The Invitation of Christ is open to anyone who will accept it. Jesus sincerely wants you to say yes, but it is up to you.
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) (John 7:37-39)
Here is something interesting to ponder; Jesus Christ did not wait for His sacrificial death to invite people to His kingdom.
Jesus focused His earthly ministry telling people to repent from their sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is here and ready (Matthew 4:17).
After the resurrection, Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to go and make disciples. Even so, Jesus was also going about the business of calling disciples while He was alive, such as in today’s passage. Just as He continues to spread this invitation after His ascension, through the Bible and His people; the invitation of Christ is open to anyone who desires to accept (Revelation 22:17).
The key word here being invitation. Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who existed before time, invites any who will accept to participate in eternal life with Him.
Sometimes we hear believers speak of being “chased” by Christ until they finally gave in. The persistence of the Holy Spirit’s convicting power clearly exists, but we should not make the mistake of confusing persistence with desperation. The invitation of Christ is open to anyone, but He will not demand or beg us to accept the invitation. The responsibility for the choice lies in us.
The Invitation of Christ Rejected
In Luke, we read of a parable Jesus shared at a banquet He attended, where we learn of a man who prepared a great feast and sent invitations to many. But the invitees come back and say they can’t come for various, mundane excuses.
We learn the man was “furious” upon learning this and guided his servant to go and invite the “poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame”. Upon hearing there was still room, the man guided his servant to invite still more people, from far away.
The parable concludes with the man saying that none of those who first rejected the invitation will be allowed to even taste from the banquet he prepared (Luke 14:15-24).
Let’s unpack this for a minute. We understand that the invitation of Christ is open to anyone. But what happens when someone decides they have more important things to do with their life than to accept Christ’s invitation? Does God weep and express self-pity, and asks how He could possibly try a different way?
No. If we understand this parable as an allegory that the invitation of Christ is open to all, when someone rejects the invitation, this actually angers God.
If we are tempted to be upset by or ignore the idea that God could be angry with us because we aren’t ready to accept His invitation, realize that this invitation came at the cost of sacrificing His one and only Son to a violent death (John 3:16).
And if you’re reading this as a Christian, as an aside we should understand that it is still possible to still reject Christ on the basis of letting the world’s concerns be our life’s priority. This is exactly what Christ warned against when He shared the parable of the 4 fields (Mark 4:1-20).
The Invitation of Christ Accepted
Books have been written about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), but in this moment I want to focus on the effect that Christ’s invitation had on her.
Jesus started early in the conversation by letting the woman know He had something of value to offer her, without coming right out and saying it. As their conversation unfolded, the Samaritan woman became more curious about what Jesus was saying.
Once the woman fully understood Jesus was talking about spiritual matters, the conversation accelerated. Samaritans and Jews had great animosity for each other, yet here was a Jewish man (in her mind, perhaps a prophet) who was opening the door for her to be a true worshipper of God.
At this point she stated her knowledge of the coming Messiah. Jesus comes right out and says that He is the Messiah (John 4:26).
In this moment, she understood that the invitation of Christ is open to more than the Jews. It was open to her as well.
While we may not understand fully from a word-by-word reading, the evidence suggests that the Samaritan woman accepted Christ’s invitation.
How? Because she immediately turned from a conversation with Jesus to spreading the Good News of His arrival to her townspeople.
Here again, we see that Jesus doesn’t beg us to accept His invitation. But as the story of the Good Samaritan shows, Christ loves us enough to help us understand His invitation to salvation. God sees us when we move towards Him and responds in kind (James 4:8).
The Invitation of Christ Deflected
The invitation of Christ is open to anyone; this invitation may be accepted or rejected. But sometimes, it is simply deflected away. A person may be sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit for a time, and then the time passes. This may have been the case when Paul was sharing the Good News as part of his defense before King Agrippa (Acts 26:1-32).
Paul was able to refer to actual historical events – those known to the listeners, as well as Paul’s own personal encounter with Christ.
One of his judges, Festus, said that Paul was insane. Even though the invitation of Christ is open to all, it appears Festus couldn’t believe Paul’s witness. Not from a matter of determining guilt, but a matter of faith.
However, King Agrippa, who was also hearing Paul’s defense, alludes to the conviction he felt when Paul addresses him directly. Agrippa’s reply betrays the truth that He is feeling conviction to believe – but is not there yet.
Another 4 verses, and King Agrippa disappears from the biblical record. Paul is sent to Rome, apparently without any further conversation between the 2.
Luke, being the first-rate historian he is, would likely have included a record of King Agrippa’s conversion had it happened. We cannot be absolute, but it would seem that Agrippa, while close, did not become a convert to Christ. If not, this makes his story one of the more tragic in the Bible.
Responding to the Invitation of Christ
Jesus, as the way of salvation, is qualified to give the invitation for salvation. Since the invitation of Christ is open to us all, everyone needs to ensure they are making the right decision.
To not accept the invitation of Christ means we have no hope for eternal life. All that awaits is eternal separation from Christ with a horrific future. The consequences for those who ignore Christ’s invitation are the same as for those who reject it, for we are all born into sin in need of a savior.
For those who have accepted Christ’s invitation, we need to be diligent to continue our surrender to Him every day as required by Christ. It is possible for us to reject Christ even after making an initial decision to follow Him, either by rejecting Him or deflecting Him. Thankfully, we are empowered to walk in the path of salvation by Christ Himself, as we abide with Him.
More Bible verses telling us the invitation of Christ is open to all:
Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 1:18; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9; Matthew 11:28-30; John 1:10-13; Revelation 3:20