Come to Me

Jesus was a divider. Jesus still is a divider. During his 33 years of life on the Earth He created, and particularly the later 3 years of his ministry, Jesus divided the crowds. Some people left everything they had to follow Him, others grappled with the truth of Jesus revealed to them but counted the cost of surrender too high a price to pay, multitudes experienced physical, emotional and spiritual healing first hand and many, many witnessed outrageous and breathtaking miracles. On the other side of the fence, many people couldn’t get their heads around the Messiah who they had been waiting for for centuries, was claiming to look like this – a relative “raggamuffin” from a fairly unknown town, the son of a carpenter; Jesus wasn’t strong, mighty and didn’t look like a powerful-deliverer-from-oppression. He wasn’t what they expected. He unsettled the ‘steady human control’ of the religious leaders. Many loved Jesus and many more rejected Him.

Jesus’ words always divided. Jesus’ words always will divide because they go beyond human understanding, reasoning and eyesight. They cross the world of the now into the world unseen, from the physical to the spiritual. They are heavenly words from His Kingdom.

As part of my preparation for Easter this year, I read slowly and steadily through the gospel of John. This is a beautiful, real and raw testimony from one of Jesus’ disciples and it is jam-packed full of encounters with Jesus, Jesus’ teaching and the divisions that tore through communities as each person had to respond for themselves, answering the question “who is this Jesus?”

On one occasion, people had been arguing about who Jesus was – prophet, king, demon-possessed man or criminal, when Jesus stands up at a feast and declares loud and boldly the following…

 “37On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’ 39He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given,e because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39)

In all the divisions, disagreements and confusion, Jesus’ response is very simple…..’Come’. This invitation rang out from the start of Creation when God invited Adam and Eve to “come and walk with Him in the cool of the evening (in the Garden of Eden)”, to the manger as Jesus was given as a gift to save the Earth and the first worshippers were invited to “come and see”. It even extended past this time in John’s gospel to the end of the chapter when Jesus, having suffered a bloody torturous death, was raised gloriously back to life and appeared to his doubting friend, saying “come and put your hand in my side and feel the nail holes…..it’s me”. God’s desire always has been and always will be to come to Him, to walk with Him, to know him, to live in relationship with Him. To come and believe, as John tells us.

But what struck me over the few weeks I spent in John, was how I come. If Jesus’ invitation is to come, how do I do that?

Jesus divided but He never forced. He offered freedom, but He didn’t push it on people. Jesus extends His hand but He lets us choose. So I have to come intentionally – I have to accept and choose Him. This started the moment I first encountered Jesus and grew to know my need of Him as my personal Lord and Saviour, I had to take his hand and choose for myself that I needed Him, that I would seek to follow Him all the days of my life. And I have to intentionally choose Him every day – each of the 9,460 days I have had since I first surrendered to Jesus.

There are always worries of my mind, things that seem that present themselves as “must do now or else disaster will break out”, fears that loom and tell me that I can’t possibly do x or y for God. Battling against faith is doubt, distraction and the lies of the Enemy that tell me that I’m disqualified from God’s gracious words of truth for my life today. So I have to push through the crowds like Zaccheus, I have to climb my tree and seek Him, gaze upon Him and choose to come to His word every day. I have to choose to want to listen to Him and to love Him more. I have to choose to live in fellowship with friends who I give permission to challenge and spur me on to love and good deeds. I have to be real and vulnerable. And boy do I need His rich Grace to do this! Jesus lets me come. But I have to come intentionally. He’s always seeking me but He lets me respond.

I also get to come imaginatively – this was a real life encounter, this event where Jesus stood up and invited the crowd to come to Him, to come and drink in the truth of who He was. Jesus really said these words and He was inviting those who knew they needed a drink – He said ‘if you are thirsty….come and drink’. When I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s heart to me in this passage, I hear Jesus’ compassion, His invitation is to those in need. I hear the love in his tone, I see the creases around His eyes as He smiles with the invitation and I feel the warmth at the gentle and yet powerful words. I imagine Jesus reaching his arms out wide and inviting those around him to come close. When Jesus invites me today to come to Him, His heart and actions are just the same. Sometimes when I settle down to time in God’s word, I like to imagine Jesus sitting next to me; I am talking with Him as my Friend as well as my King. He is real, He is present – so what does He look like, where is He, what does He sound like? If you’ve never thought of engaging your imagination when you respond to Jesus’ invitation to come, I would hugely recommend it!

I also have to come humbly. Jesus’ invitation to come to Him can only be received through humble, empty hands. To hands that unclench, that let go and that are empty to receive. Many people who first heard this message didn’t realise they were thirsty, they couldn’t come because they didn’t realise their need. My Jesus invites me the same today; so often I can be proud and arrogant, running on my own strength and ability, but this becomes a weight that crushes my spirit and drags me down and away from Jesus’ light and free invitation to take His strength and grace. One of my favourite worship songs says “Lord I need you, Oh I need you, every hour, I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God how I need You”

Coming requires humility.

The treasure of responding to Jesus’ invitation in belief is an overflowing of the Holy Spirit – a living here and now with the very presence of God, the third person of the Trinity. Our job is to come, God will do the rest. This is the place of Grace, as God ushers us close and says ‘trust me, believe me and follow me’. So let’s respond to His invitation; intentionally, imaginatively and humbly – life in all its fulness awaits!

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