Seekers After God

Mark

Seekers After God

November 15th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM

Mark 1:37

And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
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SEEKERS AFTER GOD

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Mark 1:32-45

11-15-64    7:30 p.m.

 

Turn in your Bible to the first chapter of Mark, the Second Gospel: Mark, chapter 1, beginning at verse 32, reading to the end of the chapter.  Mark chapter 1, verse 32 to the end of the chapter.  And on radio, open your Bible and read it out loud with us; we are all going to read it aloud together, all of us.  Mark chapter 1, beginning at verse 32, and reading to the end of the chapter.  And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, you give him yours or share yours with him.  Now let us read it aloud, verse 32:

And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

And all the city was gathered together at the door.

And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.

And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee.

And He said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also:  for therefore came I forth.

And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

And He straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;

And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man:  but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places:  and they came to Him from every quarter.

[Mark 1:32-45]

This is Mark’s introduction to the great Galilean ministry.  After our Lord was baptized [Mark 1:9-11], and after He was tried by the devil [Mark 1:12-13], He came to Galilee [Mark 1:14], after His first ministry in Judea [John 2-3].  And you have a very definite idea, impression, from reading the Gospel of Mark that the Lord immediately was pressed on every side by vast throngs and great multitudes [Mark 1:32-34].  And that’s the text:  in verse 37, “And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Jesus.  And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:36-37].  And just looking at this passage and its context, I have that very definite impression that Peter voiced when he said to the Lord, “Everybody is looking for You.  Everyone is seeking for You” [Mark 1:37].  In the next chapter:

And again He entered into Capernaum . . . and it was noised that He was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them.

[Mark 2:1-2]

Then just all the way through, “And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat with Jesus . . . for they were many, and they followed Him” [Mark 2:15].  Then I turn the leaf:

But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea, and Jerusalem, and Idumea, and beyond Jordan; and about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard what great things He did.

[Mark 3:7-8]

And then again:  “And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread” [Mark 3:20].  And again, “And He began again to teach by the sea side; and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He went into a ship, and set in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land” [Mark 4:1].  And just all through that Gospel, as you turn these leaves, you have the impression that our Lord is thronged and pressed on every side.  And my text:  “All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].  And in my humble judgment, it would be most apparent why hungry hearts and sick souls and broken lives would seek after the Lord Jesus.

And the answer of the Lord to Simon Peter was, “Let us go into other villages, and other towns, and other synagogues, and preach there also” [Mark 1:38-39].  That is our Lord:  His ministry, as big as His great loving heart.  The people, the people, the people, like sheep that did not have any shepherd, and His heart went out to them [Mark 6:34].  It’s easy to love somebody lovable.  It is easy to respond to somebody who has a care and a concern and a sympathy for you.  And Jesus was so much like that.

I think of a young missionary who was broken down in health.  And he came back to the United States and was a pastor of a local church.  And when I visited with him and talked to him—I knew him in the days past—he was so restless, and so unhappy.  And I asked him about it.  “You have such a lovely pastorate, and you can’t be on the mission field, and God’s given you these dear people.  Why can’t you be still in your heart, and be quiet in your spirit, and just minister to these people here?”  And his reply was to me, he said, “But when I lie down at night, I see their faces,” those people on his mission field, sick, filled with every superstition, their minds darkened, their lives blackened, their souls lost, “And I can’t find rest,” he said, “when I lie down at night and close my eyes, I see their faces.”  That’s why if God had given him strength he would have been a good missionary.  Jesus was like that; other places and other towns and other synagogues, these people who need God [Mark 1:38-39].

