The Marvel of Jesus
June 14th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
THE MARVEL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-14-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Marvel of Jesus. These several Sundays I have been preaching on the deity of Christ, and the sermon this morning is a part of that series of messages.
This is a sermon in which I delight to study, to prepare, to present, and I humbly pray God’s marvelous blessing upon it, The Marvel of Jesus. It is a following through of the life of our Lord in the eighth and the ninth chapters of the First Gospel. Three times in this brief section of the gospel story is it remarked that the men marveled and that the multitudes marveled as they beheld the work and the presence of our Lord.
The first time is in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the wind and the tempest are rending asunder the lake of Galilee, and the disciples with the Lord are in a little boat, and Jesus is asleep [Matthew 8:23-24]:
And they awake Him, and say, 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, but the men marveled, saying, What manner of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!
Now the second time is in the ninth chapter of the Book of Matthew. The chapter begins with the miraculous healing of a man palsied [Matthew 9:1-7]. And in the eighth verse:
When the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, who had given such power unto men.
And the third time is in the passage that you read together, in the thirty-third verse of 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.
I have taken those three because they are close together. When I turn one leaf in my Bible, you see those three passages, and they but reflect the response and the impression that the Lord evoked from those who saw Him in the days of His flesh. It was astonishing! It was unbelievable. It was beyond anything that mind had ever imagined. “And they marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
Now we shall follow that exclamation from the multitudes as we compare our Lord. “It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. Think of what Israel had heard. Israel had heard Moses as he delivered those Deuteronomy discourses on the plains of Moab. Israel had heard the sweet singer David recite the psalms. Israel had heard Solomon speak his proverbs. Israel had heard that majestic court preacher Isaiah deliver his incomparable prophecies. But when they listened to Jesus, they said, “Never, never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. No man ever said the sentences and the words that Jesus said. They would sound ridiculous on any other man’s lips, whatever age in which he lived, or whatever family, or nation, or race to which he belonged. But on the lips of our Lord they seemed to belong.
It’s a strange thing about the Lord Jesus; for a while He seems like any other good man, sensitive, sympathetic, kind, responsive, loving. Then of a sudden He leaves all paragons and all parallels and all predecessors, and He stands before us as God in the flesh [John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16]; so much God that if one in the audience were to cry out, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28], no one listening would feel the shock of irreverence or irreligion.
Once in a while we read a book in which Jesus is placed along with half a dozen other religious leaders. Once in a while we will hear a lecture or an address as though Jesus were one of twenty others in a gallery of heroes. And when I see that—at least, when I see that in a book or when I hear that in a lecture, I think, “This injustice is far more done to mankind in general than it is done to Jesus in particular.” You just don’t compare Jesus with any other hero, nor do you place the Lord Jesus in any gallery of religious leaders or reformers. He is the great unlike, the great dissimilar, the great unique and alone [John 7:46]. There is no one ever who even began to commence to measure up to the stature of the Lord Jesus. “And the men marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
Think of what Israel had seen. They had seen the mighty works of Gideon, of Samson, of Jephthah, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. But when they looked upon the works of the hands of the Lord Jesus, “they marveled, saying, It was never, it was never so seen” [Matthew 9:33]. And if God ever visited among a people and walked among a nation, God visited and walked with Israel. But they had never, their eyes had never beheld such marvelous works as they beheld from the gentle hands of our Lord.
I don’t think a more poignant illustration of that is to be found in the Word of God than in this miraculous rebuke of the winds and the waves [Matthew 8:24-26]. “And the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” [Matthew 8:27].
The little Sea of Galilee is below sea level; the top of it, the surface of it, six hundred ninety feet down. Then rising immediately to the north is Mt. Hermon, toward ten thousand feet high. And even in the little bowl of the lake itself, the highlands and the hills on either side rise to over two thousand feet. And the sides are cut through by many wadis and dry river courses and the valleys in the hills.
