Jesus and Human Need
October 2nd, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
JESUS AND HUMAN NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-2-66 7:30 p.m.
If you listen on the radio, turn in your Bible with us to the Gospel of Matthew, the First Gospel, chapter 15, chapter 15. We shall begin reading at verse 29 and read to the end of the chapter; Matthew chapter 15, verse 29, and read to the end of the chapter. And if you listen on radio, read it out loud as we shall do together in this vast auditorium. 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, 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 you? 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.
On these Sunday nights, always there is a sermon about Jesus. I am following the life of our Lord, though it is so long in preaching, that our people are not aware of it. The life of Jesus is so rich; it is like finding a vast treasure of pearls on the bottom of the sea. And just on a Sunday night, we will take one and look at it; but there are a thousand thousand more that could have been exhibited in glory, in beauty. The iridescent loveliness of our Lord, His life, His purity, His character, the infinite and godly wisdom by which He spake, the grace that like dew distilled fell from His lips, the words sweeter than honey, oh, we could never, if I had a thousand lifetimes, begin to touch the hem of the garment of the glory of God in the life and face and words of Jesus our Lord. So these Sunday nights, every Sunday night is a message about Jesus. Now the title of the subject tonight is Jesus and Human Need.
In the verse that we read, in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, when they brought to the feet of our Lord all of the lame and blind and dumb and maimed, and cast them down at His feet, the Lord called unto His disciples, and said, “I have compassion on the multitude” [Matthew 15:32], those vast numbers around Him who were sick, who were old, who were maimed, who were in need, who fainted by the way. Nor is this an unusual circumstance in the life of our Lord. As you follow the story presented in the Gospels, you will find it mentioned again and again.
For example, in the [ninth] chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd [Matthew 9:36]. Then He said to His disciples, O pray that the Lord will send forth laborers, and harvesters, and shepherds, and comforters, and encouragers, and inspirers, and lovers, and ministers,” the need is so great [Matthew 9:37-38]. And there is not a pastor who loves his people in this earth but that knows the infinitude of the need for help and encouragement and inspiration in the lives of our people. And it moved the heart of Jesus: “Jesus moved with compassion” is His endearing name.
I turn the page, and again I read, in the first chapter of Mark, “There came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, kneeling down, and saying, Lord, that I might be clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and he was clean” [Mark 1:40-42]. I turn the page, in the Gospel of Luke, the story is told of a widow – the Old English, “a widow woman,” a widow – and she was following her only son out of the city of Nain, and the boy was in a casket, dead, and as she followed and wept; her only child. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and He raised that boy and He laid him again in the arms of his mother [Luke 7:11-15]. That is God.
And what I find in the life of our Lord, moved by human need, I find in picture of the great Jehovah God from the beginning of our fall. When the Lord looks down and sees His people crying, and in sorrow, and their hearts hurt, and their souls are torn, it hurts the heart of God. For example, in the third chapter of the story told in Exodus, the Lord sent to Moses out of the burning bush [Exodus 3:1-4], “Moses, surely, surely I have seen the affliction of My people, and their cry has come up unto Me. Now therefore let Me send thee, and go down to deliver My people in Egypt” [Exodus 3:7, 9-10].
And not only does it move the heart of God, but it tempers, it softens God’s judgment. Truly were it not for the sympathy and the compassion of God with us, He would destroy this sinful, depraved race from off the face of the earth. It is in the compassion, in the mercy of God, that we live and that history continues.
Now to go back to my sentence: it is the compassion of God in His love and sympathy with us that tempers His judgments. And I turn to the story of Jonah. Jonah entered the city of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, a country that oppressed Israel, and he started at the outskirts of the city, and for three days he walked into the heart of that great capital, and said with a vengeance, “Yet forty days, forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” [Jonah 3:4]. Hallelujah, praise God! The Lord is done with the blasphemy and the godlessness and the cruelty of Assyria, and forty days from now, God will destroy this city. And when Nineveh heard that, and tidings of the word of the prophet came to the king, he stepped down from his throne, he took aside his royal garments, he dressed himself in sackcloth, and he made a decree throughout the whole kingdom, “Let every man, let every man turn from his evil way. Let him repent! Let him seek the face of God. Let him sit in ashes. And it may be that God will spare us” [Jonah 3:5-9].
So old Jonah went outside on a hill and sat down to see his prophecy come to pass, to see God drop an atomic bomb from heaven on that great city of Nineveh. And it didn’t happen, didn’t happen. The Lord God saw that king in repentance, and those people dressed in sackcloth, and He did not destroy them [Jonah 3:10]. And it made Jonah furious! [Jonah 4:1]. “Here I am preaching that God’s going to damn all these people, and destroy the city, and judge the whole Assyrian Empire! And don’t do anything that I’ve said.” Doesn’t that humiliate a man? Doesn’t that take away his pride? And Nineveh was down in the dust, in the dust. And the Lord saw him out there on that hill, waiting for the atomic bomb to fall, and nothing happened. And the Lord said, “Jonah, what is the matter with you?”
