Journey to Jerusalem
February 28th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-54 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible tonight, turn to the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts: Acts 21, the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts. Acts 21. All right, we’re going to read Acts 21:
And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:
And finding a ship sailing over unto Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unladen her burden.
And finding disciples – seeking disciples – we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
When we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
When we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship and they returned home again.
And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Phillip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
And when he was come with us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him – besought Paul – not to go up to Jerusalem.
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done.
And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.
Now that’s far enough for us tonight; and then next Sunday, we’ll pick up there: take the journey up to the city of God.
As you read this outline of their trip from Miletus on the shore near Ephesus to Caesarea, as you read it, there are many things that those of you who in school have read in your history books; many things that come back to your heart and mind. There at Miletus, on the shore, beyond which is Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor: from Miletus, they sailed about forty miles down to the island of Coos. Now you remember that is the place where Hippocrates lived, and Hippocrates was the "Father of Medicine," the great Greek physician.
There was a temple there in Coos to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius; and they had a school of medicine there. And in the Greek world, when a young man wanted to be a physician, he went to the city of Coos. And he was taught there and attended the temple worship there. That must have brought to this beloved physician who is writing this story, Dr. Luke; it must have brought to his heart many memories as they stopped at the city of Coos.
Then from Coos, they went down about fifty miles, passing by the island of Patmos, and so came to the island of Rhodes and the city of Rhodes. The city of Rhodes is one of the great cities of the ancient world, and it’s a city beautiful today. Rhodes was the famous home of one of The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Do you remember what it was? The Colossus: the Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus was built on a rock in the harbor of the city of Rhodes.
Now that Colossus is an interesting thing, and because Paul was there and looked upon it, well let’s stop just a minute and speak of it. The Colossus of Rhodes was built on a rock, as I say, at the entrance into the harbor. And it was a bronze statue, a cast-bronze statue of Apollo, the sun god; and it towered about 120 feet high. It lacked about forty feet being as high as the largest bronze casting in the world, the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. But in that ancient world, it was a phenomenal thing. It was beyond anything that they had ever seen. A strange, medieval superstition said that the Colossus of Rhodes straddled the entrance into the harbor and that the ships went between the gigantic legs. Oh, not so, not so.
You could not conceive, for one thing, of a Greek with an artistic temperament and mind such as the Greeks had of ever casting a statue of Apollo in such an undignified manner, straddle-legged like that. No. It was a magnificent statue, and the top of his head was silhouetted against the sunray – a sunburst – and its upraised right hand held a gigantic torch. And the artist Chares, who cast it in 280 BC, so made it that there was a tower, that there was a stairway, a winding stairway on the inside that went clear up to the head. And the Rhodians built fires in the eyes of the great statue for beacon lights, in order that ships might be guided safely into the harbor at night.
Now it didn’t stand very long – for a very short time from 280 BC to 224 BC, just fifty-six years. And in 224 BC a gigantic, terrible earthquake pulled it down and the great Apollo collapsed into the sea; and it stayed there in the sea, a gigantic ruin, for over nine hundred years.
Now, when Paul visited the city of Rhodes, the great Colossus, the great statue was a heap there, broken down into the sea. And Pliny who visited Rhodes and saw that statue about the same time that Paul did, Pliny wrote of it like this, and I quote from him:
Even as it lies, it excites our wonder and imagination. Few men could clasp the thumb in their arms and the fingers are larger than most statues. Where the limbs are broken asunder, vast caverns are seen yawning in the interior. Within to are to be seen large masses of rock, by the aide of which the artist steadied it while erecting it.
[from Natural History, Book XXXIV, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), 77-79 A.D.]
Now when Paul came to the island of Rhodes, he saw that great bronze statue broken and lying there in the sea in the harbor. Now let me carry it on through – won’t take but a moment. The end of that Colossus was most humiliating. In 672 AD, when the Saracens overran Anatolia and captured the island of Rhodes, they sold, in 672 AD, they sold the great statue to a Jew. And he cut it up and put it on hundreds and hundreds of camels and sold it for scraps of bronze, and it was made into implements of war. That’s the end of the statue at Rhodes. And what a humiliating thing for such a glorious wonder of the world to wind up in somebody’s shrapnel, or somebody’s machine gun, or somebody’s bullet, or somebody’s sword or instrument of war, but so is the turn of life.
And do you ever sit down sometimes and think, "I wonder what the end will be of the Statue of Liberty when some day a foreign foe comes to America, cuts her down and burns her up and melts her for scrap?" Did you ever think about things like that? Well, the Good Book says there are days coming like you never saw, like you never saw [Matthew 24:21-22]. And whether we live or whether we die depends upon the judgment of Almighty God. It doesn’t depend upon our atomic bombs, and it doesn’t depend upon our jet planes, and it doesn’t depend upon our flattops in the navy, nor does it even depend upon that atomic submarine. It depends upon the judgment of Almighty God.
