THE MARVEL OF JESUS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
6-14-64 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled The Marvel of Jesus. It is a sermon in keeping with the series of sermons that are being prepared and delivered upon the person and the deity of Christ.
The title comes from three passages of Scripture that is found almost together in the Gospel of Matthew, the first one in the eighth chapter and the other two in the ninth chapter. In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, this is the conclusion to a story of a tempest that swept down upon the disciples in the Sea of Galilee. And the Lord was asleep in the little ship [Matthew 8:23-24], and His disciples came to Him:
And awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we are perishing.
And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful?
Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
But the men marveled—
that is your first one—
but the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!
In the next chapter, following the story of the healing of the man with the palsy [Matthew 9:1-5]:
But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then He saith to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
And he arose, and departed to his house—
now the second one—
And when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
That same exclamation.
Now the third one is out of the passage that you read, verses 32 and 33 in the ninth chapter:
As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a demon.
And when the demon was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.
And I’ve taken these passages as but typical of the whole reaction and the elicited response from those who saw our Lord in the days of His flesh. The marvel of Jesus; “And they marveled, saying, What manner of man is this” [Matthew 8:27]. “And they marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
First what Israel had heard; God had favored that nation, they were His own and chosen people. To them belonged the prophets, and the fathers, and the oracles of God. It was Israel who had heard Moses, the great lawgiver, deliver those Deuteronomy addresses on the plains of Moab. There is no legislation in human literature comparable to those magnificent addresses in Deuteronomy. They are the closing last appeals, and admonitions, and legislations from God given through His servant Moses. Israel had heard Moses speak those marvelous Deuteronomy chapters. Israel had heard the sweet singer David recite the psalms that to this day are sung in the churches and synagogues of the earth. There is no child introduced to the faith of Jehovah Jesus who has not memorized some of those incomparable psalms.
Israel had heard Solomon speak words of wisdom that made him the smartest man, the wisest man who ever lived. They had heard from his own lips the proverbs spoken by Solomon. Israel had heard the incomparable court preacher Isaiah, as he delivered messages from God seven hundred fifty years to be fulfilled, and so marvelously minute in their descriptions, it seemed as if the prophet were standing at the place where these marvelous things had come to pass. And the language, in which Isaiah couched his messages, is beyond any to be found spoken by human tongue. Yet, yet, when they listened to the words of our Lord, they said, “Never, never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. “And the multitudes marveled, saying; It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
Up to a certain point, up to a certain place, Jesus is much like any other good man; sympathetic, sensitive, tenderhearted, ministering, doing good, giving his life for the poor and the needy among the people. Then of a sudden, of a sudden, instantaneously, then of a sudden He stands before us as very God in the flesh [John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16]. So much God that if one in the group were to cry and say, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28], there wouldn’t be anyone in the listening audience who would be shocked, as though there had been said a sentence irreverent or irreligious.
He is the great unlike, the great unique, the great separate one and apart [John 7:46]. The words that our Lord said, seemingly so appropriate on His lips, would be ridiculous were they spoken by any other man. Sometimes you will buy a book, and it will say, “These are the great religious leaders and reformers of the earth.” And among say the dozen that are portrayed in them, you will find Jesus. Or sometimes you’ll hear a man lecture, and he will speak as though the Lord were just one in a gallery of twenty other great heroes. But as you hold the book in your hand, or as you listen to the man lecture, you have a feeling deep inside your soul that this man or this book is an injustice not only to the Son of God but to the understanding, and the wisdom, and the intuitive response of what is right itself. Jesus is just not like other heroes, or reformers, or religious leaders. He is the great multitudinous man in one, the incomparable; there’s none like Him. “And they marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
Look again what Israel had seen with their own eyes; the marvelous works God had done through the servants, His prophets, and through His leaders, and through His rulers. The Old Testament is filled with the marvels, the almost unbelievable, and to so many modern scientific minds, the unacceptable, supernatural works of heaven. The great exploits of a Samson or a Jephthah, the mighty works, miraculous, of an Elijah or an Elisha; Israel had looked upon those marvelous things God hath wrought through the hands of His servants. But when they followed the ministry of our Lord and saw the incomparable and heavenly and miraculous things that He did, “They marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. And they marveled, saying, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” [Matthew 8:27].