And when He came with Simon Peter, after they had found Him, “And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean” [Mark 1:40].  Now isn’t that something?  I just tried to describe a moment ago that wherever the Lord was there great throngs and multitudes pressed Him on every side [Mark 1:32-34].  If He was by the sea, if He was in a house, if He was in a synagogue, if He was walking through the streets of a town, wherever the Lord was, vast multitudes thronged around Him.  And yet I read here, “And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, that I might be clean” [Mark 1:40].  How did that leper get to Him?  Well, it is very apparent, very apparent.  As you know, according to the law, the leper, wherever he went, had to cover his mouth with his hand and cry, “Unclean!  Unclean!  Unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45].  And wherever that leper walked, there was an icy falling away, chilling circle around him; wherever he went.  He lived in the middle of that awful isolation.  It was therefore very apparent how this leper got to Jesus:  when he came to the edge of the crowd and cried, “Unclean!  Unclean!” the crowd fell away from him; and that leper just walked right up to Jesus.  And kneeling down, said, “Lord, that I might be clean” [Mark 1:40].  And look at our blessed Savior: “And Jesus, moved with compassion,” is not that His enduring name?  Jesus moved with compassion, “And Jesus moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and said, Be thou clean” [Mark 1:41].  I can just see the crowd, the multitude gasp when the Lord put forth His hand, and touched him.  It must have been half of the cure.  That leper had forgotten what it felt like, the pressure, the warmth of a human hand.  “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him” [Mark 1:41].  Blessed, blessed Savior.  “And immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was clean” [Mark 1:36-37].

I just said these things to illustrate the truth of Simon Peter’s avowal, seeking Jesus, “Lord, everybody is looking for You.  Everybody is searching for You.  Everybody is seeking Thee.  All men seek for Thee.”

Now, to make that text live in a world that apparently rejects Him, may I speak of it like this:  in my humble persuasion, I think everyone, knowing or unknowing, I think everyone seeks after God and after the blessed Lord Jesus.  Unknowingly they do.  I would think that the most quoted of all of the sentences in theological literature is this word from Saint Augustine:  “O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself; and we are restless until we rest in Thee.”  Or as a poet placed it in his language:

Near or far, all unknowing,

Pants for Thee each human breast.

Human tears for Thee are flowing,

Human hearts on Thee would rest.

[“Savior, Sprinkle Many Nations”; Arthur Coxe]

Maybe not realizing, maybe unknowing what the human soul seeks for and what the human heart pants for is God, our blessed Savior; “All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].

When Rudyard Kipling made that triumphal tour over America, when he came to San Francisco, he became desperately ill; so much so that they despaired of his life.  And in the delirium of the far-famed poet, a nurse watching by his bed saw his lips move, and she put her ear down to hear what he whispered.  And the great English poet was quietly repeating in his delirium, “I want, I want, I want God.”  Unknowing maybe, seekers after God.

And in my humble persuasion, the worldly seek after God.  They seemingly lack nothing.  They are glamorous, they glitter and shine and sparkle, they dress beautifully, they drive luxurious cars, they live in fine homes, they are surrounded by admirers, their letters, their fan mail numbers thousands, and they have everything.  That is everything but what the soul wants, and what the heart desires, and what life seeks.  Unknown to them, and unrecognized by them, they also seek God.

If I were looking for somebody who was going to commit suicide, do you think I’d look in a poor laborer’s home?  Living by the sweat of his brow, gathering his family around him, reading the Bible together, bowed in prayer, saying grace over a meal; do you think I’d look for a suicide there?  Do you think I’d look for somebody in abject and ultimate and complete and terrible despair?  Somebody, however poor, however forgot, however unknown, but bowed in the presence of the Lord, saying, “Thy will be done” [Matthew 6:10], would I look there?  You know, if I were looking for a suicide, or if I were looking for somebody miserable and unhappy, you know where I’d go?  I’d go to the swankiest street and stop at the most luxurious house, and go inside and visit with maybe one of the most world famed of all entertainers, a success, beautiful, glorious, or handsome and rich, and miserable!

I have often said—and after the years and years of my life, I still have that definite impression—the reason the world drinks is because they have to:  they have to, they are bored with themselves, they are bored with everybody else, they are bored with life, they are bored in their souls, they are bored in every hope and dream; there’s not anything that doesn’t have in it that ennui, that satiation, and they have to drink!  “It’s the shortest way out of Birmingham,” said a fellow as he peeked up over his glass.  Drown themselves in their misery.

When you go to these worldly entertainments, everything seems so glittering and so glamorous and so glorious. I don’t suppose there’s an older song that’s continued to be sung than “The Waltz”:

After the ball is over, after the dawn has come,

After the dance has ended, after the stars are gone

Many the hearts are aching, if we but knew them all

Many the hopes that have vanished after the ball.