That brings us to that next city that they stopped at: they stopped at Tyre. And doesn’t that name Tyre bring back to you a lot of things? In Isaiah and in Ezekiel, in the days of those prophets, Tyre was a great commercial center of the world [Isaiah 23:10; Ezekiel 27:1-25]. Her ships covered the face of the earth. She was lifted up – one of the great mercantile, maritime cities of all of the generations – but Isaiah and Ezekiel prophesied the day when there’d be nothing there and the fisherman would spread their nets and dry them where the teeming harbor and where the people were trafficking in merchandise [Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 27:27-36]. When Paul visited the city, it had already lost the glory of the day of Isaiah and of Ezekiel, but it had not come into the desolate fulfillment of those terrible prophecies. For those prophets said, "You cannot forget God and live" [Isaiah 23:8-9; Ezekiel 28:1-10]. And that name of Tyre is a proverb in keeping with the fulfilling of the Word of God [Isaiah 23:15-18; Matthew 11:20-22; Luke 10:10-14].
Do you remember Kipling’s recessional?
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp, and strength, and glory of yesterday
Are one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
["Recessional," by Rudyard Kipling, 1897]
So they stopped at Tyre. There the ship was to unlay her burden [Acts 21:3]. It took on a new load, traded; Tyre was the mercantile center of the ancient world. And finding disciples there, they tarried seven days [Acts 21:4].
You know, as I read the Scripture and thought through this message tonight, brought back to a like experience that I had over there in that part of the earth. Landing at Tyre, finding certain disciples, they tarried there seven days [Acts 21:4]. When we landed at Istanbul – old Constantinople, the old capital of the Byzantium Empire – when we stopped there, it was raining. And there was a tall, fine-looking young Greek who was standing beyond the immigration gate out in the rain with an umbrella over his head; and everyone that passed by, he asked them, "Are you the Baptist missionaries from America? Are you the Baptist missionaries from America?" And he stood there at the gate where the people who had passed Immigration and Customs were going out into the city and asked each one of them that question.
So when Dr. McCall and I came to the gate, that young Greek was standing there in the rain with that umbrella over his head. So he asked us, "Are you the Baptist missionaries from America?" We answered him by another question and found that he was looking for us for Tom Holloway had written over there to the American Bible Society that on such and such day, and on such and such plane, we were to land in Istanbul. So we went with that young man to the hotel. It was in the evening. After we had registered and had deposited all our baggage, we went out with the young man to eat. He took us to a native restaurant and ordered for us. We were very hungry like wolves. He ordered for us a marvelous meal. So when the waiter came with all, a marvelous repast, a bountiful meal, the waiter only set the table for two – for Dr. McCall and for me.
So I looked over at the young Greek, and I thought in my heart, "Now, he’s too poor to order a meal for himself. It must be something like that." So I said to him, "There are only places for two here – settings for two. Are you not going to eat with us? Remember, you are our guest, and we’d love to have you." And he said to us, he said, "No, this is Wednesday, and Wednesday is my fast day. I never eat on Wednesday. I give the day to fasting and to prayer for my people and for this great city."
After we had eaten, he asked us, he said, "Every Wednesday night we have a prayer meeting in my home. Would you like to come?" I was so tired from the long journey I could have just collapsed, but he was so kind and inviting that I said, "Why certainly. Sure we’ll go."
So I said, "Where do you live?"
He said, "I live across the Bosporus in Asia Minor."
Well it was already late at night. I said, "Do you mean to tell me they’ll be over there in a prayer meeting this late?"
He said, "Yes, because they think you’re coming."
So we went. We got on a boat, in the Golden Horn there at Istanbul, and crossed the Bosporus; and I stepped foot on Asia for the first time in my life going to a prayer meeting in the home of this Greek, Thomas Kosmotun. We made our way over to his home.
And by the way, if I could parenthesize just a moment there – when we got on the streetcar in the city, in Asia Minor across from Istanbul which is in Europe – when we got on the streetcar there, right in front of us was the biggest man I ever saw in my life. And I turned to Thomas Kosmotun, and I said, "That man. Look at him – a giant of a man!"
He said, "Yes, sir, that’s the most famous citizen in Asia Minor." He said, "He’s the biggest man in the Turkish Empire." A giant of a man! Oh! He was as big as the Colossus at Rhodes almost. I stared at him so long looking at his fingers, and his hands, and his feet, until he went to a little place in the streetcar and pulled down a shade between me and him; made me feel kind of self-conscious.
Well we went over there. We went over there to the home of this boy. And though it was about eleven o’clock at night, or twelve, we found a little company of Christian people there. There were several Armenian Christians, a Greek or two belonging to this family, and a Turk or two; and we had our service that night.
