Let’s begin by using our imaginations. Let’s pretend for a few minutes that Christ Jesus did NOT ascend into Heaven after His resurrection. Let’s pretend that He is still preaching and teaching, ministering and miraclizing here on earth after 2,000 years. The Bible tells us that Jesus of Nazareth is actually the ETERNAL Son of God – incognito. It tells us that He is, has been, and always will be the great “I am that I am” – Jehovah. To His enemies He declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, BEFORE Abraham WAS, I AM” – John 8:58.
Of course, Christ was crucified as God’s sacrifice for sin; He was entombed, but then He arose. What if the eternal Son of God, did not leave the earth after His resurrection, and He is still here? In our text Jesus said to His disciples – and to us – “It is expedient for you that I go away.” And then He explained part of that expediency – the future ministry of the Holy Spirit. In addition to other reasons not mentioned, I’d like to add one more aspect of the necessity for Jesus’ departure. Because Christ is no longer here, He is far more ACCESSIBLE to those who need and want Him.
Let’s pretend that Jesus is still living and representing His Father in this world. Rather than using you and me as His ambassadors, HE is God’s primary representative and missionary. During the past 2 millennia He has traveled the world several times, preaching repentance and faith – in Japan, China, Africa, South America and in many of the major cities of Europe and North America. But, of course His home is in Israel. The focal point of His ministry is in Jerusalem, and He stays there 9 or 10 months out of the year.
And now YOU have become burdened about your sins; horribly convicted; terribly fearful of God’s judgment. Your addiction to sin has destroyed your day-to-day life. You are physically and emotionally sick unto death. Your former friends have all forsaken you; you have lost 10 jobs in rapid succession. You have tried rehab 3 times. You’ve made resolutions, writing them down until you have several journals full of them. You’ve attempted suicide as often as you have rehab, and you even failed at that. You have heard the message of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice and you’ve even listened to His voice via the internet. But you have the corrupted idea that YOU are as much responsible for your deliverance – as the Saviour. At the very least you believe you must touch the hem of His garment before you can feel the power of His saving grace.
So you go on-line to book a plane ticket to Israel in order to meet Him. Because it is the holy city, there are no flights into Jerusalem itself; you must land in Tel Aviv. The computer tells you that the cost is higher than to fly to any other place in the world – supply and demand governs the price. Thousands – it seems like millions – are trying to meet the Saviour – for a variety of reasons – good and bad. But you are willing to sell what is left of everything you own in order to purchase that ticket. Furthermore, you find that there are so many people flying to Israel that there are no seats available for 6 months – but you make a reservation for the earliest available flight.
Finally the day arrives and 16 hours after that you land in Tel Aviv, where you spend the night. You ask about transportation for the 55 mile drive up to Jerusalem. The new high-speed train and the many buses are all booked and extremely expensive, but you pull out your nearly maxed-out credit card and buy the necessary bus ticket. Getting aboard turns out to be a disaster, because the security is so tight your criminal record forbids it. So you begin walking, sleeping in orchards and under bridges for several days, getting more hungry by the hour, stealing a little fruit from the trees in the area. Eventually you reach your destination – Jerusalem, the City of God.
You know that the Lord Jesus holds daily services in the new state-of-the-art 120,000 seat Messianic stadium. The tickets are free, but you must wait 4 more days before there is an empty seat. By this time you are physically starving, and you go to a soup kitchen to stay alive long enough to meet the Saviour and to be saved. The appointed day arrives and you find your reserved seat; it’s in the 77th row in the northwest corner of the oval shaped stadium. There are more than 60,000 people between you and the platform below. Finally out comes Christ Jesus, quoting the scriptures and preaching the age-old gospel. It is a good thing there is a large screen display so you can see His face as He speaks. It seems like He is a mile away. When He finishes He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” At that invitation, 40,000 people leave their seats, pouring onto the floor of the stadium. By this time you are so weak that you can’t push your way through the crowd. After 3 hours of greeting the pilgrims, the Lord retires to His dressing room, but you have yet to meet Him. You are forced to leave the stadium, empty handed and empty hearted.
When Christ said, “It is expedient for you that I go away,” He opened a door which might never have been available – if He had remained on earth. Today, you and I have access to the Saviour, which didn’t exist even in the days of His incarnation. Today, everyone who wants the blessing of the Lord may have it.
