Dr. W. A. Criswell
December 17, 1944 10:50 a.m.
(original shorthand transcription courtesy Elizabeth Lewis Packer and Dorothy Lewis Ivey)
Invocation: F. M. Ryburn
Song by Congregation: "Majestic Sweetness"
Scripture: Romans 5: 1-10
Prayer: Dr. W. A. Criswell
Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, Thou hast been so wonderfully good and kind to us. No wonder men write songs and children and people sing of the mercy and goodness of God that endureth forever and ever; and at this season of the year, when so much is said of the birthday of our Lord, and the incomparable, inexpressable gift of God, are we full of thanksgiving and gratitude for Thy mercies toward us.
There are some, Lord, of our people who are in sorrow, and we pray that God will remember them. And our Lord, there are several here, who have said to Thy servant, that we will be praying today. "My husband is lost. I will be there. I have a boy, who will be there. And I have a friend and a neighbor and the whole family will be there. We will be praying that God will touch their hearts and bring them to Himself"; and our Master, we are asking of Thee, that You might so move upon the people, that when appeal is made, they will come. Oh, we will be glad if they do. There is not a little boy or a little girl who would respond to this appeal for Christ who would not make glad our hearts!
And, our Lord, some of us who have been saved for many years, we need our cups filled again. We need strengthening in the faith. We want enlarged, consecrated life. And our Lord, we pray as always, again, bless the lost and save them.
God bless us all and strengthen our hearts; and Master, we will thank Thee for it through Thy blessed name. We pray for every nation, that someday Thou wilt be known and worshipped by every mortal tongue. Our Lord, we are glad to confess Thee now and do ask these blessings to the glory of Thy name. Amen.
Solo: "Come Unto Me" from Handel’s Messiah – Mrs. M. M. Myers
Prayer: E. J. Zimmerman
Chorus: "The Good Shepherd" – Girls’ Choir
Sermon: Pastor Dr. W. A. Criswell
In the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, we read:
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. And said, Hail, King of the Jews!
– Sarcasm! Sarcasm! –
and they smote Him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man!
And that little expletive captured the imagination of the Greeks. And when it was translated into the Latin, that little expletive there captured the imagination of the Roman world. Idou ho anthropos! Ecce homo! And it captured the imagination of the whole Italian world. Idou ho anthropos, Ecce homo! And it has no less seized upon the imagination of the English speaking people wherever the Bible is known and read. Behold the Man! Behold the Man! Ecce homo! They have entitled some of the finest pictures that genius has ever painted…the identical words of my text…Behold the Man! Ecce homo!
There is something about the dramatic picture of Jesus here. There is something about His presentation to the world by a representative and dominant authority of the Roman government. There is something about that scene that has seized our hearts. And one of the ironic things about it is that…that was the definite, exact and precise purpose of Pilate when he did it. Pilate earnestly saw – a blind man could have seen it – that this Man delivered into his hands was an innocent man, a good and a just man. And having some sense of Roman law and justice, he sought to release that prisoner. And it was only after the tumultuous clamor of the angry and blood-thirsty mob that Pilate finally yielded before it and allowed Jesus to be sentenced [Matthew 27:22-25].
And after he had made up his mind to deliver Him to the crowd, the first thing was that He be scourged [John 19:1]. And the men who died on the cross died more by the violent flaying of that terrible whip than they did by the nails that were driven through their hands and feet. So preparatory to His death, Pilate had Him scourged and turned Him over to the Roman soldiers. The Roman soldiers, cruel and wicked in that day, thought to have a little laughter, buffoonery, fun and sport, while they were at that task; so, hearing Him called a king, and He being so opposite in appearance to what they thought a king to be, they crowned Him with thorns…and that was His diadem. They put on Him an old purple robe, as that was the color insignia for royalty. They put a reed in His hand…that was His scepter. They bowed before Him and said, "Hail, King of the Jews," and that did their hearts good; for who was more despised by the Romans than a Jew? [Matthew 27:27-31; John 19:2-3].
Well, Pilate, it seems, standing back saw the figure in the hands of the Roman soldiers, bloody from the terrible scourging, His face stained crimson from the drops of blood from the crown of thorns; and He was so pathetic and innocent, and a good man. There He was in the hands of the Roman soldiers, ridiculed and despised, and Pilate thought, That is one of the most beautiful figures I have ever seen! And a thought seized him. It might be, it might be, if I took that lonely man, despised and ridiculed, unoffended, if I took Him out and exhibited Him to that jubilant, crying throng, maybe there is enough common kindness in their hearts that it might be this man will be released.
So Pilate took Him from the soldiers and took Him from the judgment hall and took Him out to a pavilion where the Jews were gathered below, not permitted to enter a Gentile house. Pilate took Him out and put Him there on that pavilion and then stepped to the side and to that great maddened throng below said the words of my text: Behold the Man! [John 19:5].
Look at Him! Look at Him! Slay a man like that? Kill a man like that? Crucify a man like that? A good man, a just man, an innocent man … with retaliation, with malice, with hatred. Look at Him!