[Charles K. Harris]

Think a preacher wrote that song?  Do you think an evangelist wrote that song?  Do you think a choir leader wrote that song?  Somebody who wrote that song was somebody who lived in that kind of an entertainment world; and he knew it, and its emptiness, and its sterility, and its vacuity.  And he wrote that famous song:  “Many the hearts that are aching…many the souls and lives that are breaking, many the hopes that have vanished.”  Like Bobby Burns said:

Pleasures are like poppies spread:

You seize the flower, and the bloom is shed.

[“Tam o’Shanter”]

Or like Lord Byron, his famous poem on his thirty-sixth birthday:

My days are in the yellow leaf;

            The flower and fruits of love are gone;

The worm, the canker, and the grief

            Are mine alone!

[“On This Day I Complete My Thirty-sixth Year,” Alfred, Lord Byron]

Imagine that, thirty-six years of age, the pampered idol of the whole civilized world, miserable; died soon after that.

I’m saying that unknowing, even the glamorous in the world seek God, hungry for God.  In my humble persuasion, the prodigal, and the backslider, and the weary, and the gone away are hungering after God.  If you just knew, and if they would recognize their own souls, “Panting after Thee, O God” [Psalm 42:1].

Probably one of the most poignant and effective of all the novels ever written in human speech is that by Victor Hugo, “The Miserables,” Les Miserables, “The Miserables.”  And as you know, the distinct and marvelous and unusual character in that, in our language is named Jean ValJean.  And he’s a wretch, and he lives a sordid and worthless and seething life.  And upon a time, a minister in a church has been good to him, and has fed him, and has taken care of him; in his misery, and his hunger, and his want, and his poverty and need, this man of God is kind to him and feeds him.  And as a reward for the kindness of the minister, Jean ValJean steals the silver candelabra from the mantel and makes out and away from the minister’s home.  The police tracked him down and found him with the silver candelabra, and brought him back to the preacher’s house to accuse him, and to arraign him, and to condemn him.  And the minister of God looked into the face of the policeman, and said, “But sir, he didn’t steal it; I gave it to him.  I gave it to him.”  And the policeman was overwhelmed, but most of all was the thief.  And God used it.  And as you know, the rest of the story is the story of one of the most vibrant characters in all fiction as Jean ValJean found himself in God:

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;

Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness,

Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.

[“Rescue the Perishing”; Fanny Crosby]

The prodigal hunger after God; “All men seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37].

And a last avowal:  and the burdened, and the hungry-hearted, and the sad, and the crying, they seek God.  I can well remember when that fine, tall, good-looking son of Calvin Coolidge died.  Calvin Coolidge, president of the United States, living in the White House, and that fine boy out playing tennis, and from just a little injury in a tennis game, he developed blood poison and died.  And when his days of political life were over, Calvin Coolidge, as you know, went back to his humble cottage home in Vermont, and there in Vermont he said this:  he said, “When my boy died, the glory of the presidency faded away.  The spark, and the joy, and the hope, and the gladness of life were extinguished when my boy died.  The glory of the presidency faded away.”  The White House was empty.  Their hearts were empty.  Their souls were sad.  It is these things so poignant that bring us to God.

Do you remember that businessman so successful, so fine, no time for Jesus, no time for the church, no time for prayer, no time for the Bible:  in the home was a little boy, an only child, and the child sickened and died, and left the home so empty.  And night after night, his wife saw him take the Bible and read the Word of God, and underscore, and read and underscore, and read and underscore.  And upon a time, while he was away, she went into the library and got his Bible to see what it was he underscored.  It was this:  wherever in the Word of the Lord God said something about heaven, that businessman underscored it; seeking after God, the burdened and the hungry-hearted.

Way back in the backwoods, way, way back, I was brought there by a friend, and we were going just out of the soul’s good that it would mean to us, we were visiting a Baptist association.  And those people, all their lives they had known nothing but toil and hard work, trying to make a living in those back, back woods.  Raised sheep—cord the wool, spin it and weave it—making bread, building their houses.  Not anything bought at any store; earning their life out of the soil.  Their hands big and rough, and their clothing coarse, and their speech like their background.  They made an impression on me.  So we attended the service there.  Everybody sat on a split log.  They’d take a log and split it half in two and take the split side, and you sat on that split log.  And the association was held out in a grove, under the trees.  And they just preached, and they sang, they didn’t have any book, they just sang.  I remember in the first sermon, the preacher got up and he said, “I ain’t got no writ out sermon,” he said, “I don’t believe in writ out sermons.”  He said, “The wind come and blow ‘em away.”  And I said, “Amen.  Amen.  Amen.”  Oh!