And Jonah said, “I’m mad. I’m furious. I’m seething on the inside!” And the Lord said, “Well Jonah, what you mad about?” And Jonah said, “I’ve spent forty days in this city, and I cried day and night, saying, “This city is going to be destroyed. God’s going to judge it!” Nothing happened. And I know You: You are not going to judge this city, You are not going to destroy this city. And that’s the reason I fled to Tarshish: because I knew Thou art a God of great compassion, of great compassion [Jonah 4:2]. And I knew You wouldn’t do that when I came through that city and preached that You would.; I knew You wouldn’t..”
And the Lord said, “Jonah, Jonah, Jonah, is it right for you to be grieved and hurt that I have forgiven the sins of this great city? Is it right?” [Jonah 4:4]. Jonah said, “Right or no right, I’m furious. I’m furious.”
So the Lord caused a vine to grow up over Jonah and sheltered him from the sweltering sun [Jonah 4:6]. And when Jonah was enjoying the shade of that gourd, the Lord prepared a little worm that cut it down at its roots [Jonah 4:7]. Did you ever think about that? Little worms are all in the eyes and program of God. Did you ever think of that? Isn’t that an amazing thing, the meticulous care and guidance of God in this whole world? Ever see a half of one when you eat an apple? All those things, everything about those things, all of this is in the mind of God.
He prepared a little worm; that little worm cut through the root of that gourd, and it withered. And Jonah grieved over the gourd. And the Lord God came down and said, “Jonah, Jonah, look at you, grieving over this gourd vine. Jonah, is it well that you are angry and you had pity on this gourd, and when you saw it wither and die you said, How sorrowful! What a pitiful sight that this beautiful vine should be cut down by some little gnawing worm! Jonah, should I not be moved with compassion over a great city that has in it one hundred twenty thousand children?” [Jonah 4:7-11].
Do you ever think about that when you read about China, and you read about these vile and villainous and blasphemous words that the leaders of these nations say against God and His Christ and our faith? Don’t you sometimes think, “Lord God, why don’t You come down from heaven, and why don’t You destroy those nations, so godless and blasphemous? Why don’t You do it, Lord?” Do you ever think about the little children in those cities? Oh, the Lord as He looks down, He hopes that they’ll turn and they’ll repent. That’s what God says in His Book. The reason the Lord doesn’t destroy the world, the reason God doesn’t judge these cities and these vile nations and these blasphemous leaders is because God is waiting that men will repent and turn to Him and call upon His name. Human need: children, the sick, the aged, move the heart of God.
And if I can understand anything form this Book, it is this: that we are most Christ-like and God-like when the energies of our lives are devoted and expended in ministries to others, moved with compassion, loving the lost, open-hearted toward those who turn to Jesus.
I suppose the most beautiful parable the Lord ever told is about that. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, the story of the prodigal boy wasting his substance with harlots and in riotous living; yet when he came back, and the father saw him down that road, the Book says, “And the father, moved with compassion, ran and hugged the boy to his heart, and kissed him, and put a new robe on him, and a ring on his finger, and rejoiced, saying, This my boy was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” [Luke 15:20-24]. Isn’t that a marvelous thing, a glorious thing? And isn’t it marvelous if people who are lost could know they would find in us a wonderful and heavenly welcome?
Or again, in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke is a parable almost as sweet and precious as the parable in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. The one in the tenth chapter is the story of the Good Samaritan. The priest passed him by, and the Levite passed him by, but the Good Samaritan stopped and bathed his wounds, carried him to the hotel, and paid for his recovery; and when he left, said, “If he needs more, I will repay when I come by on my next journey” [Luke 10:30-35]. That’s God-like. That is Christ-like. And our church has dedicated itself and gives itself to those ministries.
Are there people who are lost and need Jesus? It is our hope and purpose that in the invitations we extend, and in the Sunday school work that we do, and in all of the outreach and love and prayers of this great congregation, that people who are lost will be constrained to come to our Lord.
Are there children who would come to Sunday school if we picked them up? Oh, I could pray that increasingly the members of our church would see that a family that has little children, if they will not bring them, that you would pick them up and carry them to God’s house.
Are there mothers who work downtown and they have little children? Did you know, you can bring them here to this church, and we will keep them for you? We’ll do that every day in the week, if you’d like to bring that little child down here to this church, and leave that little child with us. You go work downtown, as so many of our noble women do; then after the work, come and pick up the little fellow, and take him home. There are ten thousand ministries of this wonderful church for which I thank God.
We have these glorious, prayerful people who work in our missions. They’re out there tonight; they’re over there tonight; they’re praying, preaching the gospel, and they’re winning them to Jesus. They’re picking drunkards up out of the gutter. And homes and lives and families that are wrecked and ruined and destroyed by sin, they are putting them back whole and well again in the blessed, blessed Jesus.