He intended by his act to incite the pity of the throng. It did not work. They just clamored all the more. But even though Pilate didn’t know it, my friend, it works with us, and it works with the world! There has not been in all time and history a scene that has ever seized the human heart like that scene with God’s Son crowned with thorns, stained with blood, standing before the buffoonery and denouncement and cruel condemnation of the world.
Look at Him! Behold the Man! Ecce Homo! Behold the Man! [John 19:5].
I want you to look at Him, as He was before the world was created. Is it not in the record!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" [John 1:1, 3].
Our sun and the stars, our earth and its majesty, our oceans and our mountains, our plains and our country…all of life, our existence created by Him. And now look at Him! The contrast staggers the soul. God’s Son, the Creator, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Savior of the universe. Look at Him! Bathed in blood!
I want you to look at Him in the manger, the first Christmas [Luke 2:16]. Mother Mary faithfully watching…the angels descending and ascending on golden stairs singing the prettiest song in human language [Luke 2:13-14]… "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace, good will toward men." Look at the shepherds as they come to worship Him [Luke 2:8-16]. Look at the wise men as they come and bring Him gifts [Matthew 2:1-2, 11]. Oh, the beauty! Oh, the peace! Oh, the promise and the hope of that first Christmas, when He came into the world, and now look at Him!
Look at this Lord of ours, as He walked among men…the gentle Lord Jesus, my Savior — not suffering there for Himself, for He was a virtuous man…Look at Him! "A bruised reed will He not break" [Isaiah 42:3], so kind and so good, so gentle and gracious, He wouldn’t even break a bruised reed. Talking to the people, visiting in their homes, teaching by the roadside, teaching by the seaside, laying His hands upon the sick, opening the eyes of the blind. He went about doing good, and the people loved Him, and the common people heard Him gladly [Mark 12:37]…everybody except the scribes and the envious rulers… everybody loved Jesus.
And now look at Him! Look at Him! Behold the Man, crowned with thorns and bathed with blood. Why, you know, you cannot think of that. You cannot look upon that without saying, "My God, my God, here is an awful thing. This is a terribly tragic thing!"
Hate wrought this. Whose fault is this? Whose hate did this? Who is guilty? Oh, some of us say that God did it. "God did it." That thought is too often among us. "God is unjust. God is unfair. God is unkind. God did it." Like Job’s wife said in Job’s sorrow, "Curse God. He is at fault. Curse God, and die" [Job 2:9]. It is God’s fault.
Some say that Jesus did that. "It is His own fault" they say. "He ought to have been a better manager. He made His own bed. Now, let Him lie on it. He got Himself into that position. Let Him get Himself out. It’s His own fault. It’s His own fault!"
"Pilate did it. Pilate, the mighty ruler…Pilate did it. Why didn’t he stand up? Why didn’t he defend our Lord? It is Pilate’s fault. He did it."
"No, the Jews did it. The Jews did it. They are guilty. They delivered Him. They condemned Him. They crucified Him. They did it. They killed the Prince of Peace. The Jews did it."
"The Roman soldiers did it. The men of war did it., They nailed Him to the cross. They broke His body. They put the thorns on His brow. They slew the Prince of Glory. The soldiers did it. The Roman soldiers did it."
I can hear them pleading. I can hear Pilate from two thousand years ago. I can hear Pilate as he said, "Oh, no, oh, no, I washed my hands. It was not my fault. I washed my hands" [Matthew 27:24].
I hear the Jews. I can hear their cry today after two thousand years, "We didn’t do it. Don’t blame that blood upon us and upon our children [Acts 5:28]. We didn’t do it!"
I hear the soldiers cry. "Sir, we were obedient to our orders. We slew and nailed and crucified because we were men under authority. We didn’t do it. No, we didn’t do it!"
Who did it? Who did it?
My brother, I suppose that we all had a part in it. My sins placed on His brow the crown of thorns, and my sins nailed Him to the tree. We all did it. We all did it.
"For this sin, preacher, in my life? Then I did it? My sins, my sins scourged Him? My sins crucified Him? My sins laid Him in the tomb"? Oh, how the goodness of God and the mercy of my Lord leads me to repentance!
"Say, wait a minute. You say my sins did that? You say my sins destroyed His life? You say my sins broke His heart? You say my sins nailed Him to the cross? You say that my sins laid Him in the tomb"?
"Then by God’s help, I repudiate my sin, and by His strength, and His forgiveness, I repudiate my sins. If they slew my Lord, then I am done with my sins. If they crucified my Savior, I am done with my sins. If they laid Him in the tomb, I lay aside my sins forever and forever. I repent me of my sins."