Well, what I wanted to tell you about was in one of those services, just right in the middle of the service, just like somebody would stand up and do it here, right in the middle of the service, no announcement, no preparation, no anything at all, just in the middle of the service, a fellow stood up, and he began to sing a song; just stood up in the congregation there and started to sing a song.  And when he started singing the song, in a little bit somebody else started singing it with him.  And somebody else started singing it with him.  And it wasn’t long until everybody was singing that song.  Then they stood up, everybody singing that song, and everybody began shaking hands with everybody else, just singing that song.  I didn’t know a soul there.  I never saw them before, I’ve never seen them since; but as they sang that song, shaking hands, the tears began to pour off of their faces, just glad in the Lord, singing that song, shaking hands.  And bless the Lord it wasn’t long until I was right in the middle of them, singing that song, shaking hands, the tears just rolling down my cheeks, just happy in the Lord.

You know I mentioned that some time ago in a far away place.  And somebody said, “Did you know, in an old book at home, I’ve got that song.”  And they tore it out, and gave it to me.  Bill Hanson, come over here to this organ.  Give me the key, I’m going to heist the tune.  My…now that’s better…now make it simple for me.  My, I can’t get it.  My… that’s too high, make it low.  That’s better; now that’s better for me.  There’s that song:

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on,

No harm, or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Yes I wanna be traveling on,

I wanna be traveling on,

No harm or death can enter there

And I wanna be traveling on.

Now, when I was pointing to you, choir, I want you to sing, “I want to be traveling on.” We’re going to learn that tonight.  All right.

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on,

No harm, or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Yes I wanna be traveling on,

I wanna be traveling on,

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Now everybody sing it when I point to you:

The Lord has been so good to me,

And I wanna be traveling on,

Until that blessed home I see,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Yes I wanna be traveling on,

I wanna be traveling on,

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on.

That was years ago, but I’ve been wanting to do something for the years since I shook hands with those dear people, just happy in the Lord.  I’ve wanted to do that in my church, just stand up and sing the song, and shake hands with everybody all around you.  Now do you know it well enough to sing it?

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on,

No harm or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,

And I wanna be traveling on,

Until that blessed home I see,

And I wanna be traveling on.

All right, stand up, stand up.  Let’s heist the tune, and while we sing it, I want everybody shake hands with everybody else.  All right:

My heavenly home is bright and fair,

And I wanna be traveling on,

No harm or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Yes I wanna be traveling on,

I wanna be traveling on,

No harm, or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,

And I wanna be traveling on,

Until that blessed home I see,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Yes I wanna be traveling on,

I wanna be traveling on,

No harm, or death can enter there,

And I wanna be traveling on.

Its glittering towers the sun outshine,

And I wanna be traveling on,

That heavenly mansion shall be mine,

And I wanna be traveling on.

[adapted from “I Feel Like Traveling On,” William Hunter, 1859]

 

That’s right.  I realize that the music he has isn’t quite as I remembered singing it.  And maybe the words, but oh, I just, I just tell you truly, religion that is respectable, pretty, and nice, and accustomed, and usual, and we get rid of it, “Hurry up, preacher, let’s go,” feel like I got to be there, oh, that’s not it.  But religion that is life, and love, and glory, and Jesus, and it’s comfort, and it’s health, and it’s assurance, and it’s everything sweet and wonderful; O God, give me a double portion of that, a double portion of that.

Well, I’m through.  I just talking about the Lord, and our hearts hunger after Him.  Now we have an invitation hymn—forgotten what it was—number 233, let’s turn to it in the book.  Number 233, and while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give his soul to Jesus; a couple you, to come into the church; a family you, to put your life in the circumference of this dear congregation, whatever God would say and lead in the way, come now.  Make it now.  In the balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come, loving God, loving Jesus, giving my soul and life to Him.  Here I am, pastor, and here I come”; while we sing the appeal.