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An Imperative Invitation? A Light Burden?

This morning I am preparing for next Sunday's service, which will be built around Isaiah 55 and Matthew 11:28-30.  Reading various commentaries the word 'invitation' is used to describe the 'come' in both passages, but then my more clever commentary reminds me that the 'come' in Matthew is actually an imperative - a command or mandate.  Alas I can't read Hebrew, don't have a Hebrew OT and don't even possess a clever commentary on Isaiah, so I don't know if the 'come' is imperative there.  But I am intrigued - can you have an imperative invitation?  Could you send out cards saying 'come to my party' which actually meant 'I command you to come to my party'?  And if you did, would people still feel at liberty to decline?  Intriguing stuff which I need to think more about, even if I don't pursue it in the sermon.

One thing I will be picking up is the fact that Jesus is not inviting people to put their feet up and relax, rather with his non-chafing yoke comes a 'light' burden.  Somehow this feels an interesting counterpoint to 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.'  Sometimes I think we see following Jesus as some sort of eternal insurance policy rather than a labour of love and service.  Sometimes I hear too much about burden-free Christianity, which clearly doesn't fit with what is said here.

In both of the readings it seems to me there is a command invitation to come to the source of refreshment and cleansing followed by an expectation of witness to the nations (Isaiah) or discipleship (which ultimately includes witness) out of which comes freedom, joy, peace and rest.  Well, that's what I intend to say to my people anyway!

If anyone can shed any light on the Greek or Hebrew verbs and how they relate to the idea of an invitation, I'd love to know your thoughts.


  • My ROOTS syllabi has Matt 14:13-21 - feeding the 5,000!
    My commentary on Isaiah says it is an imperative if that helps!

  • I wonder if what makes an invitation an imperative is not so much the grammar as the relationship and the expectation; who is it that is inviting me, and in what relationship do I stand to them? And expectation - what personal need do I feel that drives me to come.

    So the invitation to the wedding from the king is pretty much a command because of the relationship in which we stand; the invitation to 'come and drink' becomes imperative in so far as we acknowledge our thirst.

    Just a thought...

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