Jesus Is Passing By
February 22nd, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
JESUS IS PASSING BY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-22-59 7:30 p.m.
Now, with the pastor, let us all turn to eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke; Luke chapter 18. And we begin reading together at the thirty-fifth verse. Luke 18:35, and we read to the end of the chapter. Luke 18:35, we all have it? Luke 18:35. Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Third Gospel, the eighteenth chapter and the thirty-fifth verse. And the title of the sermon is Jesus is Passing By. Now let us read it together, Luke 18:35:
And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
And he cried, saying, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me . . .
And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him,
Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
And the text: "And they told him, that Jesus was passing by" [Luke 18:37]. This is the last journey of our Lord, beginning in Samaria, and through Galilee, and across the Jordan River, down through Perea, then back across the Jordan and to Jericho, up to Jerusalem to crucifixion and to death [Luke 23:26-46]. And on this journey, as He walked, a crowd of people began to press upon Him as He entered Jericho. And by the wayside, there sat a blind man begging [Luke 18:35].
If I could draw a picture of Palestine and one that accurately displayed the people and portrayed their life, I think I would do it with a beggar on the road, and a blind beggar or one most crippled and disfigured. That’s true all over of the Arabic world. And they have a word, "baksheesh, baksheesh, baksheesh, baksheesh," wanting something, "baksheesh." And if you have ever been anywhere in the Arab world, that will be the most impressive thing you will see or notice about it: the poor, the poor, beyond any poverty that you could ever know. You think you have seen poor people: oh, the poverty of the illiterate, and the downcast, and outcast, and forgotten, the flotsam and jetsam of the Islamic world. We were driving on the side of the road up to Mt. Olivet, and parked the car, stopped, and a typical blind man on the wayside heard the car stop. And he came up and with his hand felt of the car. And evidently, from overhearing conversation or from the feeling of the car, felt that we were English speaking people. So he felt his way up to the front and said one word. I wish I could repeat that word with the same intimation that he did; I can just hear that ringing in my head for these years since. As he felt his way up to the front of the car, he repeated one English word, and it was this: "Blind, blind, blind, blind." This blind man sitting by the wayside, how representative he was; "Blind, blind,And hearing the crowd pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, Jesus is passing by" [Luke 18:35-37].
Now, evidently, in some way we’re not told, he had heard about Jesus and knew something of Him, because when he addressed Him he said, "Thou Son of David." How did he know He was David’s Son? "Thou Son of David," born in Bethlehem; we think that was a treasured secret kept in His mother’s heart. "Thou Son of David," so he heard about the Lord. And that meant he knew of the wonderful power that lay in His hands. So he called out, "Thou Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me" [Luke 11:38]. And they who were with the crowd, you know, passing by, all of the hullabaloo, the bandwagon, all the rest that goes with a popular leader – when he hits the town everybody knows it, and he hasn’t time for the poor, he hasn’t time for the downcast, the outcast, the down and outs, the poverty stricken, the lost, the afflicted, the disfigured, the blind, the halt, the lame, why, it’s the mayor of the city, or the president of the country, or the leader of the political parties of the nation; it’s the great that entertain them – that’s the way it always is. And I suppose when this Prophet of Nazareth came into Jericho, and the crowd pressed upon Him, I suppose all of the fine of the city were there to look upon Him. One of the rich was there, one of the richest of the city was there; tells a story just after this, that man Zaccheus [Luke 19:1-10]. They were all there to hear Him and to see Him. And so when this blind man, when he cried out, saying, "Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me," why, they who were in the vanguard rebuked him: "Shut your mouth, hold your peace. The Great Prophet doesn’t have time for you; He is busy with matters of the world. Why, the whole universe is on Him. He sustains it all, this great Man, this famous Prophet. Shut your mouth, hold your peace, don’t bother; you’re disturbing the crowd. He cried out so much the more, Thou Son of David, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me" [Luke 18:38-39].