Now, let’s make a quick survey of the Book of John to look at those who came to Christ.
I am confining myself to only one of the gospels, because otherwise the list would be too long. In John 1, we see a succession of future disciples coming to Christ. John the Baptist pointed to the Lord Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” At that moment, two of his disciples began stalking Christ until He turned around and began a conversation – which culminated in “come and see,” after which they spent the rest of the day with Him. One of those men, Andrew, then found his brother Simon Peter and reported what he had learned – “We have found the Messiah,” and he brought him to Jesus, who warmly accepted him – he was received. A day later, Jesus called Philip to follow him, and subsequently that man went out to find Nathanael. As Nathanael approached, the Lord Jesus accepted his company and began a conversation with him. All of these men were common Israelites, averagely religious, ordinary sinners and probably stinking of fish, but the Lord received them all.
In John 3 Nicodemus, avoided the crowds around Christ and covered his own embarrassment, arriving at night. Once again the Lord received Him; the man found the Lord accessible. He said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, expect God be with him,” so teach me. His understanding of Christ was limited and inaccurate, but at least he came to the right Person. And the Lord told him, “Verily, verily, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” In essence the Lord said, “Nicodemus, you must be spiritually regenerated or you will forever be lost.” Coming at night, the Lord had every right and should have denied him admission, but He didn’t. It didn’t matter whether it was at noon or midnight, the man had access to Christ. I can’t think of any other occasion when we read of someone approaching Christ at night, but there might have been some. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, which meant that he was powerful and probably wealthy. Rich and powerful men had access to Christ as much as did the poor and the sick. Christ’s door was open to a wide variety of people.
In John 4 the Lord Jesus was sitting alone near the mouth of Jacob’s well – outside of Sychar in Samaria. There He was approached by a solitary woman. She was alone because she was shunned by the good society people of the city – she had a horrible reputation and was at that point living in an adulterous situation. Avoiding a discussion of her own situation, she said to the Lord, “The Jews have no dealings with (us) Samaritans.” But Christ not only dealt with this sinful woman bringing her into His presence, He told her about her need of salvation. After she was born again, she went into the city, inviting anyone and everyone to – “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?” And a number of other semi-gentiles – dogs in the eyes of Israel – came out and Jesus received them. Then “many of the Samaritans … believed on him.” A different kind of people found that they had free access to Christ; the Lord forbade them not.
Later in that chapter a “certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum… went unto him that he would come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.” The Lord Jesus received him as well, and went to the man’s house and healed the child. The Lord has opened His arms to all kinds of people.
In John 5 we have the man at the pool of Bethesda. I really shouldn’t include him in this survey, because he didn’t actually approach Christ – he was crippled. Would he have come to the Lord if he could have? Probably I shouldn’t suggest that he would. But the Lord reached out to him and healed him. So here was a man who was horribly injured; his debilitation might be used as an illustration of the effects of sin, one of which keeps him from seeking an audience with the Lord.
In John 6 we have another group seeking the Lord. “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.” And the Lord met with them and blessed them. That great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles, and they wanted more free stuff. The thing to notice here is that the hearts of these people were not sincere. Oh, they sincerely wanted the Lord’s blessings, but they didn’t sincerely want the Lord Himself. They weren’t seeking spiritual salvation – They were seeking physical gratification. And yet, knowing precisely what lay in their hearts, Christ received them. We have more of the same kind of people in John 10.
In John 11 we have the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus. In the following chapter Mary and Martha celebrated the restoration of their brother, honoring the One who restored him to life. John 12:9 says, “Much people of the Jews … knew that (Jesus) was there, and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.” In other words they were there at the thanksgiving feast out of curiosity. I know that Jesus was a guest at Lazarus’ house that day, and the visitor list was not prepared by Him, but once again He didn’t push anyone away.
Later in that chapter, John 12, another special group of people came to the Lord. Verse 20 – “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast; the same came therefore to Philip…. and desired him saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.” And once again their wish was granted. Not only that, but they heard the voice of God the Father – although they thought it was a burst of thunder. But the point is, here is another group of people, people of a different culture, like the Samaritans, and they were received by the Lord just warmly the original disciples had been.