I asked one of the fine good men in my church one time, in a little church I pastored in central West Texas, how he came to be a Christian, and he said, "Well, when I was a boy," – he was then seventy years old – "When I was a boy, all of this country was open. Every man was a law unto himself." He said, "Almost every night I put a six-shooter in one pocket and put a flask of liquor in the other, and all of us boys would go out. We would have a big time at the dance, carousing, shooting, card playing. I had a good old mother. One of our boys was killed, and she got worried about her boys. One night I came home. I put up my horse and made my way down to the house in the wee hours of the morning, and as I passed by a little grove of trees, I heard somebody praying, and I stopped and listened, and stepped over quietly, and there was that old mother of mine, down there between two saplings, pouring out her heart for me and my wicked brothers. I went over there and lifted her up, and I said, ‘Mother, why, Mother, you should have been in bed hours ago. We are all right. We have guns. We are strong men. Don’t worry about us.’"
"’Listen, son, you are not all right, and I have said in my heart that I am going to pray for you boys every night you are out, until God saves you in your heart.’" That man said, "Every time I went out, when I came back, there in that clump of trees was that old mother of mine, praying for her boys. Preacher, it got to the place where I couldn’t stand it. Every time I went out on Saturday night, and each night I was gone, I knew that back there in the cold or the heat was that old mother of mine praying for her boys. One day I came in and said, ‘Mother, this is the last time I am going out. This is the last time, and, Mother, let’s see what God can do to save my poor soul.’ Preacher, that’s how I became a Christian. That’s the way it was!"
Does this thing break the heart of my Savior? Does this thing cause His heart to ache? Does this thing place the thorns on His brow? Does this grieve His heart? Then I am done with it, my Lord; I am done with it. I will repent me of my sins. I will give up my wicked ways. I will turn my back on the world and listen to my Lord. I am coming to Him. I will take my Lord unafraid and in love.
Look at Him! Look at Him! Why, men, there is not a heart that can look once earnestly and tenderly into the suffering face of our Savior, and not feel in his heart a response of love and gratitude. It is the goodness of God…the love and mercy of Christ that leads us to repentance. Oh, my soul, look at Him! No wonder Isaac Watts wrote,
Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree.
[from "At the Cross," Isaac Watts, 1707]
Behold my Lord! Behold the Man! [John 19:5].
Count Zinzendorf, walking through the Dusseldorf School of Painting, stopped directly in front of an Ecce Homo, one of those majestic paintings of our Savior suffering for us…a brilliant young fellow, just out of the university with his life before him… the young man stood transfixed before the marvelous picture, and underneath, he read the inscription:
"This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?"
As the young fellow looked at it, there came into his heart a consciousness of all God had done for him, and all His love and His grace and His mercy. "I have done nothing for Him." And the young count, as he looked and as he stood, said, "From now on, from now on, and from now henceforth, I shall give my life to the Lord Jesus!" And he did it. Oh, how he did it. There is not a country that has not been touched by this Moravian and his missions. How he did it! How he did it! And, my brother, you must do it too. You must do it too. This, He has done for us. Shall I break His heart? Shall I grieve His soul? Shall I crucify my Lord again? "This have I done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?"
Oh, it is a little thing…this little life of mine. But such as it is, here, Master, take it. You can have it. You can have it. It is not commensurate, I know, with Your ministry to me, but here, Lord, such as it is, You can have it. Here, Lord, here is my home. Here is my home. Here, Lord, I give You my all. And here are my children. Here, Lord, I give You my children.
Here, Master, is an influence. Not much I know, but such as it is, here is my influence. Here, Master, is all I own and possess. It is Yours, and here, Master, is my life and my soul and my destiny. Here, Lord, they are Yours, too. They are not much compared with the great goodness and love of God, but such as I am and such as I have, and such as I might be, here, Lord, You take them. I will give them to Thee. I will give them to Thee.
My friend, in a little different way I am inclined to tell you how to be a Christian. To look at Jesus and say, I quit me of my sins, I will rid my soul of them, By His grace, I will turn. I will head home. I am going to the Savior. I take Thee. I love Thee. I trust Thee. I give Thee my all. I will live for Thee. That’s what it is to be a Christian. I will repent me of my sins. They grieve You. I won’t crucify You. I love You! I will give You myself. That’s the way to be a Christian.
My brother, that is God’s open-hearted, open-armed invitation to you this morning. Bring your family. Brother, bring your family with you. That wife will come with you, if you will lead the way. There is hardly a woman I have ever met who, if her husband turned to her and said, "Let’s be done with our sins"…there is hardly a wife anywhere that won’t step out by the side of her husband. Let’s go together. You won’t have any trouble with your children. They will be right behind you. They will come next Sunday and the next. God will give you your children here, if you will give Him back your life, your influence, your prosperity. He will give it back to you a thousand times increased.
We do not lose life. This turning from the world to Jesus, we gain this life, the life to come and heaven and the world besides. Will you do it? Man and woman, young man or woman, boy or girl, coming into the fellowship of this church, coming to the Savior by faith and trust and love, this morning? By baptism…by letter, by rededication of life, as God shall lead the way; "I come, I come this morning. I am coming."
Our song is, "My Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the follies of sin I resign." Will you come, as we stand and as we sing?
(Five came trusting Jesus as Savior and for baptism, and sixteen came by letter.)