And He who holds the worlds in His hands, and He who directs all the celestial hosts of glory [Philippians 2:9-11], and He who is ordained the heir of all things [Hebrews 11:2], He stopped and commanded him to be brought unto Him, and asked him why he called [Luke 18:40]. If you don’t want God to pay attention to you, don’t you pray; because God bows down His ear to hear when people pray [1 John 5:14]. And God listens and God asks what you want. And He asked this poor blind beggar, "What do you want?" And he said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight" [Luke 18:41]. May I remind you: when you think you’re poor, when you think you are forsaken, and when you think life is harsh with you, can you see? Can you see? I’d rather have my eyes than all the money in all the banks of America; I wouldn’t trade, I wouldn’t consider it. I can see. O, thank God. I can walk, thank God. I can hear, I can move my hands, I can think, I have my mind.
"What would you like?" What would you have said? He was blind, and he said, "Lord, that I might see." And Jesus said – what was it I spake this morning? "He upholds the worlds by the word of His power" [Hebrews 1:3]; He speaks it and the thing is in orbit, or the sun shines, or the moon reflects the splendor and the glory of our universe, or we live, or we see, or we’re saved, by the word – and Jesus said, "Receive thy sight: thy faith opened the door. And he received his sight, and followed Jesus, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, praised the Lord" [Luke 18:42-43]. Now all of that came to pass because of the importunity of that blind man. Jesus is passing by, just one opportunity, just one. When Jesus entered Bethany, Bethphage, Jerusalem, it was the week of His Passion; it was the week of the Passover, it was the week of the crucifixion [Luke 19:29]. Jesus never came that way again. That blind man, hearing that Jesus passeth by, cried aloud; and when they said, "Hush, be still," they rebuked him, "He cried out all the more, Thou Son of David, remember me, have mercy on me." And he was healed; and he received his sight, and he was saved: "Thy faith hath saved thee" [Luke 18:42-43]. It was his one, only opportunity; and had he not called, it would never have come, for Jesus passes by.
What a parable for the centuries and what a parable to our lives: our Lord passes by. Through the years, through the vista and the corridor of time, reaching up toward eternity, Jesus passes by. And through the years, and the centuries, and the times, and the days, He comes into our lives, into our little world. And when He comes, there we meet Him. Some of us meet Him in childhood as He passes by and comes to our house, and knocks at our door and speaks to us; we meet Him in childhood. I met the Lord as a child; knew Him, was introduced to Him, was taught His name, embraced His faith, accepted the overtures of His love and mercy and grace, and accepted Him as Savior when I was a child. And the Lord comes, and He passes by; and those great golden opportunities, how precious they are when they are seized. I was left in Ijuin in southern Japan without anybody to speak for me. And not being able to talk the Japanese language, they secured the professor of English in the high school there; and he was an atheist, an avowed atheist. But, I had to have an interpreter; somebody who could speak English and understand Japanese. So in the weekend revival I held in Ijuin, my interpreter was the professor of English in the high school. I spoke in the high school, and God wonderfully, wonderfully blessed that service. And God met with us in those services of the weekend revival. And when I got through and the sermons were done, that English professor turned to me and said, "And sir, I not only believe in God now, but I also take Jesus Christ as my personal Savior," and gave me his hand. Jesus passes by; and as He does through the time and through the centuries, and reaching even unto us, many, many of us are quickened and accept Him joyfully and gladly.
Oh, if you could have time to listen tonight, how we could speak of these who have found the Lord when Jesus came to them. They write such beautiful things about Him:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy precious side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
["Rock of Ages"; Augustus M. Toplady]
More, more about Jesus,
["More About Jesus"; Eliza E. Hewitt]
O how I love Jesus,
["O How I Love Jesus"; Frederick Whitfield]
Sweetest Name in seraph song,
Sweetest carol ever sung,
Jesus, blessed Jesus.
["The Great Physician"; William Hunter]
Why, they’re written by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands, as they have met Jesus in the way.