Before moving on, I’ll point to one more – the thief on the cross – who is not mentioned in John. Although the Lord didn’t say, “Come unto me,” that is what the man did. He didn’t walk over to the Lord; He didn’t come on bended knee. By faith his heart reached over a few feet to grasp the feet of Christ. And the Lord replied, “To day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
What am I trying to say in all this? During Christ’s incarnation anyone and everyone who wanted to meet the Lord could do so. Among them were the curious and insincere, there were common people, but also the rich and powerful. There were thieves and murderers. There were people in the deepest distress; people on the verge of death itself. And the Lord received them all. But He is no longer here on the earth; He is not in Israel, preaching in a 120,000 seat stadium. He is in glory, effectively a million miles away, and yet He still says, “Come unto me.” The Book of Revelation closes with an invitation on behalf of the Saviour – “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” If Christ was still here on earth it would be physically impossible to meet Him in the way it was before. But He is not here, and therefore we have even better access to Him than any had in the Book of John.
How can we meet the Saviour? In what manner must we come?
Ignoring those people who were only looking to satisfy their lusts or their curiosity, let’s think of the others. They came as they were; they acknowledged their true condition. Some were crippled by disease or accident, but they were all crippled by sin. They didn’t try to hide their condition or hide themselves form Christ the way that Adam and Eve did, except perhaps Nicodemus. I think we can say, based upon the revealed Word of God, that if we attempt to hide our wretched condition the Lord will not receive us. Christ saw through the tricks of the Pharisees and the lies of the Sadducees – pushing those people away. But those who honestly approached the Lord with hearts filled with needs found access.
One group approached with a sinful woman in tow; they wanted admission and access to the heart of Christ. They wanted Him to condemn the woman and in the process to create a problem for Himself. “When they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” “I will listen to you; I will respond to you – only when you acknowledge your own personal sins.” The lost man will not get a single Christian blessing until he admits that he is not a Christian. It was not until the Centurion of Matthew 8 admitted he was not worthy of access to the Saviour that the Lord met his need. He said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.” He might have said, “I am not worthy to come under thy roof, or into thy presence.”
If our heart is right, and our approach to the Saviour is with humility and repentance, we must also come with the same kind of faith as that centurion or the father of the lunatic child. “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” I mentioned the nobleman of John 4, “whose son was sick at Capernaum.” “When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.” At first it appears the Lord pushed him away, refusing to give him access, but that was not really the case. That nobleman had a grain of faith, albeit the size of a mustard seed. He said, “Sir, come down ere my child die.” The Lord was extremely busy at the time, but He recognized the faith and said, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” With that the man returned home, finding that his son had been healed at the same instant the Lord spoke. Then the Bible says, “he believed – he fully believed on Christ – and his whole house.”
Faith in God’s promise; faith in the Lord, is an essential requirement to access to Christ and His saving grace. Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Earlier He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Without faith you will never have access to Christ and His salvation.
But again, I point out that Christ is no longer physically here on earth. He ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. How can physical, earthly bound sinners find access into Heaven’s holy of holies? It doesn’t seem logical that we can just march into God’s throne room hoping for salvation – even if it is by faith.
That is right. Access is by invitation only. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” – John 6:37. But didn’t you hear Jesus’ invitation? He is in glory and yet He still says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” And I mentioned one of the last verses in the Bible – “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. and let him that heareth say, Come. and let him that is athirst come. and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” A much earlier verse comes from Isaiah – “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat.” Don’t you hear Jesus’ invitation? I don’t mean – don’t you hear with your ear. Can’t you hear the Lord speaking to your heart – your soul?
To the invitation of Christ – to the invitation of Christ’s bride and the Holy Spirit – I add my own invitation. You may think that to be a bit presumptuous, but actually, it is a part of my commission. I invite you to the go to the Saviour; I urge you to repent before God and take the tiny bit of faith which the Lord has given to you and reach out to Him. “Lord I believe that you are the Saviour; help thou mine unbelief to trust you as my own personal Saviour.”
Can’t you hear – or feel – the Holy Spirit inviting you to come to Christ this morning? Can’t you hear Him reminding you of your sinfulness and your need of Spiritual life? Can’t you feel your heart breaking apart – that is a part of the Lord’s invitation. You may have access to the Saviour, if you will respond to the wooing of the Holy Spirit. John 7:37 – “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” This may be the last day of your earthly feast. You still need the living water of life. You’ve heard the invitation of the Lord; will you come to Him?