Let’s take that last one I mentioned; the quieting of the storm on the little sea of Gennesaret. Galilee is a lake, thirteen miles this way, about seven and a half miles that way, in the shape of a pear, and it lies far down below the surface of the sea. The surface of the waters of Galilee are six hundred eighty feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. And right above Galilee, just like that, the slope of the country rises to the height of Mt. Hermon, about ten thousand feet high. And even on the sides of the sea, the plateaus and the mountains rise to at least two thousand feet high. And the little lake below is cut into with great valleys and wadis. And it is this topographical, geographical situation that makes those violent storms possible, and so suddenly present. For the cold air coming out of the heights of those mountains, funneled down through those valleys and openings, will almost immediately and without warning turn that little lake into an upheaval, rent and torn by the fierce tempestuous winds.
It was in one of those tempests that the disciples were caught with their little ship and the Lord in the boat sound asleep [Matthew 8:23-24]. And as the angry waves seized the boat and shook it, the disciples, despairing of life, awoke the Lord, saying, “Lord, save us. We are perishing. We are perishing! And He, awakening, saith to them, Why are ye fearful? Why? Then He arose and rebuked, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” [Matthew 8:24-26].
Did you ever see a storm, a hurricane, a tempestuous sea? There’s no such a thing ever as the storm dying just like that. It blows itself out. And when the sea is churned with a tempestuous wind, it gradually subsides. Not so here. When the Lord stood and rebuked the winds and the waves, instantaneously, immediately there was a great calm [Matthew 8:26]. Churned, upheaved Galilee became a sea of glass.
I don’t know what the disciples expected the Lord to do when they awoke Him saying, “Lord, save us. We are perishing” [Matthew 8:25]. I don’t know what they thought He would do. But one thing I know they never dreamed He would do was to stand at the bow of the ship and say, “You angry winds and you tempestuous multitudinous waves, what meaneth thou? Your Master is here. Peace. Peace, be still” [Matthew 8:26].
I do not know of a finer illustration of the absolute and ultimate and infinite sovereignty of the Lord Christ than illustrated here. There is not a particle of matter, there is not an iota of creation that dares to move if the eternal fiat says, “Be still.” And the might of our Lord in great or in little is alike here. Whether we speak of the vast Atlantic and Pacific that divide the whole earth, or whether we speak of a little drop in Gennesaret, it all lies in the hands of our sovereign Christ. Asleep there in the ship, like any other man in awakening and standing, the very God of gods; and whether it is an avalanche of a great mountain that crushes the villages below, or whether it is a mighty earthquake that rends the sea coasts of the American continent; or whether it’s the pod of a mustard seed scattering to the wind, or the leaf of a rose plant falling on a garden walk; whether it is an angel sent from heaven from His divine presence on a mighty mission, or whether it is a little bee flitting from flower to flower; all of it, all of it is in His omnipotent hands.
When He was a Babe lying on His mother’s breast, the crown of the universe encircled His brow. Whether the Prince in glory or the suffering servant dying in the earth, He is still and yet and forever the Lord God. Will you notice how instantaneously then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm, just like that? [Matthew 8:26].
Or again; and when the demon was cast out, the dumb spake, just like that, instantaneously, immediately [Matthew 9:32-33]. What an amazing thing, how God works! When a man is saved he is saved like that. One minute he’s lost, the next minute he’s saved. When we are regenerated, we’re regenerated like that [John 3:3, 7]; God gives us eternal life [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. In the great resurrection day, in the twinkling of an eye this corruptible shall have put on incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:52-54]. In a moment we’re translated out of the prison house into the palace. From our ashes into beauty, from our death into life, instantaneously, immediately; this is the work of God.
And this dumb man spake immediately, glorifying God [Matthew 9:33]; why, that’s an astonishing thing! A man who had never spoken, dumb all of his life, you have to teach him how to frame the syllable, how to use his tongue and his lips, how to say the words, and he must be taught carefully in many lessons.
