I cannot remember how long ago it was that I noticed the activity, but it certainly was less than a year. A man walked into our church out of nowhere, looking for Jesus. He found him with some men who were sitting around a table with their Bibles open. He has since returned more than once.
Some time later another man with the same desire walked in. And then, after that, another man. Somewhere along the line a woman we had not seen in a couple years walked in. And then, just the other night, one we had not seen in many years gave me a call out of nowhere. I looked at my list this week and discovered that there are over 30 individuals/households on my 'immediate list' of people who recently have come to us in their search for Jesus.
I am not sure how Jesus got their attention (does it matter?), or how they were led to our church (same question), but I do know what Jesus was saying to them. "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11.28-30) Two other young ladies were responding to these words when I found them praying in the back pew on a recent Monday evening (sometimes, I guess, it is not just one-by-one).
These stories take me to a story Matthew tells a little earlier in his gospel. Jesus "saw a man named Matthew sitting at the toll booth, and he said to him, 'Follow me,' and he got up and followed him. ... When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' Now when (Jesus) heard this, he said, 'It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice. For I didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" (Matthew 9.9-13)
It does not matter if we are weary (like the crowds in Matthew 11) or if life is rolling along pretty well (like the man in Matthew 9), the words Jesus speaks to us all are the same, "Come to me. Follow me." And, one-by-one, day-by-day, people hear, and respond. And, as they sit in the presence of Jesus, they discover the simple truth that "man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Matthew 4.4; Deuteronomy 8.3)
Ever wonder why some phrases in this weekly publication are printed in blue? Read Matthew 4.4 again. Ever wonder why I send this to you each Thursday with those blue words all over the page? Go back to Deuteronomy 8.3. Ever wonder why I am constantly praying that those who read this - even once - will walk into our building (or one like ours) and join others as they all, together, get to know Jesus better? You know the reason.
In this day of preventative medicine and proactive healthcare, efforts that rightly compliment surgical centers and intensive care units, the words of Jesus from Matthew 9.13 take on additional meaning. "It is not JUST those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick, TOO" ... for "NO individual lives on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Thus, one-by-one, Jesus is saying to us all, "Come to me ... and I will give you rest."
And I pray that somewhere, one-by-one, we all find ourselves in this story.