Dear friends, today’s gospel contains beautiful words every disciple needs to read, receive, and believe, over and over again. Into the ‘now’ of this present moment, of our personal existence, the Lord Jesus speaks to you and to me: ‘Come’ he says: ‘Come to me. When you’re exhausted and weighed down by life, come to me and find rest. Let me teach you‘- he says – ‘how to find peace in the gentleness and humility of my heart, of my love. The way of life I offer you’ – he says – ‘is not a burden. So come, come and find rest in me.’
Isn’t it astonishing that the Saviour of the world, the Son of God, true God and true man, says to little old you and me: ‘Come and rest in me.’ To find rest in the heart of the Lord Jesus; to know Him as the way to eternal rest in heaven; to receive from Him the second by second reassurance that He is not only with us, but that He invites us into a loving schooling through which, by faith, we enter into the security and certainty of life in all its fullness.
Now it may require from us, from each of us, a daily act of faith to accept this divine invitation, but the Lord Jesus says: ‘Come; come to me.’ Do we believe this, when He invites us to find rest in Him?
Sometimes our lives, or the lives of those close to us, or in the world around us, are so challenging and so stressful that we will need to pray: ‘Yes Lord, I hear your invitation; but please give me the strength to trust you, to come to you through the chaos, and to find rest in you.’
Sometimes we know only too well our weaknesses and failures, our sins past and present. We know the Lord says ‘Come,’ but we’re too consumed by our unworthiness and our anxiety. So, we need to pray: ‘Lord, I know I am not worthy; help me to believe that when you say ‘Come,’ you really do mean me. Help me to trust in you; help me to trust that you draw me towards your merciful heart, whatever state my heart is in.’
Sometimes we can let other things take priority, even good and important things. Time with, and for, the Lord slips away. Then we need to pray, ‘Lord, I do want to come to you; in the midst of everything that is going on, I need the rest only you can give; help me not to neglect you.’
Let’s just think of the most important person to us, living or dead; or a famous person we would most like to meet. If we received an invitation from them, we would drop everything, we would rearrange our diary, and not let anything stop us or get in the way from saying yes to their invite. Our Lord and our God says ‘Come; come to me…’
At different times in life we will receive the Lord Jesus’ invitation in different ways and we will respond in different ways. We might need to hear His words a thousand times before, suddenly, something changes, something shifts within us and the penny drops. We come to a deep sense that He is actually calling me in particular, not just everyone in general; but me and you. It dawns on us that there is rest and peace to be found in Him like no other. We see in a new way that He does teach us how to live, carrying the load with us, making it possible to see beyond disaster, disappointment, and despair.
‘Come to me,’ says the Lord Jesus. ‘Come and be present to me in stillness and quiet; Come and tell me the hurts and worries of your heart. Come and find peace, healing, mercy and joy.’ ‘Just come, as you are, and let me show you how love can grow.’
Some people’s response to the Lord Jesus’ invitation – ‘Come to me’ – has been more than a little slow. Encouragingly for all of us, this includes many of the saints. Among the whose witness spurs me on is someone lesser known called Jacques Fesch.
Jacques was born in 1930 in a suburb of Paris. His father was an atheist and his mother a Catholic. Brought up a Catholic himself, by the age of 17 Jacques had abandoned his faith and at 21 he married his pregnant girlfriend in a civil ceremony.
Jacques gave up his job at his father’s bank to follow the life of a playboy. He left his wife and child, and had a child with another woman. Despite these responsibilities, disillusioned with life, he dreamed of escape. He wanted to sail around the South Pacific Ocean, but his parents refused to pay for a boat. So, on 24 February 1954, Jacques set out to rob a local money changer. He struck the man with his gun and fled, but the money changer raised the alarm.
Pursued through the streets and, shooting wildly, Jacques shot and killed a policeman. For such a terrible crime, he was sentenced to death and guillotined on 1 October 1957. However, something began to happen during his time in prison. Slowly he faced up to the truth about his life and opened his heart to the invitation of the Lord Jesus.
Jacques bitterly regretted his crime. He was reconciled with his wife and accepted his punishment. In June 1955 he wrote these words: ‘…at the end of my first year in prison, a powerful wave of emotion swept over me, causing me deep and brutal suffering. Within the space of a few hours I came into possession of faith, with absolute certainty. I believed and could no longer understand how I had ever not believed.’
He went on: ‘Grace had come to me. A great joy flooded my soul, and above all a deep peace. In a few instants everything had become clear. It was a very strong, sensible joy that I felt. I tend now to try, perhaps excessively, to recapture it: actually, the essential thing is not emotion, but faith.’
‘Come to me,’ says the Lord Jesus.
Shortly before his execution Jacques wrote: ‘In five hours I shall see Jesus.’ His response might have been late, as we see it, but he heard and accepted and believed the invitation of the Lord Jesus’ invitation. When Jesus said ‘Come,’ Jacques came and he found rest for his soul.
Dear friends, our lives may not be as dramatic as Jacques was – they could be. But here’s the point: at every moment – at every moment – the Lord Jesus says ‘Come to me and find rest.’ No matter how tiny or tragic our traumas, we respond in faith: ‘Yes Lord, I come to you.’