But when God does a work, a miraculous regeneration, in a moment the foulest sinner, who has blasphemed and cursed all the days of his life, will use the language of Zion and of truth, as though he’d been in the household of Jesus since he was born. It’s an astonishing thing! It’s an amazing thing. It is God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. “And the multitudes marveled, saying; It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
I speak of what Israel had felt. They had seen Moses interceding on behalf of the nation. When the Lord God said to the great lawgiver, “Now you stand aside, and let My wrath burn against this people, and I will consume them and destroy them from the face of the earth, and out of thy loins I will raise Me up a nation who shall do My will” [Exodus 32:9-10], then the Lord listened to the prayer of intercession as Moses cried, saying, “O Lord God, forgive their sin—; but if not, blot me, I pray Thee out of the book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32-33]. If these cannot live, neither shall I live. If these die, let me die” [Exodus 32:32].
Israel had seen that. Israel had seen the tender love of Ruth for her mother-in-law Naomi. “Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee” [Ruth 1:16]. Israel had witnessed the bonds that bound the soul of Jonathan and David [1 Samuel 18:1, 20:17]. Israel had heard the laments of Jeremiah. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” [Jeremiah 9:1]. But when they beheld the compassionate, sympathetic spirit of the Lord Jesus, they said, “It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. The compassionate Lord Jesus; “Jesus, filled with compassion” is His enduring name [Mark 1:41].
Look at it written large here in the text. “While He spake these things, behold, there came a ruler, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come Thou and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live” [Matthew 9:18]. “Lay Thy hand upon her.” Why not anybody’s hand? Why not a loved hand, a friend, or a neighbor, or a physician, or a mother, or father? “Thy hand, Lord, lay Thy hand upon her” [Matthew 9:18]. Oh, what a difference! What a difference when the Lord Jesus lays His hand upon our troubled spirits, or our aching heads, or our despairing lives. “Lord, lay Thy hand upon her”; Thy hand.
Isn’t it remarkable how he prayed this prayer? While He yet spake these things, while He was yet speaking—well, you have it there [Matthew 9:18]. The Lord was talking about fasting [Matthew 9:14-15], and He was talking about putting on a new garment [Matthew 9:16], and He was talking about new wine and new bottles [Matthew 9:16], and He was just talking about whole lots of things. And while the Lord was speaking, and while He was in His sermon, and while He was making His address, in the midst of His speaking, “While he was speaking these things, behold, there came this ruler, and fell down, and said, Lord, my little girl is dead. Come to my house, and lay Thy hand upon her!” [Matthew 9:18].
Why didn’t He say, “I am busy. Don’t you see I am preaching a sermon? I am busy. Don’t you see I am teaching these multitudes? I am busy. Don’t you see I have this vast audience listening? Don’t you see?” No, while He was yet speaking, this ruler burst into His sermon, burst into His address and said, “Lord, there is death in my house. Our little daughter has died. Come Thou and lay Thy hand upon her” [Matthew 9:18]. Now look at the next verse: “And Jesus arose, and followed him” [Matthew 9:19], as though Jesus were his servant. “Why, Lord, why don’t You assert Your sovereignty and Your manhood and Your own elective choice and purpose? You are not the servant of these people!” Yes, He is. For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister [Matthew 20:28], and when this certain ruler came, and burst into His sermon, and said, “Lord, there is death, there is death, come, come” [Matthew 9:18], the Lord quit His sermon [Matthew 9:19]. He quit His message. He quit His talking, and He began to follow out that ruler as though He belonged to him. Isn’t that a remarkable thing?
The Lord may stay your idle intellectual curiosity. The Lord may not respond at all to your forensic fancies. The Lord may withdraw Himself forever from your preconceived notions. But anytime, anywhere, anyhow there is any soul that ever asks God in the name of Jesus in an hour of need, you will find the Lord responding.
“Yes, but preacher, I haven’t found it that way. I’ve asked and He didn’t come. And I’ve sought Him and I didn’t find Him.” How did you ask for Him? How did you seek Him? Did you seek Him by the lamp of your own intelligence? Did you devise some cunning way to entice Him into the chambers of your imagination? Did you seek to cajole Him and to persuade Him by some preconceived thought or argument? Is that how you did it?
Let me tell you. God never says no to that man whose eyes are on the dust, and whose hand is on his heart, and whose prayer is a sob and a cry and an appeal to God. “Lord, Lord, there’s death in my house. Lord, Lord, there’s despair in my soul. Lord, Lord, this is the end of my way. Lord, come Thou, come.” He never says no. Never.