And when I hear people criticize the Voice of America – being in foreign countries so long not able to read the newspapers; we were not able of course to keep up with the news. But after our prayer meeting, he turned on a shortwave radio set, and I heard the Voice of America; so it sounded it good to me. That was the first time for days that we had heard anything of the "news of the world" as [Voice of ] America would say it.
Well we returned back home, back to the hotel, got in about between one and two o’clock that morning, but it was worth it. The next day we went with the boy to the little band of Christian people who meet in Istanbul – a little company, just like this little company here.
Out of a city of way beyond a million people, I suppose there are not as many evangelical Christians as would fill that little space right in there. Oh, it broke your heart! Broke your heart! I never saw such a cosmopolitan city in my life: Russians, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Slavs, Yugoslavians – every kind of nationality in the world there in Istanbul. One of the tremendous opportunities of the world and that little handful of people; and the rest of that vast city lost, lost!
So Paul, coming here to Tyre, saw a little handful of Christian people and met together with them. Then, after spending seven days there, went on his journey [Acts 21:5]. As he faced that journey toward Jerusalem, everywhere that he went, the Holy Spirit said, "When you go to Jerusalem, bonds and imprisonment await you" [Acts 20:23, 21:8-11].
And the next sermon I preach on this is going to be entitled The Beginning of the End. It isn’t long now until Paul comes to the end of his life. Went up to Jerusalem, bound there [Acts 21:15, 27-23:22]; sent to Caesarea, bound there [Acts 23:23-26:32]; sent to Rome, bound there [Acts 27:1-28:29]; liberated for just awhile, sent back to Rome, and martyred. And everywhere, everywhere, the Holy Spirit said to Paul as he made this journey back to Palestine, "When you go to Jerusalem, bonds and imprisonment await you" [Acts 20:23; 21:8-11]. But how did Paul face it? You look at him. And now, he says:
Behold, I go to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there;
save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself,
Whether I live or whether I die; that’s nothing at all:
I am finishing my course in this ministry,
to testify the gospel of the grace of the Son of God.
So here in Tyre, the Holy Spirit said to him, "As you go up to Jerusalem, bonds and imprisonments await you" [Acts 20:23]. And then when he came to Caesarea, there came down from Jerusalem this prophet, Agabus, who took the girdle around his loins – that belt by which a man dressed in an Oriental garment would raise up his toga – he took that away from Paul, unbound it. And Agabus bound his own hands and his own feet, and he said, "Thus saith the Holy Spirit, `So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’" at whose hands Paul died [Acts 21:10-11]. And when all of the company heard that from this prophet Agabus, they pled with him, "Paul, Paul, don’t go to Jerusalem. It means bonds, afflictions, imprisonment and death. Don’t go!" [Acts 21:12].
But Paul answered, "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" [Acts 21:13].
May I say something to me and to us about that thing? You and I are brought up on that old axiom that self-preservation is the first law of life. That’s the first thing we must do is look out for ourselves. That’s the way we are brought up. That’s the way we are taught. "First, I must look out for myself – that I am provided for, that all of my necessities are met. I must live the first law of life."
When you look at these men who followed God, that’s the last consideration! I don’t have to live! You don’t have to live. What we must do is just this one thing: the will of the Lord be done. If it’s to live or to die, it’s in His hands. That’s why we’re so torn up, and so messed up, and so full of ourselves. We think thus and so and thus and so, and it has to be just this way when all of the time it doesn’t matter – not at all. All that matters is that the will of the Lord be done. And Paul was fearless, and any man is fearless who faces life like that. "Whether I live, that’s in God’s hands. Whether I die, that’s in God’s hands. Whether I succeed, that’s in God’s hands, or whether I fail, that’s in God’s hands. Whether I’m strong or weak, whether I’m well or sick, it’s in God’s hands."
One of these young men, returning back to Africa to be a missionary, and the physician says to him, "Such a waste of life! You cannot live. If you’ll stay here you can, but if you go back to Africa you will die!" And the young man replied, "Sir, in the building of a bridge there are many great stones in the foundation that are buried and that are never seen. I am one of those stones. I’ll go back to Africa. I shall die; but God takes the sacrifice of what we call ‘a wasted life,’ and on it God builds His kingdom in earth and in heaven."
Afraid? Afraid? "You go to Jerusalem and bonds and imprisonments await you." Was he afraid to go? Would you be? Afraid? Even a Roman soldier was disgraced if he trembled before danger. And a Spartan, a Lacadaemonian, was taught never to retreat in the face of an enemy; and when they fought, they stayed there ’til they won or they died in the battle. Paul had laid everything on the altar – everything – and the details of the final oblation were as nothing. Whether he suffered in prison, whether he was afflicted, whether he was in bonds or in chains, his life had been given to God; and how it was spent and how he died was in God’s hands. The will of the Lord be done. Fearless? That’s the Christian! Courageous? That’s a Christian! Unafraid? That’s a Christian! Looking ahead, going on great confidence in the Lord God, that’s a Christian. That’s a Christian!
