Listening to Jesus
November 20th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
LISTENING TO JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-20-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message. Now, as on the radio, as with us here in this great auditorium, would you turn to Mark chapter 9? And we shall read together verses 1 through 10; Mark, the Second Gospel, Mark chapter 9, the first ten verses. And the title of the sermon tonight is Listening to Jesus. Every Sunday night there is a sermon on the Lord. For all years now I have been preaching through the life of Christ; where I leave off last Sunday night I begin this Sunday night, where I leave off this Sunday night we will begin next Sunday night. What a blessed outline, following the life of our Lord. So, Mark chapter 9, the first ten verses; and the title of the sermon is Listening to Jesus. And you will see the text, "This is My beloved Son: hear Him, hear Him" [Mark 9:7]. Now let us read it together:
And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and He was transfigured before them.
And His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.
And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear Him.
And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.
And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man were risen from the dead.
And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
The title of the sermon Listening to Jesus. Now the sermon is built upon a contrast between Simon Peter, the spokesman for the apostles, our spokesman, representative of us in this earth, "He wist not what to say" [Mark 9:6]. "Wist not," Old English for "he did not know, he did not know," "he wist not." Then the next verse, "This is My beloved Son: hear Him" [Mark 9:7]: the contrast between what we could know, what we could understand, what God knows and what God understands, is the contrast between the lowliness of earth and the infinitude of heaven. Do you remember the glorious prophecy in Isaiah, and a part of that fifty-fifth chapter is like this: when God has outlined a marvelous thing for His people, and they look in astonishment at it, how could a man enter into it? The Lord says, "For My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts" [Isaiah 55:8-9]. Contrasting the infinitude of the understanding and knowledge of God, and our abject and abysmal darkness and ignorance, is like the contrast between earth below and heaven above.
Now I want to illustrate that in another way. As we ourselves mature, as we grow in understanding and in knowledge, the difference between us today in maturity and our understanding in childhood is like a vast gulf. I have seen, for example, the heartaches and the tears that are so real to a little child. Here’s a little fellow in the crib, and his teddy bear has fallen over; and there he is – I’ve seen this, the reason I think of it – and there he is, oh, just lamenting and weeping and crying; oh, oh, the teddy bear down there where he can’t reach it. That’s a catastrophe in his life. Think again, a child – I went through this – I could not describe to you the personal sorrow that I felt when the basketball boys said to me, "You are too young and too little to play." And they pushed me out; oh, that just killed me, it just killed me. Oh, I wanted to be in that team, I wanted to play with those boys, I wanted to be on that court, I wanted to share in that fun; but I was too little, and they pushed me out. What a calamitous thing to that boy!
I think again of a teenager, and their dating, and all of those things arise that teenagers are so sensitive to. Where I am in the maturity of age, when I look at those things that just simply cover the horizon of a teenage world, I am amazed and astonished; and they weep over such things, and they lament over such things, that to me are so very transitional, trifling, insignificant, small, but to them so all important. It was against such a thing as that, reflecting it, that James Whitcomb Riley wrote his famous poem "There, Little Girl, Don’t Cry"; remember it?
THERE! little girl, don’t cry!
They have broken your doll, I know;
And your tea-set blue,
And your play-house, too,
Are things of the long ago;
But childish troubles will soon pass by –
There! little girl, don’t cry!
Do you remember the second stanza?
There! little girl, don’t cry!
They have broken your slate, I know;
And the glad, wild ways
Of your school-girl days
Are things of the long ago;
But life and love will soon come by. –
[from "A Life Lesson," James Whitcomb Riley]
You’ll have a fine husband, and a wonderful little baby, and all the other great things in life; there, little teenager, don’t cry! Oh, these things, as I look upon them, back to childhood, to youth, things are so different; for I understand more, I have grown more.
Now God is like that with us. Our understanding, and our ambitions, and our visions, and our dreams, and the things we seek for are so different sometimes, from what God would seek and from what God would have. Now the sermon is going to be about that. It’s going to be about things that we long for, and things that we dread, and things that we fear in this world; then how different Jesus is, and what Jesus had to say about them. Then the sermon is going to conclude with some things that God says are important. All right, now, let’s begin.
These are the things that consume us in this life; we, our hopes, and dreams, and visions, and work, and labor, aspirations. First, things of this world; we’re all engrossed in it, all engulfed in it, there’s no one of us that escapes it. Possessions, and achievement, and advancement, and acquisition; oh, we give our lives to it, our men work for it, our women pray for it, and so much depends upon it. And there we are pouring our lives into the seeking and the grasping of the things of this world. Now that is we.