I have never yet in my life seen the Lord crown egotism and selfishness and personal ambition, but I have been at a thousand thousand coronations where the Lord crowned the broken heart and the humble spirit with garlands from the very throne of glory. “And He arose, and followed him” [Matthew 9:19].
So as the Lord walks down the street following that certain ruler, behold, behold, there’s a woman in the crowd who had said in her heart, “If I could just but touch the hem of His garment I should be saved. I should be whole” [Matthew 9:20-21]. This Man Jesus preaches a sermon on the way to church. He does good while He is doing good. Everything about Him bespeaks, distills love, and mercy, and grace, and help, and forgiveness, and strength, and encouragement, and life, and healing. Well, she touched the hem of His garment and was made whole [Matthew 9:22].
Wouldn’t it have been easy, just as easy, for the Lord to have continued on His way, paying no attention to that poor woman? No, but He stops and He makes a little speech just for her. A flower is all the more acceptable if it is fragrant as well as beautiful, and what our Lord did just adds fragrance to the beauty of this miracle. He stops, and what does He say to her? He speaks to her in such a way as you would have thought she had done the healing and not He. He says to her, “Daughter, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. Thy faith hath made the whole” [Matthew 9:22].
Why didn’t the Lord say, “Look, look. Look at the power, at the virtue in My garments? The overflow of My soul reaches down even to the edge of these garments that I wear.” He never approached such a thing. Looking at her, He said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole,” what she had done; ah, the blessed, humble, sympathetic, loving, healing Lord [Matthew 9:22].
May I continue it for just a moment? “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” [Matthew 9:35]. “And they brought unto Him those that were possessed, and that were sick, and He healed them all; That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” [Matthew 8:16-17].
Nobody knew how many sick there were in a town until the Lord Jesus came. They just filled the streets with them. Even an old-timer who’d lived in the village or the city over seventy years never dreamed there was so much sadness and sorrow, and sickness as when Jesus came. And the streets were filled with those looking unto Him for help [Matthew 9:35].
The blind man heard the footsteps of His feet, and the dumb man saw the signs of His presence in the air, and the sad and the despairing with trembling hands relit their little lamps of faith and hope when Jesus came to town. I’ve said many times, I’ve said it here, I said it again at the eight fifteen service this morning, if I knew how to do it, we would have healing services in this church. Reason we don’t do it is I don’t know how to do it.
I believe in divine healing. I may not believe in being paid for it, I may not believe in divine so-called healers, but I believe in praying for the sick. I believe in calling for the elders, the ministers of the church, and praying for the sick. And I think the first commitment of a shepherdly ministry is when any one is in need, one of us is there down on our knees asking the remembrance, and the encouragement, and the favor, and the healing presence of the Great Physician.
So they filled the streets with the sick, and with the despairing, and with the possessed, and with the sad and sorrowing when the Lord came to town [Matthew 9:35]. And I suppose you and I would have been then as we are now: “Well, let’s go in our house and shut the door. What a sight! Let’s forget it. Let’s pull down the blinds. Let’s pull down the shades. Let’s go off. This thing gets on my soul, it troubles me in the night, and I see the faces of those people, and I can’t sleep. Now let’s send them away.”
That’s what the disciples did. They pointed out to the Lord all these thousands around here, “They’re hungry and they’re fainting. Send them away. Send them away! Send them away.” The Lord said, “Send them away? Send them away hungry, famished, fading? They might perish in the way. Feed them!” [Matthew 15:32-33].
“Why, Lord, feed them with this little hold? Feed them?”
“Yes,” said the Lord. “Yes,” said the Lord. “Yes,” said the Lord, “feed them” [Matthew 14:15-16]. “And the barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil did not fail” [1 Kings 17:16]. And the Lord fed them all just as it says here in the Book, [Matthew 14:20], and “He healed them all” [Luke 6:19]. “And the multitudes marveled saying; It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
The great compassionate heart of the Son of God; room, room for us all, a place in His prayers for us all, a place in His remembrance for us all. Even for the tiny baby—the disciples pushed the mothers away; “He is a busy Man, don’t you see?” and Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, forbid them not” [Matthew 19:14], and He laid His hands on them and blessed them [Mark 10:13-16]. That is Jesus.
