Bread in the Wilderness
October 9th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
BREAD IN THE WILDERNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-9-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you are invited to turn to the First Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 15; and we shall read together verse 29 to the end of the chapter. Matthew chapter 15, beginning at verse 29 and reading to the end of the chapter. The title of the sermon is Bread in the Wilderness; and you will see the phrase as we read it. Now all of us together, beginning at verse 29:
And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the Sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, and blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and He healed them:
Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
And His disciples say unto Him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven and a few little fishes.
And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
And He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
This is so fulsome, so precious a depiction of our Lord. I would suppose, wouldn’t you, that He went up into this mountain to rest, to pray, to be alone, to see the sun set in the evening, to see the dawn in the morning, to be quiet, to commune with God, to be away from a maddening throng and the rustle and bustle and hustle of the people. So busy in His life that the Scriptures say that He and the disciples hardly had opportunity to eat. So we would suppose that He made this withdraw beyond the Sea of Galilee into a mountainous country such as Gilead in order that He might rest.
But there was no rest for our Lord in the days of that Galilean ministry; the need of the people was so great, so deep. And there, up in the mountains, they brought to Him a great multitude of lame, and blind, and dumb, and maimed, and others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet. It would seem that the whole human refuse that they could gather together, the outcast, the unwanted, the maimed, the crippled, all who were not well; they gathered the whole flotsam and jetsam of human life and just cast it down at Jesus’ feet [Matthew 15:30-31]. How easily it would have been for the Lord to look and say, “What? What? Do I not have even these moments of enjoyment? Why bring these throngs of sick and maimed and crippled? Why bring them to Me?”
No such response as that was ever found in the heart of our Lord. He was most theirs in their deepest need. And when they cast down at His feet that multitude of lame, and blind, and diseased, and maimed, and crippled, the Lord welcomed them and He healed them [Matthew 15:30]. He turned that whole mountain, and the surrounding hills round about, He turned the whole sea into rejoicing and jubilation and thanksgiving and praise to God, “Insomuch that the multitude wondered when they saw the dumb speak, and the maimed to be whole, and the lame to walk, and the blind to see, and they glorified the God of Israel” [Matthew 15:31].
I think of the prophecy of Isaiah, in Isaiah 55:12: “And the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Oh, what a scene and what a sight! I can just see it in my mind’s imagination.
Here is a man, crippled, dragging himself up that mountainside; and now he walks down that same mountainside strong, and whole, and well again. Here is a blind man, groping from rock to rock, seeking the hand of the gentle Jesus; and now, being able to see, he looks at God’s heaven, and God’s creation around him. And I can just hear his shouts of praise and glory as he comes down from that mountainside.
And I can just see the maimed, and the crippled, and the diseased, a multitude of them it says, all of them stumbling and staggering and feeling their way. Multitudes of them dragging themselves up that mountainside to the great Physician; and every one of them, every one of them with shouts of praise and glory and gladness, coming down that mountainside, “And they glorified the God of Israel” [Matthew 15:31]. What a scene, what a sight, what glory, glory, glory!
Then the story continues: “Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me these three days, and have nothing to eat” [Matthew 15:32]. There’s another indication, and a poignant, effective one, of the glory of those hours. Imagine coming to church and staying three whole days and not stopping to eat; just imagine such a thing. Well, that’s what happened here. The people were so filled with joy, and glory, and gladness, and gratitude that they failed even to think of departing to find food in any nearby village; just staying close to the Lord, just looking on His heavenly face, just listening to His marvelous words. And as the days passed, the people grew faint after fasting three days [Matthew 15:32].
Now the Scriptures say when Jesus looked upon them He was mindful, He was mindful of their estate. He took cognizance of the fact that they had been there for three days without food [Matthew 15:32]. Do you suppose the Lord notices the little things about us in our lives, do you suppose He does? Do you suppose the Lord sees some of our families who struggle in order to pay debts and to pay bills; and the children need so many things, and the time of their education comes and there’s nothing saved for the education of the children? Do you suppose the Lord notices when sickness comes and doctor bills, and hospital bills, and medical bills, and pharmaceutical bills pile up and there’s hardly money with which to pay?
