Christ when He says, "Come to Me" also mean now. He is not merely speaking of coming to Him once at your initial conversion. Come to Him when He calls you to receive His blessings. Come to receive His Word.
Especially, come to receive this Sacrament of the Altar. He so tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good to receive the great blessing in His Body and Blood.
So what a sin and shame it is when we act so distantly towards the Sacrament, neglecting it so long that we grow cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it.
At the Altar, also, we must remember Christ's invitation: "Come to Me." He calls the lowly and the foolish. That is what we are to be as we receive this Meal. To be a true and worthy communicant at the Altar is to be timid, weak in faith, disturbed and terrified by your sins. It is to consider yourself unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of your great impurity. It is to perceive your own weakness in faith, yet deplore that weakness and heartily wish to serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and purer obedience.
So you come to Him. As you have come today, come often to His Gospel. Receive His rest, as He gives it now. He gives free remission of all your burdens. He promises eternal rest through His death. Do not come as the wise and the strong, as if your coming demonstrates how good you are. No, come as the lowly and the foolish, the weak and the weary. His rest is for you, whenever His Gospel is given. Receive it, and be refreshed.
In the Name of your Savior, who became gentle and lowly for you. Amen.
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