This is our assignment and our ministry: no one of us in God’s house, doing what we do, in order to be personally exalted or honored, to be elected or to be received with all kind of personal acclaim. The Lord forbid it, forbid it! Even as Jesus says, “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” [Mark 10:45].
You know, one of the strangest things has been coming into my mind, and I don’t know how to do it. I wish there were something in our church comparable to what our Savior did when He washed the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know how to accomplish it, I don’t know how to achieve it, but I wish God would reveal something to me whereby we could exhibit to one another and to the Lord our depths of bowing before Jesus. I hate to say “our humility,” because to speak of it, it’s no longer humble. But that is God in the family of the Lord.
My brother, if I can help, use me. But you don’t need to exalt me, or elect me, or further me. If I can help, call at my door, ring my telephone, and stop by my office. I can open a window for Jesus. If I can stand at a door for Jesus, if I could sweep out a floor for Jesus, if I could help with little children, call on me; I’m not too big. It’d be no condescension. I’d love for Jesus.
You know what I thought I’d do in my “Pastor’s Pen?” I thought I’d make an appeal for men to go and work in our children’s’ departments. I don’t know whether he’s got it right or not, naming these men, but when I came to church tonight with little Cris, little seven-year-old boy, I said, “Cris, where are you in Sunday school?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m a Primary now.” He’s been graduated, promoted to be a Primary. Well, I said, “Who’s your superintendent?” He said, “He’s a man, Bill, Mr. Bill Kelsey.”
“Oh?” I said, “You’ve got a man in the Primary?”
“Yes sir, I’ve got a man, Bill Kelsey.” Well, I said, “Fine. Who’s your Sunday school teacher?”
“Oh,” he said, “I have a man Sunday school teacher.” I said, “What’s his name?”
“W. T. Henry, Jr.” He said, “Daddy, what is that “Jr” on the end of his name mean?” Now he may have all that mixed up, but I thought, “What a glorious thing to impress a little boy that God’s business is big business.” God’s business is a man’s business. And I just thought I’d make an appeal in my “Pastor’s Pen,” asking our men, “If you’re not involved, go with those little children.” It’s not beneath our dignity for Jesus sake. Why Jack, I’ve been coming down here to this church twenty-two years, and twenty-two years I’ve seen you in that Nursery division. It honors God. It blesses the Lord.
Now outside the church, we may be major-domos and high factotums. Man, we may be just on and on and on and on. But in the house of the Lord, in God’s house, let us be servants, brethren, wash feet.
Now I want to close; our time is gone. In that ministry – oh, how sweet to give ourselves. One of the ways that we can give ourselves is turning our time and our lives into currency, into funds. “I work, and this is the reward of the investment of my life,” and then Sunday by Sunday, bringing to God a tithe and an offering, laying it at Jesus’ feet. One of the sweetest women, little maids, I ever knew in my life, she lived so frugally. You know what she did? She gave everything she had to God’s church; brought it right down here. How the Lord sanctifies such a devotion of a little maid like that precious woman: giving of ourselves.
“And here I am, preacher, here I am. I’m going to take Jesus as my Savior tonight, and here I come.” “I’m going to put my life in the fellowship of this church tonight, and here I come.” “Pastor, this is my wife; the two of us are coming tonight.” Or, “These are my children, my whole family, we’re all coming tonight.” Do it now. Do it now.
In the balcony round, there’s a stairway at the front, at the back, on either side; make it tonight. Coming into this aisle, down to the front, I’ll be standing on this side of our table of memorial. Give me your hand, and say, “Preacher, tonight I’ve given my heart to Jesus, and here I come.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Do it now. On the first note of that first stanza, come. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming, “I have decided for Jesus, and here I am. God shall have me. I’ll ask the Lord to bless these days and these hours as I give them to Him.” He won’t let you down. He’ll see you through. There’ll be a thousand rewards in the precious hands of Jesus you never thought for, if you’ll entrust your life to Him. Do it. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
JESUS AND HUMAN NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Human Need
A. Seemed to move the heart of Christ
1. Compassion on the multitude (Matthew 15:32)
2. Not unusual in the life of our Lord (Matthew 9:36-38, Mark 1:40-41, Luke 7:11-15)
B. Seems to touch the heart of the highest Godhead
1. Hurts the heart of God to see His people suffer (Exodus 3:7-10)
C. Seems to stay the heavy hand of judgment
1. Compassion of God in His love and sympathy tempers His judgments (Jonah 3, 4)
D. We are most Christ-like when moved with compassion, loving the lost
1. Parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20-24)
2. Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)
II. Our church an instrument of ministry to human need
A. Outreach to the lost
B. Children and families
C. Our missions
D. We are not to be personally exalted (Mark 10:45)
III. Giving ourselves