But as He passes through the centuries and through time and through years, oh, what a different reception does He receive. Some of them violently reject Him and oppose Him. In the days of His flesh, those enemies of the temple and of the Sanhedrin who encompassed His death; what bitter, blasphemous enmity in Annas and Caiaphas, and the leaders of the Sadducees and the Pharisees [Matthew 26:57-67]. And then as Jesus passes through the time, Demetrius the silversmith, whose idols are no more worshiped and bought and treasured, as Jesus passes by and the idol temples are vacant, and the little old idols he sold for personal worship at home are unwanted and unbought; and he hates the gospel, and he hates the church, and he hates the Lord [Acts 19:24-29]. People who make a traffic out of destroying human life, Jesus passing by, they are born enemies. Then through the centuries as He passed by, there were those who opposed the faith that He represented. We’ve never had a more bitter or caustic or learned critic than Celsus, who lived in the second century. All of these blasphemous things reiterated, repeated by Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, and Bob Ingersoll, and all the other infidels of the world are nothing other but a repetitious repeating of those same blasphemous things that were said by Celsus. As the Savior began to reach into the hearts and the homes and the lives of people, and He passed through the centuries, and the bitter rebuke, and the terrible blasphemous opposition from men like Nietzsche, and finally in our day, coming to an organized governmental resistance to the preaching of the name of Christ; this is the first time in the history of the world that atheism as such, has ever been organized and has ever controlled a government. The Greek might inquire at the oracle of Delphi, and the Roman, before he went to war, first propitiated the gods; there has never been any government, any culture, any life, any people who set itself in atheism to blaspheme and destroy the name of God our Savior, except in your day and in your lifetime.
I saw a cartoon that was written and drawn and published in Russia, one of the most blasphemous things I ever looked upon in my life. There was in the foreground pictures of churches, and they were all smashed and broken. And there in the main part of the cartoon was a ladder leaning against a cloud. And on top of that cloud were caricatures of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And up at the top of the ladder was a Soviet workman with a hammer raised in his hand. And underneath was the caption in Russian that was translated for me, and it said, "As we have destroyed religion in the earth, we shall destroy Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in heaven," just very typical of the bitter opposition to Jesus as He passes through the centuries and reaches down to our present day.
But for us, in our time, in our generation, in our season of life, there is very little of the blasphemous; very, very little of the overt avowed opposition; just mostly He passes by. No particular bitterness, no terrible blasphemous tirade, no overt and actual opposition; but for most of us, it is just that He passes by. Sometimes He passes out of our lives and beyond our day of grace and opportunity, sometimes He passes because of a vast, and colossal, and imperturbable, and unreachable, unbreakable indifference: just don’t care. There might be a thousand sermons preached, matter of indifference; might be a hundred revival meetings held, absolutely indifferent; might be a multitude of invitations offered, absolute indifference: just pass it by.
One of the young men, just out of his chemical education, a chemical engineer, out of his scientific education, came to the city to work in one of the great industrial institutions in the city. And I had a personal contact with him because of the family, a personal interest in him. And when I tried to get him to come and tried to appeal that he come, he brushed me off: "I have no interest. I have no time. I have no inclination." And as the days passed and I sought to press the appeal, it was altogether with an indescribable indifference and finally a word: "I do not wish to be called. I do not wish to be invited. I just wish to be left alone." Oh! these things, and how sometimes they end in such tragedy. He became sick, suddenly, suddenly, suddenly. He was as strong and well as I am tonight; he became sick suddenly. The family telephoned for me, and I went to the hospital; and he died that midnight; Jesus of Nazareth passeth by; the tragedy, the hurt, the sorrow, the indescribable loss of just passing by, just passing by.