Do you suppose the Lord notices when the household is in disruption and the mother is in despair? Do you suppose the Lord sees all of these things with all of God’s universe to run and the planets to oversee and their orbits? Do you suppose the great high God in heaven looks down upon such little things in our lives? We have every indication and revelation and assurance that He does. He says even the hairs in our heads are numbered [Matthew 10:30], and He says that there is no little, tiny sparrow that falls to the ground but that His eye watched its descent [Matthew 10:29]. And the Lord noticed and was sensitive to their hunger. And He said, “They have nothing to eat; and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” [Matthew 15:32].
What a glorious, glorious Savior and Redeemer we have! Jesus called His disciples unto Him and said, “I have compassion on the multitude.” He felt in His heart our need and our necessity. There were strings in His heart that responded, vibrated. There were chords that sounded when the Lord looked upon human need. Every sermon that He preached had that note of sympathy and understanding and compassion in it.
He is like the apostle Paul. Paul, in describing his words and his work, Paul says that he went “from house to house with many tears” [Acts 20:31, 19-20]. And in his letter to the church at Corinth, he says, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I write unto you with many tears” [2 Corinthians 2:4]. As Paul penned that letter, here a teardrop fell, there a teardrop fell. I wonder if we had the manuscript, the original manuscript of this letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, I wonder if some of the words were almost blotted out where the tears of the apostle had fallen on the page. Our Lord was like that; out of His heart He spoke and out of His heart He felt in the needs of the people. And yet, modern day religion studiously, and learnedly, and academically, and thoughtedly, and taughtedly seeks to abolish all feeling and all emotion out of religion.
I read in the daily paper here in Dallas, that altercation they had over there in England concerning the revival meeting in London. One of the men defending it said, “There was nothing of emotion in it at all.” And he says that in defense, as though to have feeling and emotion in religion is a weakness and a cause for condemnation. I don’t understand what has befallen modern theologians. Why, feeling and emotion is at the very heart, it’s foundational to everything that we experience in life. You love somebody. It is something in your soul. You feel it, it’s a part of you, and it’s moving. And any kind of a great commission is a commitment, is attended with great emotion. And how can a man look upon his lost soul and how can a man look upon the sacrifice of Jesus who died that he might be saved [Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14], and do it in pure academic, scholarly intellectualism? I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it. The Lord was not like that. When He looked upon the people in their need, it moved His heart, and He said, “I have compassion on the people” [Matthew 15:32]. And every message that He preached was filled with that deepest feeling and sympathy.
Did you ever think of the Lord in His hours of condemnation, and judgment, and excoriation? There is not in all literature, there is not in Homer, there is not in Milton, there is not in Shakespeare, there is not in Goethe, there is not anywhere in all secular literature, there is not a literature so vituperative, so excoriating a condemnation as you will read in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew. These blistering words are without parallel in human history:
Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You bind burdens grievous to be borne, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but you yourselves will not lift them with one hand.
Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; you do not go in yourselves, neither will you let others go in.
Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Ye devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.
[Matthew 23:4, 13, 14]
And He continues in that vitriolic and condemnatory way. Well, did you ever, did you ever notice how it ends, how it ends, how does our Lord close so condemnatory and excoriating a passage? How does He end it? He ends it in a sob, He ends it in a broken heart. He ends it in tears:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till that day when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
In condemnation, weeping, weeping, lamenting: I’ve often heard it said that any time a man preaches on hell, and judgment, and damnation, he ought to preach it with a broken heart; never in triumph or in victory as though we were glad and grateful to God that these sinners were going to be judged and damned forever. But when a man preaches on hell and the judgment, it ought to be after great, earnest, agony of soul; and he ought to preach with tears in his heart, and tears in his voice, and tears in his eyes, just like the Lord Jesus did. In His condemnation, He was moved, even unto tears and lamentation [Luke 19:41-44].
And may I parenthesize here to say, this prophecy of our Lord about Israel, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” [Matthew 23:38], His prophecy does not end in despair and defeat and discouragement. He lifts up His eyes beyond this age and beyond this interlude in God’s history, and He sees that glorious day when His own people are going to say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 23:39].