Now from God’s vantage point, look what He thinks, then what He says. Now the Lord Jesus, He was so poor He had not where to lay His head; a bird would have a nest and a fox would have a hole, but the Lord said, "I have no home" [Matthew 8:20]. He was so poor, that to pay half a shekel of a temple tax, He sent Simon Peter to catch a fish, and found in the mouth of the fish, a shekel, half for the Lord, and half for Simon Peter [Matthew 17:27]. He was born in a borrowed manger [Luke 2:7]. When He held up the tribute money, about fourteen cents, He had to borrow it from somebody in the temple area [Matthew 22:17-21]. Can you imagine that poverty, not even having fourteen cents? He borrowed the tribute money. He borrowed the colt on which He rode into Jerusalem [Matthew 21:1-11]. He borrowed the tomb in which He was laid among the dead [Matthew 27:57-60]. Think of it, think of it, think of it. And what did He say? He said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust doth not corrupt, and where thieves cannot take it away" [Matthew 6:19-20]. How different, the judgment of God, than ours.
All right, a second one: all of us are engrossed, and we cannot help it, all of us are engrossed in trying to make ourselves acceptable to others. These psychologists, and we have one sitting over there at the end of our platform, these psychologists will tell you that one of the terrific drives of human nature is to be accepted by your friends and by your people. Especially will you find that among teenagers, to be shut out and left out, to be ostracized is like death to a teenager. And, my young friend, I don’t deny that it’s almost like death to us too; we want to be loved, to be honored, to be received, to be accepted. It is a part of the very fabric of our soul and life.
All right, the Lord Jesus; the Lord Jesus, how different. When He came to Nazareth, His hometown, the people had gathered round all of them to see Him, for they had heard the glorious miracles that He had done, and the words of grace that fell from His lips [Luke 4:22]. How wonderful it would have been for the Lord Jesus to stand up that day in the synagogue at Nazareth [Luke 4:16], all of His fellow villagers gathered round, and to have made a wonderful speech! Why, He could have said, "Rabbi Olah over there, one of the great men of all time; what a contribution he made in the worship of the village and in the reading of the law in the Torah! Oh, what a fine man, Rabbi Olah!" And then He could have pointed out Ben Oni over here, "What a glorious citizen is Ben Oni!" And what fine things that He could have said. Instead of that, He delivered a message – and I have not time to go through it – but when He got through delivering that message [Luke 4:16-27] the villagers were so full of wrath they took Him out to the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down headlong [Luke 4:28-29]. "Why, Master, did You have to say that? Did You have to make that speech? Did You have to say those things? Master, why, why?" Or, take again; the Lord Jesus at Capernaum [John 6:24], the glorious gathering of those people at Capernaum; by the thousands, He just fed five thousand of them [John 6:5-14] – and I haven’t time to follow the address that He made – but when Jesus got through making that address at the synagogue in Capernaum, the Book says that all of His disciples left Him, they left Him, every one of them [John 6:66]; and Jesus turned to the twelve and said, "Will ye also go away?" [John 6:67] And the Greek turn of that, like it is in the English, "Well, we are contemplating it."
"Are you going to do it?" says the Lord Jesus. Everybody left Him, everybody. And you say to the Lord, "Well, Lord, out of all the things You could have said, and out of all the sermons You could have preached, and out of all the things You could have done, why did You have to say that? You have driven all of them away, all of them."
Or take again the Lord Jesus, about washing hands, washing hands, washing hands [Matthew 15:2-11]; and when the Lord Jesus got through saying what He thought about hand-washing religion, the disciples came to Him privately and said, "Master, did You not know that the Pharisees were offended at You?" [Matthew 15:12]. Why do You have to say that?" Now that’s the Lord, that’s the Lord. And His word was, "Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you" [Matthew 5:12]. When you are like a piece of putty molded by whoever is around you, when you’re like a reed bending to the wind of whatever might be blowing, amount to nothing, believe nothing, stand for nothing, no convictions, no dedications, no anything. Now, we’re that way; we seek after the praise of men, but not God, not the Lord.
Now I have another: our fear of death, our dread of death; to us, how horrible, how heavy. Oh, if the announcement were made to you, "Tomorrow, tomorrow," oh, the dreaded visage of that ending. And all mankind lives in an indescribable fear and a cringing before death. How was the Lord? He looked upon death, it seemed to me – and I’m not being irreverent when I say – almost nonchalantly; but I have to beg your pardon to say it like that. But I don’t know how to stress the feeling of it, as I read the life of the Lord here in the Bible, almost nonchalantly, flippantly, as nothingly.
