I have heard this passage preached many times, and I have preached it that way, too, before my theological shift, and used it as a call to all, to come to Christ to be saved. But is this call for any and all, or is it for a particular set of people? Jesus proclaims this invitation:
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
As I have written before, there is always a means, there is always a context, to any passage in the bible, and there is no exception here. Let’s take a look at verse 28:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Now, the “all” here in verse 28, is it for “all mankind” or for “all those that are heavy ladened”? The word “all” rarely means “all mankind without exception” in the bible. In fact, here are a few examples to support my claim here:
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
So, was Caeser Augustus taxing the whole world, all mankind without exception, or just those under his authority?
18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
So, was the world, all mankind without exception gone after Jesus, or just those who were around Him at that time?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
So, did all mankind without excpetion believe John the Baptist was a Prophet, or just those surrounding the Pharisees?
Once you realize that “world” and “all” rarely means encompassing the earth, in that it doesn’t mean all mankind without exception, you can get a better understanding of the words “all” and world”. Now back to the passabe in Matthew 11.
Jesus is inviting all those who are wearied and heavy ladened to come to Him for rest. Sinners nowadays aren’t wearied and heavy ladened with their sins, but rather, enjoy them. I was that way one time, until God came in and changed my desires, and drew me to Himself. He changed my “want to” from serving the creature(myself), to serving the Creator(Him). It was then, that I realized what my sin had done to me, and a Godly sorrow set up in my life. I then began to seek after Him for His grace, love, and mercy. My sin had me burdened down, and I wanted to get that load off of me. God drew me all the way to the feet of Jesus, and He took that burden of sin off of me(Satan’s yoke of sin), and place His yoke upon me.
Now, to show you point blank that the invitation is for those who are wearied and heavy laden, only for those who God gave to the Son from before the foundation of the world, let’s delve a little deeper.
37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Jesus stated in verse 37 that all the Father has given me SHALL come unto Me, and none of them will I cast out. He didn’t say I will draw “all the world without exception”, but those who the Father gave Him. And they SHALL come; not that He would draw them and they could come if they chose to. They SHALL come to Jesus.
In verse 44, Jesus stated that no man could come to Him unless His Father which sent Him, would draw him. And He even went on to say He would raise them up at the last day. So if Jesus did, in fact, die for all, draw all, and raise all, you run right into universalism. Then you can read in John 10 where Jesus stated He was the good Shepherd and that the good Shepherd would give His life for His sheep. Then in John 17, He stated that He didn’t pray for the world(the goats), but for those who God have given Him, and not for them only, but those who would believe in their words.
So the inviation is a world wide invitation, but not for any and all without exception, but a world wide invitation to those who were given to the Lamb of God by God before the foundation of the world.