One of the pastors I talked to this week-before-last on this trip through the East, I asked him why he didn’t go on such and such journey through Europe, and this was his answer. He said, "At the time for me to go, there was an epidemic in my city – a virus – and my people were sick, sick, sick." And he said, "Had I left, it would have looked – it would have seemed as if that I was running away. I was afraid. I was leaving my people in the face of an epidemic." And he said, "Rather than that my people think that I would leave them in a time of need, I forewent my journey to Europe and stayed with them and ministered to them in their illness."
Like the pastor of the First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, some time ago when that city was struck with Yellow Fever, they pled with the pastor of the First Baptist Church, "You leave. You leave. If you stay here, you’ll die. You leave! You leave!" He said, "Why certainly I’ll not leave. Certainly, I’ll not leave. I’ll stay here to minister to my people and to bury our dead." And he stayed, and he caught that Yellow Fever, and he died; but he was a true minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. Courageous, fearless, devoted, loyal, true unto death! That’s what it is to be a Christian.
That has characterized God’s people through all the centuries. When they were fed to the lions, they were fearless and unafraid. When they were burned at the stake, they were fearless and unafraid. I stood by the townhouse, the courthouse, in the city of Zurich, Switzerland; and it’s built right by the side of the Lamont River that empties from the Zurich Lake into the Rhine. And there by the side of that townhouse, in the blue waters of the Lamont River, they took our Baptist preacher who lived about three hundred years ago; and his name was Felix Manx. He was a Baptist preacher, and they said, "So you like water? Water? Well we’ll give you lots of water!" And they took him and bound him, and they drowned him there in the blue waters of the Lamont River, fearless and unafraid. I looked on the monument in Oxford, England to [Hugh] Latimer and to [Nicholas] Ridley – two men of God who were burned at the stake, burned at the stake – courageous and fearless.
In 1947, as I looked on the faces of those German preachers – our brethren who’d gone through the Nazi persecution fearless and unafraid. And in 1950, gathered with those Baptist V. P.’s from the Ukraine, and White Russia, and from Latvia, and Estonia, from Poland, and from all of those places beyond the Iron Curtain countries, in preaching. I preached through three interpreters, two on one side and one on this. And every one of them had known what it was to lose house, and home, and possessions, and country, and friends, and to go out a stranger and a refugee in the name and for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ fearless and unafraid. What it is to be a Christian – going to Jerusalem to bonds, and to imprisonment, and to death – but going fearlessly, courageously, trusting in the providences, and the will, and the ultimate destiny and victory of God.
And now, to some of you young people, may I say a final little word? That’s the reason that sometimes I marvel. I marvel at you. I marvel at you. Sometimes I do. You meet a problem like this: "All of that crowd over there, look what they’re doing; and if I don’t do what the crowd does, I’m isolated, and ostracized, and set out here by myself." And so you wilt, and you cower, and you cringe, and you tremble, and you are afraid, and you give in, and you compromise, and you streamline, and you conform. And I marvel at you. I marvel at you. What if all of them are on that side? How about you and Christ standing alone? How about it? How about it? Courageously, fearlessly! "I don’t care what they do and how many of them there are doing it, and what way they go, and how many are going. I’m walking with the Lord this way, this way, this way."
So I go on not knowing, – I would not know if I might;
I had rather walk with Christ in the dark than to walk by myself with sight.
I had rather walk with Him by faith than to walk by myself with sight.
[From "Not Knowing," by Mary Gardiner Brainard, 1869]
Fearless, unafraid, standing – you and Christ together going to Jerusalem, to Caesarea, to Rome, and to death with God! That’s enough; that’s enough. To live or to die, it’s in His hands; it’s in His hands. "The will of the Lord be done," and he turns his face to the final triumph in Christ.
Well, that’s our appeal to you tonight. That’s our appeal to you tonight. Would you do that? Would you do that? With the Lord? With the Lord? "Preacher, in Him, with Him, for Him, by Him, to Him, I yield and dedicate my life and here I am; and here I am trusting Him, going all the way with Him. Here I am, and here I come."
Would you do it? Would you do it? Is there a family of you to come into the church tonight? Is there a you, somebody you? As God makes appeal, as He opens the door, will you make it now? Will you make it now? "Preacher, I’m coming on confession of faith in the Lord Jesus. I’m giving Him my heart and my life, and here I come. Preacher, I’m coming by statement or by letter. I’m coming by baptism; I’ve settled this thing with God, and here I am, and here I come. I’m giving my life to Him in a new way by re-consecration." In the balcony around, from side to side, anywhere, as God shall make appeal, would you make it now? "I’ll make it now. I’ll make it now." While we stand and while we sing.