So without any notice at all, almost instantaneously that cold air rushing out of the mountains and out of the hills, falling down through those funnels and openings, will churn that little lake into a veritable cauldron. And such a thing happened here. The furious winds rent and tore and upheaved, and a little boat in the midst of the lake was sure to sink. And they awoke the Lord, saying, “Master, save us: we are perishing” [Matthew 8:25]. And instantaneously, when the Lord spoke that tempestuous sea turned to a calm glass [Matthew 8:26].
I don’t know what those disciples expected the Lord to do when they awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us: we are perishing” [Matthew 8:25]. But I know this: they never dreamed that He would stand up and speak to the winds and the sea, saying, “What meaneth this? Your Master is here. Be calm. Be still” [Matthew 8:26]. No wonder “They marveled, saying, What manner of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” [Matthew 8:27].
I want you to look at this story. He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm instantaneously [Matthew 8:26]. Have you ever seen a storm at sea? Have you ever seen a hurricane? There never was a storm but that gradually played out, and there never was a sea tossed by the fury of the winds that did not gradually subside. But when the Lord stood in the bow of that little ship and rebuked those furies, instantaneously, immediately, it was calm like a sea of glass [Matthew 8:26].
The supernal sovereignty of our Lord; there is not an atom of matter that dare move if the divine fiat forbids. Whether great or whether little, all lies in the hands of our blessed Savior. The great Atlantic and the Pacific that divide the world, or the little Gennesaret, there in that hole beneath the level of the sea, all are alike in the hands of our Lord. The great mountain that crashes and destroys the villages below, or the mighty earthquake that shakes the entire circumference of an American continent, or the pods of a mustard plant that in the wind scatters its seed over the face of the earth, or the leaf of a rose plant that falls on the garden walk, or an angel sent with a great mission from heaven, or a bee that flits from flower to flower, all alike are in the hands of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Instantaneously—He rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm, immediately, immediately [Matthew 8:26]. Ah, what a lesson in that for our souls! Instantaneously, immediately, just as some of us were converted immediately, in a moment, in a second, just as in the twinkling of an eye, “this corruptible shall put on incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15:52-53]; so in a moment some of us were converted out of darkness into light [1 Peter 2:9]. Our sackcloth was exchanged for a wedding garment. Our ashes were put aside to be adorned with beauty. The old life was put off and the new life was begun, immediately, instantaneously [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That’s the work of the Lord always.
Did you notice in the passage you read, “and when the dumb man spake, and the demon was cast out, the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. Why, wouldn’t you have thought you’d have to teach that dumb man who never had spoken, you’d have to teach him how to frame the syllable with his lips and how to use his tongue? There are many, many things you have to learn to speak, but not when God does the work, not in the miraculous presence of Jesus—the very moment that the Lord healed him he spake and glorified God [Matthew 9:33].
You’ll find that among our people. Here is a vile sinner who has blasphemed and cursed the name of God all the days of his life. When he’s saved, immediately he will speak the language of Canaan, as though he’d been a saint all the days of his life. Ever noticed that? Ever noticed that? Where did he learn those words of praise and love and adoration? God taught it to him when He saved him. “And the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
I speak now what Israel had felt. Israel had been moved by the intercession of Moses, “Lord forgive their sin—and if not, blot my name, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32:32]. Israel had beheld Moses interceding for the nation. Israel had beheld Ruth as she pled with her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave thee, to return from following after thee” [Ruth 1:16].
Israel had looked upon the binds and bonds of love that knitted together Jonathan and David [1 Samuel 18:1, 20:17]. And Israel had looked upon the tears of Jeremiah as he had cried, “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 looked upon Jesus, they said, “Never was such love as this love” [John 11:36]; the compassionate, sympathetic Lord Jesus. Do you notice it in the reading of the text? “While He yet spake these things, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live” [Matthew 9:18]. “Lay Thy hand upon her.” Why not anyone’s hand? Why His hand? “Come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live.” There’s no hand like the hand of the blessed Lord Jesus.