I come to the last. “And the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. I speak of that holy, and blessed, and godly deliverance that comes from the sovereign hands of our Lord. Now you think what Israel had seen in the deliverance of His people. Israel had seen the parting of the waves at the Red Sea, when God’s whole family walked through dry-shod [Exodus 14:21-22]. What a deliverance! And the women sang with Miriam, with timbrels, “He hath delivered us, casting horse and rider into the sea” [Exodus 15:21]. They looked upon that.
They had seen the walls of Jericho fall down. At the blowing of the trumpets of God, the walls fell down flat [Joshua 6:20]. When God does something, He really does it; not just a few bricks shaken loose. And the walls fell down flat! You could walk over those great walls that surrounded Jericho when God delivered His people.
They had seen the deliverance of Judah. When Hezekiah was down on his face in the temple asking for the interposition and intercession of God [Isaiah 37:14-20], they had seen the whole army of Sennacherib that was holding Jerusalem in an iron vise. They had seen the whole army of Sennacherib destroyed by just one angel sent from Jesus in heaven [Isaiah 37:36].
They had from childhood been taught the story of Purim, the story of Esther, and the deliverance of God’s people in the days of Mordecai, and Ahasuerus, and Esther [Esther 4:15-17, 7:1-9:32]. But when they looked upon the Lord and saw the deliverance from His hands, out of darkness into life, out of death into glory, and out of the promise of His resurrection and ascension the glorious vision of the triumph that is yet to come; “And they marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
This whole universe is moving toward the grand coronation of the Son of glory [Revelation 19:12]. As in the days of the Old Testament and the old empires, every syllable of history moved toward the day of His cross; so now, even now, every syllable of human story moves toward the great coronation when we shall crown of the Son of God [Revelation 19:12]. It shall be then as it was here in the story of the winds and the waves [Matthew 8:23-26]. When the Lord stood and rebuked the winds and the waves, it was then as it shall be in the great consummation that is yet to come. The Lord shall stand on the platform of shekinah glory, and He shall speak and rebuke the wild furious warfare and the raging destroyer, and death and hell shall be obedient to His voice [Revelation 1:18]. And there shall be a great calm and a great peace, when the Lord shall say, “It is I. Peace, be still.”
Courage, my brother, lift up your face, despairing one. When the storm rages, and the winds blow, and the mountainous, tempestuous waves rise, the Lord is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Fierce, fierce was the wild billow;
Dark was the night;
Oars labored heavily;
Foam glimmered white;
Trembled the mariners;
Peril was nigh;
Then saith the God of God—
“Peace! It is I!”
Ridge of the mountain wave,
Lower thy crest!
Wail of Euroclydon,
Be thou at rest!
Sorrow can never be—
Darkness must fly—
When saith the Light of Light,
“Peace! It is I!”
Come Thou to me:
Soothe Thou my voyaging
Over life’s sea!
Thou, when the storm of death
Roars, sweeping by,
Whisper, O Light of Light,
“Peace! It is I!”
[from “Fierce Was The Wild Billow,” St. Anatolius; trans. J. M. Neale, 1862]
“And they marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. And they marveled saying, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” [Matthew 8:27]. Who is this? This is our Lord Christ. This is our God and Savior, “the same yesterday, and today, and,” praise God, “into the forever” [Hebrews 13:8].
And now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give his heart in trust to Jesus [Acts 16:30-31; Ephesians 2:8]. Somebody you, a couple placing your life in the fellowship of our dear church; a family you, as the Spirit of the Lord shall say the word, shall lead in the way, if God whispers, “Come,” make it today. Make it this morning. We’re still on television, on the radio. Wherever you are, if God whispers repentance and faith and commitment of life to the blessed Jesus [Acts 20:21], bow your head wherever you are, and say, “Lord, today I open my heart. Come into my life,” and He will come. He will save you. He will do it now. And in this great press of people in this vast auditorium, in the balcony round, down the stairway; on the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front—“Pastor, I give you my hand. I do give my heart in trust to the Lord, and here I come. Here I am”—while we stand and while we sing.