The Jew as a Jew, the Jew as a nation, is not going to be saved until they see the Lord personally coming in glory. There will be some, as Paul. There will be some, as the converts in those first synagogues. There will be some, as you see in our congregation today; Israelites, Hebrew people, who are saved. But the Lord said the great mass of the nation, through these years and this present age, will live in unbelief with a veil over their hearts, but not forever [2 Corinthians 3:14-16]. There is coming a time when the Lord shall appear in person as He did to His brother James [1 Corinthians 15:7], as He did to His brethren the brothers of James, and they were saved [Acts 1:14]. So the Lord in these last days when He comes is going to appear to His people, and they are going to be saved. As Paul writes, “And so all Israel will be saved” [Romans 11:26]; and then shall Israel say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 23:39]. It is dark now. Their lives are filled with rejection and unbelief now, but someday they shall say:
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord [Matthew 23:39].
And they shall see Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son.
And there shall be a fountain of cleansing opened for David, and David’s family, and Abraham’s children, and God’s elect people, and they are going to be saved.
[Zechariah 12:10, 13:1]
The tears of our Lord, fallen on this earth, sanctify the very ground, the very dust of this planet; and God looks upon it, and God shall honor that glorious Savior, His Son and our Lord, and He is going to give Him these marvelous rewards: the love and devotion of the people He is gathering out now in this age of grace, and you’re in it, and someday Israel, when they look upon their elder Brother and are saved [Romans 11:26]. The compassion of our Lord; even in His judgment there is a silver lining and a golden hope and a glorious promise. And this is the kind of a Savior that we seek and that we need in our lives.
I do not naysay the place of a clever man in our daily living, television, otherwise. They amuse us for a moment; –and I have always greatly admired the man who has the gift of humor, –and the clown and comedian have a place in life. It is a rare gift, and they entertain us for a while.
And the materialists, and the secularists, and the pseudoscientists that spins out all kinds of hypotheses and theories to explain to us the meaning of our own souls and our psychological behavior and all of these things we see around us; they have a fine farewell philosophy. But tell me, my brother, you tell me, when the time of our ultimate and final need comes, and we face a deep valley and a dark hour and an inevitable death, are you calling for the clown, or the comedian, or the clever man? Or do we even ask, “Now, say again, how was that hypothesis? What did you say? Would you reconstruct for me that theory?” Is that how we do?
When the final and ultimate hour comes, don’t we grope after and seek the hand of Him and say, “Lord, would You repeat those words again? How was it that You said, was it, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ [Hebrews 13:5], was that it Lord, was that it? And Master, did You say that ‘beyond the swollen river of death I go to prepare a place for you’ [John 14:2]; is that what You said, Lord?”
These other things have a moment of interest, then they dissolve away. Why, I never heard of a man facing death in my life that called for some pseudoscientist and said, “Now will you carefully reconstruct for me these hypotheses that leave God out of the universe, that decry the presence of the Almighty in the world that He made.” I never heard of that in my life. But I could not tell you the number of times that I myself have sat down by the bedside of one of God’s saints who faced the great and ultimate call and say to me, “Pastor, would you read to me one of God’s promises? Would you turn over there to the fourteenth chapter of John [John 14:1-3], or would you turn to the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians [1 Thessalonians 5:8-11], or would you turn to the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians [2 Corinthians 5:1-8], and would you read to me out of God’s Book and say again those precious promises?” That’s what we need. That’s what we want, and that’s what Jesus means to us.
I must close. And the Lord, moved with compassion, said, “Let us feed this multitude, lest they faint in the way” [Matthew 15:32]. And, isn’t that a remarkable thing? Why, imagine a man who could break bread, and break a few little fishes, and break, and break, and break, and break until there were four thousand men who were fed, beside the women and children; must have been a multitude of many, many thousands [Matthew 15:36-38]. What a glorious miracle! Well, why did He do it, for show, for ostentation, for glory?
Same kind of a thing as you read in the second temptation: “Master, cast Yourself down from the top of this pinnacle, for the Book says, and I believe the Book,” Satan says he believes the Book, “I believe the Book, for it is written, the angels will bear Thee up lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone” [Matthew 4:5-6]. And Satan says, “I believe that Book. It’s written in the Book. Now You cast Yourself down, Lord, and the angels will bear Thee up. And when these great throngs that crowd into Jerusalem see that, oh, they will be astonished at so marvelous a feat.” The Lord said, “No, never, never” [Matthew 4:7].
Well then, why this marvelous miracle which is greater than that of casting Himself down from the temple; why this marvelous miracle of breaking bread and dividing the fish until the people were fed? [Matthew 15:32-39]. Jesus said, “Give them to eat, for I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” [Matthew 15:32]; a preventive remembrance, a preventive love and compassion.