For example, these disciples were in a boat [Matthew 8:23]; now they’d lived all of their lives on that sea. And there came, out of Mount Hermon, sweeping down into that lake a furious storm [Matthew 8:24]. And those disciples said to one another, "There never was a storm like this. In all of the years of our plying our trade on this lake, never have we seen a boiling cauldron like this. We shall perish!" [Matthew 8:25] And Jesus was sound asleep, sound asleep; not scared to death, not trembling, asleep! And they awoke Him and said, "Master, wake up. Do you not care whether or not we perish? Wake up!" [Matthew 89:24-25]. Nothing to the Lord, nothing [Matthew 8:26].
Or, take Him again, they were – they had a ransom, they had a price on His head in Jerusalem. "Anybody that can spot Him, and point Him out and deliver Him, we will give him a reward," so furious were they with the Savior [Matthew 26:14-16]. And in those days, the Book says it like this, "And He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" [Luke 9:51]. And the disciples said, "Why, Master, it means death, death!" And they sought to dissuade Him [John 11:8]. "No," says the Lord, "we go up to Jerusalem" [John 11:7]. And for the praise of Thomas, he said, "Then let us go up there and die with Him" [John 11:16]. So indifferent was Jesus to death, to death. And this is what He said, "Except a grain of wheat fall in the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit to God" [John 12:24].
And Paul reflected the Spirit of the Lord when he said, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. "I am in a strait betwixt two, having desire to stay with you, my beloved people, and to be with the Lord, which is far better" [Philippians 1:23]. Death was just a transition, just a home-going, just a crossing Jordan, just an inheritance in the other land and the other world. How different.
Now in the little while that remains, may I speak of some things that do matter as God speaks to us, as the Lord looks down upon us. These things that I mentioned are nothing in the sight of God. One: our possessions in this world, and our acquisitions in this world; they’re nothing in the sight of God. Second: our desire for acclaim, and appreciation, and adulation, praise, these are nothing in the sight of God. And our fear of death; death to God is just a translation, a transition, it is nothing. Now, I want to name some things that are oh, so significant to Him who reigns in glory.
First: the will of the Lord, that we do it; God’s will, that we achieve it. In the life of our Savior, twelve years of age He said to His parents, "Why, wist ye not, know ye not, that I must be about My Father’s business?" [Luke 2:]. And in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will, but Thine be done." [Luke 22:42] And when those disciples sought to defend the Lord with the sword, He said, "Put it up in its scabbard, sheath it; for shall I not drink the cup My Father hath prepared for Me? [John 18:10-11]. Or else how could the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?" [Matthew 26:52-54]. God’s will; if God’s will be that I suffer and that I die, this is all-meaningful and all-significant for me. What does God want me to do and want me to be? This is all important; it covers the horizon from sky to sky, God’s will for my life.
All right, again, in God’s sight, as we listen to Jesus, what is important? Second: my soul is, my soul, my soul. Not my earthly life, but my soul; not the breath I breathe, but my soul, my soul; me, the ‘me’ that lives forever. He said, "If your eye offends you, pluck it out, cast it from you; for it is better for you to enter eternal life having one eye than having two eyes to be cast into the fire of hell. And if your hand offends you, or if your foot offends you, cut it off, cast it from you" [Matthew 18:8-9]; it is better for us, He said, to enter eternal life maimed, than it is that our souls should be cast into hell. These things ultimately, God says, do not matter. Do I have two eyes or none? Do I have two hands or none? Do I have two feet or none? Am I maimed, and crippled, and hurt in this life? These things do not matter; what matters is my soul, me.
I am resolved, I shall not be
The dupe of things I touch and see,
These figured totals lie to me,
My soul is all I have.
For me to traffic with my soul
Would make me brother to the mole;
The whole world’s worth is but a dole,
My soul is all I have.
O Keeper of the souls of men,
Keep mine for me, from hurt or stain;
For should it slip my hand, what then?
My soul is all I have.
["My Soul is All I Have," T. D. Chisholm]
Not anything that I possess shall I take into glory, just me. "My soul is all I have"; He said that is significant [Mark 8:36].