“Lord,” said these mothers, “this is my baby. Lay Thy hand upon my baby. Come, lay Thy hand upon her” [Mark 10:13, 16]. Isn’t it a remarkable thing here, the prayer of this ruler came while Jesus was making a speech? [Matthew 9:18]. While He was speaking these things; and you have those discourses above—He was talking about the garments, putting a new patch on an old one [Matthew 9:16]. He is talking about putting new wine in new wineskins [Matthew 9:17], and He is talking about washing and fasting [Matthew 9:14-15]. Oh, He was just talking about many things. And right in the midst, while our Lord was speaking these things, why, this ruler came and besought Him, and prayed to Him, saying, “Lord, my daughter, my daughter, come and lay Thy hand upon her” [Matthew 9:18].
Well, why didn’t the Lord say, “Listen, you keep still. I am making a speech. You be silent. I am preaching a sermon! Now you be quiet. Look at all these people who are listening to Me.” No. “While He was speaking these things,” and that man fell before Him and prayed his prayer, Jesus left off everything, left His sermon, left His speech, left His talking, left the multitudes, He left everything, and He followed that man as though He had been his servant. “And Jesus arose, and followed him” [Matthew 9:19]. Isn’t that like the Lord? Isn’t that like the Lord? “Somebody needs, somebody prays, somebody has called, and I must go.”
Now He may rebuke and put off your intelligence, and your forensics, and your impetuous trances, but He doesn’t put off, or rebuke, or delay our cries of need. “Ah, but, pastor, He didn’t come to me. I called for Him and He didn’t answer me.”
How did you call? How did you call? Did you seek Him by the lamp of your own intelligence? Is that the way you called for Him? Did you seek to entice Him in the chambers of your fancies? Is that how you sought Him? Did you cunningly devise traps for Him, forensically and argumentatively? Is that the way you called for Him?
My brother, you listen to me. There never was one who called for Jesus, whose eyes were on the dust, and his hand was on his heart, and he sobbed his prayer instead of saying it, there never was one who called like that but that Jesus answered.
I have never yet seen our Lord put the crown on the brow of egotism and ambition and false pride. But I’ve been in a thousand, thousand coronations where the Lord garlanded the brow of tears and humility, and broken hearts with the wreaths from heaven. “Come lay Thy hand upon her. And Jesus arose and followed him” [Matthew 9:18-19], as though He were an obedient servant.
If you need Him and want Him, He will be there. I’m not saying that you can argue yourself into His presence, or that you can by intellectual pride enter into His presence, but I am avowing that if your eyes are cast down, and your heart is broken, and your life seeks a Savior, you call and He will answer. He will be there instantaneously, in the twinkling of an eye. “Yea, before they call,” said our Lord God, “Before they call, I will answer” [Isaiah 65:24].
And on the way, on the way to lay His hand upon that little girl who had died [Matthew 9:18-19], on His way, behold, a woman with an issue of blood who said in her heart, “If I just touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed” [Matthew 9:20-21]. He preaches a sermon on the way to church. He is doing good while doing good. Oh, the abounding sweetness of the overflow of the life of Jesus! Like the prayer the preacher prays, “Our sweet and blessed Lord Jesus, our precious Savior, the Lord Jesus.” On the way she said, “If I but touch His garment, I shall be whole; if I but touch His garment” [Matthew 9:20-21]. Now wouldn’t it have been very simple for her to have been healed and the Lord go on, not pay any attention, not say any word? She was healed by touching the hem of His garment, but the Lord stopped, and He made a little speech just for her, and He made her to feel as though she had healed herself. And Jesus turned it about when He saw her and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole” [Matthew 9:22].
Why didn’t the Lord say, “Behold the virtue that is in My garment”? Why didn’t the Lord say, “Behold the overflow of My soul; it reaches even to the hem of My garment; and you just touch the hem of My garment and you will be healed”? He never said anything approaching that. He made her feel as though she had done it herself. “Daughter, be of good comfort. Thy faith hath made thee whole,” a little speech just for her. A flower is no less precious if it also has fragrance, and this healing is doubly dear because of the compassionate thoughtfulness of the Lord Jesus.