Do you ever sometimes stop to think what could have happened to you were it not for the preventive love and mercy of God? Do you ever think about that? Sometimes we think, “O Lord, such a deep valley, O God, such dark despair, O God, how heavy is this way for us.” But do you ever think how heavy it might have been and how dark it could have been had it not been for the preventive love and mercy and intervention of the Almighty?
And this is the compassion of our Lord: “No, I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” [Matthew 15:32]; the miracle, the intervention of God, not for ostentation or show, but out of the love of His compassionate heart, lest some evil befall them, lest some hurt come upon them, lest some trial greater than they can bear, and the Lord does some gracious, marvelous thing for you. And He does it every day of your life. Every day that you live and breathe there is some gracious intervention of God in your life. And how it could have been and might have been is almost impossible for us to imagine. But the Lord intervened and made the burden so we could bear it, opened a door so we could go through, pulled aside the clouds that the sun might shine, revealed Himself to us in sweetness, and preciousness, and nearness, and dearness. That’s our Lord in His loving care for His own.
Our time is gone. Before we go off the air, they’re gracious, they let me finish my sermon. While we sing this song of appeal––we just then went off the air––while we sing this song of appeal, I was going to make an appeal over that radio. Every time I stand up here to preach, I say, “Now tonight I’m going to get through in time to make an appeal on that radio”; but I don’t know what happens to me. When I get to thinking about the Lord and get to talking about the Savior and reviewing His marvelous goodnesses to us, it just seems like thirty minutes or forty minutes is as a moment. I’m like that old colored fellow, shouting in the church; and they sent the committee to see him, and they found him in the field plowing with his mule. And the committee announced the purpose of their coming: “We are appointed committee from the church to wait on you, to see to it you quit that shouting in the church!”
And the old colored feller wrapped the reins around his hand and stood there between the plow handles, and he said, “Well, my brethren, I understand, I know, I understand. But,” he said, “you know, when I get to thinking about the Lord, and I get to thinking about my old lost soul, and I get to thinking about Jesus dying for my sins, and I get to thinking about heaven and all that God has in store for me,” he said, “my brethren, I, my brethren, here, my brethren, hold these reins while I shout.”
Well I just feel that way. Just start talking about Jesus, and just start saying something about the Lord, and there’s a fullness of heart and an overflowing gratitude to God for His goodness to us that is inexpressible. Ah, that you could write it in a poem, that you could sing it in a song, that you could say it in a word; it is great and glorious and blessed and precious to give your heart to Jesus.
Now as I started to say, while we sing this song of appeal, in this balcony round, is there somebody you whom the Lord calls tonight? In this great throng on this lower floor, is there a family you, a couple, a child, is there somebody you to whom the Lord speaks tonight? You come. On the first note of this first stanza, you come. When you stand up, say, “Lord, here I am, and here I come.” And make it tonight. Make it now. The Lord will see you through. There are a thousand questions that I can’t answer, and we don’t know, but He knows. There are a thousand trials for which we’re not equal; but He is. Trust Him for it, give yourself to Him and let God see you through. Come, come, look to Jesus, give your heart to the Lord. “Here I am, pastor, I make it now.” Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The ministry on the mountaintop(Matthew 15:29-31)
A. Jesus does not turn
B. He healed them
C. They glorified the
God of Israel(Isaiah 55:12)
D. He was mindful of
1. He sees our
needs today(Matthew 10:29-30)
II. Our compassionate Savior(Matthew 15:32)
A. He preached with
Like Paul who besought men with many tears (Acts
20:31, Philippians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 2:4)
spoke out of His heart and felt the needs of the people
a. Modern religion seeks
to abolish all emotion
B. He rebuked with
compassion(Matthew 23:4, 13-14, 37-39)
1. In His condemnation
He was moved to tears
does not end in despair and defeat(Romans 11:26,
Mark 11:9, Zechariah 12:10-13:1)
C. It is the
compassionate Christ we need in our hour of deepest trial
1. His promises
to us (Hebrews 13:5, John 14:3)
III. The basis for His marvelous miracles
A. Not to demonstrate
His miraculous power (Matthew 4:6)
1. “Lest they
faint in the way” (Matthew 15:32)
B. The preventative
ministry of Christ(Acts 12:7-8, 27:23, Daniel