The Incarnate Lord (1)
“Come to Me, all you who labor 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.” Matthew 11.28-30
Sharpening our focus
You can’t read the gospels without forming some image in your mind of Jesus and whatever it is He’s doing. Where do those images come from? Sometimes from an illustrated children’s Bible. Sometimes a poster in a Sunday school room. Perhaps your image of Jesus derives from some painting, such as the wonderful illustrations James Tissot made of the earthly life of Jesus in the late 19th century. Maybe you watched a film such as “The Greatest Story Ever Told” or “The Jesus Film”, and that shaped your image of Jesus, as you pictured Him during the course of His earthly ministry.
However we have come to our vision of Jesus, that we have an image of the Lord as He ministered during the time of His incarnation is beyond doubt. All these means I’ve mentioned can be helpful in shaping our vision of Jesus as He walked among us. But because these are all someone else’s vision of the Lord, we should not be content merely to adopt these as our own. We want to see Jesus like those ancient Greeks wanted to see Him, up close and personal.
In this part of our study, “We Would See Jesus”, we’ll be considering Jesus – aesthetically and theologically – as He is reported to us by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We’ll draw on the vision of others for each situation we consider, and we’ll try to enlarge and make more vivid our own vision of Jesus during those years that He became flesh and dwelled among us. This will put us in good stead, later in our study, to consider Jesus as He is presented to us exalted in glory and returning in power.
We begin with the comforting notion that Jesus is a welcoming Lord.
Jesus Who welcomes
This shows up very early on in Jesus’ earthly sojourn. John reports that two of John the Baptist’s disciples – Andrew and probably John – began to follow Jesus, after John pointed Him out as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1.35-39). John tells us that, as they began to go after Him, “Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” After they asked about His lodgings, Jesus said to them, “Come and see.”
What did Andrew and John see in Jesus’ face and eyes as He turned? And as He invited them into His lodging? Surely they saw a gentleness, a welcoming smile, and a softness in His visage. He welcomed them with a look and with a simple invitation to come and be a part of His life, if only for the rest of the day.
In Matthew 19.14, Jesus rebuked His disciples for trying to keep little children from coming to Him: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” I don’t have to work too hard to see what Jesus’ face looked like as those children rushed to His side. I know what my own face looks like every time Susie and I see our grandchildren, and I reach out to grab and hug them – happiness, love, fun, and sweet reunion as I gaze into each of their eyes. Perhaps the Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) depiction is what you see.
Jesus surely had a somewhat different welcoming look on His face when He invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water to Him (Matt. 14.25-30). We recall that the “wind was boisterous” (don’t you love that?) as Peter stepped out onto the waves. He was looking to Jesus, looking Him in the face. Surely He must have seen strength, determination, calm, and a welcoming and challenging look – a nod, a raise of the eyebrows, or a slight smile? Peter fixed on that welcoming face. And as long as He did, He walked on the water.
It was when Peter looked away from the face of Jesus, and considered the boisterous waves instead of the welcoming Master, that he began to sink. What do you see in the face of our welcoming Lord? Do you see Him, as James Tissot suggested, moving toward you, arms extending to take you in, face calm, and His whole body radiant with glory?
The face of Jesus is a welcoming face. He sees us at all times, from out of the radiance of His glory, and with eyes of flame, welcoming us as to a laughing fire in the midst of winter. As you come to Jesus, to see and consider Him, see Him reaching out to welcome you, beckoning you the come and see Him in His glory, where He dwells at the Father’s right hand.
Welcome to what?
But to what does Jesus welcome us? As we see Him reaching out to us, or waving us on toward Him, happy to see us seeing Him seeing us, and pleased to have us in His Presence, to what is He welcoming us?
First, to Himself: “Come to Me…” There is nothing to compare with this, to come into the Presence of Jesus, to know Him intimately, participate in His Presence, joy, strength, radiance, power, and glory. This is where we are bound in our journey in the Lord (1 Jn. 3.1-3); and it pleases Him to welcome us in ever-increasing measure into His Presence in prayer, meditation, and in the Lord’s Supper. The more clearly we see Jesus, the more eager we will be to enter His welcoming Presence every day.
But Jesus also welcomes us into His work: “Take My yoke upon you…” Jesus is ploughing the field of the world, that He might sow the good seed of the Kingdom all throughout it (Matt. 13.24-30, 36-43). Hard ground must be broken up with the patient work of the plow. Weeds and rocks – all hindrances to growth – must be removed. The ground must be sown, watered, cultivated, and cared for – the ground of our souls and of our Personal Mission Fields.
Jesus welcomes us to Himself so that we may join Him in His work. We who would see Jesus must see Him in His work, and want to join Him in it.
But Jesus also welcomes us to His Word and His instruction: “…learn from Me…” As you consider Jesus, looking to Him and entering His Presence, you must come ready to learn – to learn Jesus, as Paul put it (Eph. 4.17-24). You’ll want to be “hearing His voice in every line” of Scripture, “holding communion with my Lord.” You should pray, “Spirit of God, My Teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me” (Eliza E. Hewitt). And thus you should expect to listen well, understand clearly, incorporate God’s Word into your soul, and prepare to live what you’ve learned about Jesus, more and more.
And finally, Jesus welcomes us to His rest: “…you will find rest for your souls.” That rest is sweet peace, fresh buds of righteousness, and springtime fragrances of joy, all welling up within us in the welcoming Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As you consider Jesus in the gospels, study His welcoming ways, and put yourself before Him as He smiles and holds out a hand, saying to you, “Come and see.”
1. What do you think of when someone is described to you as a “welcoming” person?
2. “Welcoming” is related to “hospitality”. How would you define each of these terms?
3. When you think of Jesus, welcoming people in one way or another during His earthly ministry, what do you see? Is this how we should think of Him now?
Next steps – Preparation: Spend some time meditating on Jesus – considering His beauty – as He welcomes you into His Presence. Thank the Lord that He welcomes us to Himself, His work, His instruction, and His rest.
T. M. Moore
A Thanksgiving Challenge
A generous friend of The Fellowship is offering a $5000 challenge gift for new donations and donations over and above regular giving. Will you join us to give thanks to God for this, and to ask Him whether you should participate in this opportunity? If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
At the website
You can also now listen, each Lord’s Day, to a weekly summary of our daily Scriptorium study, which is presently working through the book of Jeremiah. Click here for last week’s summary of Jeremiah 18-21.
Two new resources are available at our website to help you grow in the Lord and His work. Our new Personal Mission Field Workshop offers weekly training to help you shepherd the people to whom God sends you. And The Ailbe Podcast will introduce you to The Fellowship and how its resources and Brothers can be of help to you in your walk with and work for the Lord.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.