And I continue in that spirit. “And Jesus went about all their 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]. When Jesus came to town you wouldn’t realize there were so many sick. Even an old-timer who’d lived there beyond seventy years was amazed at the number who were ill.
When the Lord came, seems like, seems as if the whole town was flooded with those who were ill. When He came to town, a blind man heard His footsteps. When He came to town, a dumb man saw signs of His presence in the air. When He came to town, all the sad and the despairing, with their feeble hands, relit again their little lamps of hope and of prayer, when Jesus came to town.
I can imagine. I can imagine the Savior walking through those villages and through those cities, and wherever He went, there were the sick, and the despairing, the blind, and the crippled, and the lame, and the lost, all out in the streets. I can easily imagine the disciples saying, “Send them away. Send them away.” That’s what they usually said. When the Lord said, “These multitudes are hungry,” the disciples said, “Send them away. Send them away” [Matthew 14:15]. Not the Lord; not one sent away, not one turned aside, not one. And out of the small that they possessed, the Lord fed them all [Matthew 14:16-20]. The barrel of meal never failed, and the cruse of oil never wasted [I Kings 17:16]. And out of the abundance of the love of His soul they all were healed. He healed them all [Luke 6:19].
Haven’t you heard me say many, many times, “I’ve not yet discovered how to do it, but if I knew how, we’d have healing services in this First Baptist Church here in Dallas”? We’d have times when we’d bring our sick, and we’d pray over them that they might be well. Reason I don’t do it is I don’t know how to do it. But I believe in doing it. I believe in praying for the sick. I believe in divine healing. And I may not believe in being paid for it, and I may not believe in professional divine healers, but I believe in divine healing, in praying for our sick. And if I knew how to do it, we would have healing services in this church where we’d gather to pray for and to intercede for our sick. This is the compassion of Jesus. “And when the multitude saw it, they marveled, saying, It was never, it was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33].
Now, briefly, this last word of the marvel of Jesus: think of what Israel had experienced, their deliverance from God. At the Red Sea the Lord parted the waves and the water, and His people walked through [Exodus 14:21-22]. At Jericho, and He destroyed the walls [Joshua 6:20]. Think of what Israel had experienced; when Sennacherib, that bitter Assyrian, held Jerusalem as a man in his iron fist, the Lord destroyed the armies of Sennacherib [Isaiah 37:36]. Think of the story of Esther and how God had spared His people [Esther 4:15-17, 7:1-9:32]. But there’s no deliverance like unto the deliverance of our Lord for His people, out of bondage into liberty, out of the house of prison into the palaces of heaven [John 14:2-3]. The whole creation moves toward the ultimate coronation of our Lord [Revelation 19:12]. As in the days of His flesh, all history, every syllable of the human story had moved toward the day of His coming and of His cross [Hebrews 9:26], so now every syllable of human history moves toward the great coronation of the Son of God [Revelation 19:12].
And in that day it shall be as it is here on the page of the Book. When He stood at the bow of the ship to rebuke the winds and the waves and there was a great calm [Matthew 8:23-26], so shall it be when our Lord stands on the platform of the shekinah glory of heaven and He rebukes those who furiously make war and who destroy [Isaiah 2:11-21]. And He will rebuke those who hate and those who sow discord. And He will rebuke all that devour and destroy, and there shall be a great calm [Isaiah 2:4]. And hell and death and the grave will obey His voice [Revelation 1:18] when our Lord shall come to be admired in His saints and to be glorified in all them who believe [2 Thessalonians 1:10].
Courage, my brother, courage; the storms may beat and the tempest may rise, but the Lord is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge [Psalm 46:11].
Fierce was the wild billow;
Dark was the night;
Oars labor’d heavily;
Foam glimmer’d 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, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” [Matthew 8:27]; the marvel of Jesus.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give his heart to Jesus. Put your life in the fellowship of the church. A couple you, a family you, as the Spirit of our Lord shall lead in the way, shall say the word, shall open the door, make it this morning. Make it now. Whatever God shall whisper to your heart, answer; answer, while we stand and while we sing.