on the Lord’s use of invitations

In my studies through the Synoptic Gospels recently I noticed something the Lord did in his preaching with respect to invitations. On one occasion, he quite clearly gave an invitation at the end of his message, and on another he gives what could be construed as an invitation, although it is a bit more interpretive.

The clear example is in Mt 11.28-30 ‘Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden…” This passage comes at the end of a message begun by the visit of John’s disciples expressing their master’s worries about the Lord’s direction. The Lord is quite clearly inviting people to respond to him.

The second example is at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Mt 7.13-27. The invitation aspect is somewhat less clear, but these verses are clearly outside the main body of the message and they distinguish two ways of response (5.1-15 are somewhat introductory, then 5.16 and 7.12 form an inclusio around the main body of the message). The first means of distinguishing two ways of response is the wide gate and the narrow gate (7.13-14). The second means of distinguishing two ways of response is the contrast between false prophets and [implied] true – by good trees and bad trees and their fruit (7.15-20). The third way of distinguishing two ways of response is the contrast between those who do the will of the father and those who only say they do the will of the father (7.21-23). And last, the two houses are means of distinguishing response to the Lord and his words: the man who builds on the rock and the man who builds on the sand (7.24-27). While there is no clear call in these words, the Lord is building a case that there is a right response and a wrong response to his words.

What to make of all this? Well, the fact is that the Lord used invitations in his preaching. We cannot deny this. I don’t think the Lord was manipulative, as some are, or called people to make public professions (the sawdust trail style) or such like inventions, but the Lord did use invitations.

Having the Lord’s invitations as a precedent, we should perhaps study them and give a bit more thought to employing them in our preaching. I am not one for a ‘go forward’ type of invitation. I have never really liked them. But we do need to put that urgency into our preaching and expect a response. May God grant us wisdom to discern how to use biblical, Christ-like invitations.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3