And sometimes He passes out of our lives through a lack of realization that He is here. We can see the lights, and the pews, and the choir, and the pastor, and the pulpit desk; but we don’t realize the presence of Jesus, and we’re looking for some – I do not know what – is it an angel from heaven? Is it a light? Is it a monstrous experience alien to the mind of God? But we don’t realize that the Lord is here, and He passes by and out and beyond our lives. One of the stories that stayed in my mind as a youngster was of a man who was sentenced to die in the penitentiary in Pennsylvania. And in that day, there was a good Christian man who was governor of the state; his name was Pollack, Governor Pollack, a noble Christian man. And appeal was made to this Christian governor by the mother of the condemned man. And out of deference to her tears and her love, he called the warden and said, "I’m coming to see the prisoner. I want to be locked in the cell with him. But don’t tell him who I am." So, the governor made his way to the penitentiary, and the warden took him to the cell and locked him in the cell with the condemned man. And the warden left them alone; and the governor talked to the condemned man. Oh, what an opportunity, what a day, what an hour; it was life itself. He never realized it. And the prisoner who had opportunity for life, the prisoner was indifferent, and unconcerned, and surly, and unrepentant! After a while, why, the door was unlocked and the stranger went away. And when the stranger left, the keeper of the prison said, "You know who that was?" And the prisoner shrugged his shoulder and indifferent said, "No." And the keeper said, "The man was the governor of the state." And the prisoner cried, "Oh, would God somebody had told me!" Why, he’s just typical; he’s just typical.
In that great and final judgment day of the Lord, when we stand before God and are lost [Revelation 20:11-15], there shall come before our mind the memory and the memory and the memories of the times when all it was to go to Jesus was to step into the aisle and down to the front, when all it was to be saved was just to open the heart to the loving appeal of Christ. But we didn’t realize that it was He; and the day passed, and Jesus went beyond the pale of our acceptance, and our repentance, and our salvation. Jesus of Nazareth passeth by, and His form grows more indistinct, and His footsteps are fainter, and the heart is harder. And sometimes you’ll hear a man say, "Oh, I wish I could feel again as I felt back there, when my heart was quickened and I said, No, no, no."
"And they told him that Jesus passeth by" [Luke 18:37].
Ah, my friend, this is the season of hope and grace.
Jesus passeth by.
This for salvation is the time and place;
Jesus is passing by.
["Jesus Is Passing By," Elisha A. Hoffman]
Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee; behold, this is the accepted time, behold, this is the hour of salvation.
[Isaiah 55:6-7; 2 Corinthians 6:2]
Jesus is passing by. And He stops at your pew. And He offers His hand where you sit. Tonight, would you place your hand in the nail-pierced hands? "Tonight, I accept the love and mercy and grace of Jesus, as Lord and Savior; and here I am, and here I come." Would you do it tonight? Would you make it now? Would you?
This great throng of people in the balcony round, somebody you, coming down this staircase at the front, at the back, would you come up to the pastor and say, "Pastor, tonight I make that great, humble decision for Christ; in repentance and in faith I turn to Him, and here I am, here I come." Would you do it tonight? Somebody you, on this lower floor, the great throng of people here, tonight, into that aisle, into that aisle, into that aisle, down here to the front, "Here I come, pastor, and here I am. Tonight I give my heart to Jesus," or a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, mother, father, all the children; or one somebody you. We have tonight; we may not have any other day, any other opportunity, any other time. Jesus passes by. But we have now. And while He is here, would you come? Would you make it the best you know how, humbly, acceptably, yieldedly, surrenderingly, would you come and give your heart in faith to Jesus and your hand to me? "Pastor, tonight, the best I know how, in the quietness of this holy hour, while I have my life and my right mind, and the choice of my soul, I cast it for Christ and with Him." Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
JESUS IS PASSING BY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The story
A. The road – Perea, Jordan, Jericho, Jerusalem
B. The blind man begging – Bartimaeus
C. His one great opportunity – Jesus of Nazareth is passing by
1. Told to hush his crying; he cried out all the more
2. The Lord asked him what he cried for
3. His sight and salvation
II. The application
A. Jesus has been passing by through the centuries, and today
1. Some receive Him gladly
a. Japanese translator
2. Some violently reject Him
a. Soviet Russia
3. Some just let Him pass by
a. Colossal indifference
i. Chemical engineer
b. Do not realize
i. Governor Pollock