All right, the last: the Lord said heaven is significant; glory, heaven, is meaningful. When the disciples came back saying, "Master, the demons are subject to us" [Luke 10:17], the Lord said, "In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, that you have power in earth, that you live a triumphant life, that you have victories innumerable and glorious, they are nothing. But in this," He said, "do rejoice: that your names are written in the Book of Life" [Luke 10:17-20]. Heaven bound; up there in glory we’re going to see Jesus someday [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3, 22:3-5]; we’re going to walk golden streets someday; we’re going through pearly gates someday [Revelation 21:21]. We’re going to be ransomed and redeemed with the throng of God’s precious people someday [Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. Heaven is important; that’s important.
Now when I was a boy, when I was a boy, the great Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, pitted Clarence Darrow on one side and William Jennings Bryan on the other. And that, among other things, brought to my mind as a boy that colossal difference between Clarence Darrow, who was a blatant, egotistical, lifted-up agnostic, scoffer and scorner of the Word of God. You have a picture show going around here in these past years in which he is portrayed as a great hero. He may have been a great hero to an infidel, and to a secular material world, but he was an affront to God. And I lived in those days when Clarence Darrow was on the headlines of the newspapers, and because of his atheism and infidelity was so greatly exalted in a materialistic world. And from the story of his life I copied this:
If there is one scrap of proof that we are alive after we are dead, why is not that scrap given to the world? Certainly under all the rules of logic the one who assumes that an apparently dead person is still alive should be able to produce substantial proof. Not only is there no evidence of immortality, but the facts show it is utterly impossible for us that there should be a life beyond this earth.
And when he died, "No funeral," he said, "no service." He said, "Burn my body and take the ashes and scatter them over the lagoon in Chicago." And that is Clarence Darrow.
And when I think of him, I think of a godly deacon in the church I pastored before I came here to Dallas. I went back up there upon a speaking mission; and the dear people said to me, "Did you know your neighbor, did you know your neighbor," lived right over there from us, "did you know your neighbor and your deacon who loved you and prayed for you, did you know your deacon is at death’s door? Would you have time to see him? I said, "My brother, I’ll take time to see him." And I went to his home and knocked at his door; and his dear wife invited me in. And I went to the bedside, and talked for the last time to my deacon. And I got down on my knees, and we had a prayer together. And then I stood up to leave, and I said, "Goodbye deacon, I’ll see you one of these days." And with all of the strength that he could muster, he lifted up a hand and pointed to heaven, and said, "Goodbye, dear pastor. I will see you one of these days." And I left; soon after they laid him to rest. What about that? What about that? Well, a Clarence Darrow scoffs, scorns, and ridicules, and mocks; but to me, this is the significance and the meaning of the empty chamber of this life. We are a heaven-bound people; we are pilgrims and strangers in the earth [Hebrews 11:13, 16]. Our home is on the other side of the great divide; our faces are set toward heaven [John 14:2-3; Philippians 3:20]. These are the things that God judges great, everlasting, eternal, that never fade away. And the rest of it, is just used for the moment; accountable in the good stewardship unto God; and the reward left in His precious and gracious hands [2 Corinthians 5:10].
While we sing our song, in the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; into the aisle, down to the front, "Here I come, pastor, give my heart to Jesus, put my life in the circle of this precious church." Make it tonight, come now. A couple you, a family you, a child you, a youth; as God shall press the appeal, shall say the word, shall open the door, make it tonight, "Here I come." There’s a stairwell at the front and the back on either side; there’s time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, this throng of people, into the aisle, down here to the front, "I make it tonight, preacher, I have decided for God, and here I am, here I come." Do it, make it now. When we stand up in a moment singing, stand up coming, "Here I am," on the first note of the first stanza, "I make it for God, I do it now, and here I am, here I am," while we stand and while we sing.
LISTENING TO JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Contrast between what we could know, understand, and what God knows, understands (Isaiah 55:8)
B. From a higher vantage point; looking down, back
1. Difference between us today in maturity and childhood, adolescence
C. What we say and what God says
A. Modern world engulfed in achievement, acquisition
B. Jesus lived in poverty (Matthew 8:20)
C. Listen to Jesus (Luke 12:33, Matthew 6:19, 34)
III. Approval, acclaim
A. The human drive to be accepted
B. Jesus was rejected (Luke 4:28-30, John 6:66-67, Matthew 15:12)
C. Listen to Jesus (Luke 6:26)
A. Our dread and struggle
B. Look at Jesus (Mark 4:37-39, Luke 9:51, John 11:7-16)
C. Listen to Jesus (John 12:24, Philippians 1:21)
V. Things that matter
A. The will of God (Luke 2:, 22:42, John 18:11)
B. The human soul (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9, Mark 8:36)
C. Heaven (Luke 10:17-20)