The Compassionate Jesus
May 29th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
THE COMPASSIONATE JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-29-66 7:30 p.m.
You who share the service on radio turn with us in your Bible to Matthew chapter 9, the ninth chapter of the First Gospel, Matthew. We shall begin reading at verse 32 and read to the end of the chapter. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Compassionate Jesus, the sympathizing Jesus. Those words are exactly the same. “Sympathy” is a Greek word; “compassion” is a Latin word. They are made exactly alike. They are compounded of two words meaning the same thing, the sympathizing Jesus, the compassionate Jesus. And this is the context, Matthew 9:32, and all of us reading out loud together:
And as they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil.
And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.
But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.
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.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.
For all of the wondrous, compassionate works of our Savior, He was more maligned, and calumniated, and despised than any other teacher who ever taught. The cynicism of those who hated Him was almost beyond endurance, for, after He had wrought this marvelous miracle of healing and restoration, “and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never, never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33], those cynical Pharisees said, “this guy casts out demons by the prince of demons [Matthew 9:34]. He Himself is in league with Satan, and the power He has is satanic and comes from the bottomless pit.” This they said of the sympathizing Savior. That was their reaction to the marvelous works that He did. Had he been so criticized, Pythagoras would have closed his school. Socrates would have dismissed his pupils. Marcus Aurelius would have gone home from critics so unspeakably bad and vile.
But what does the Scripture say of the Savior? When they said such things about Him, does it read, “And Jesus, when He heard what His enemies said and what His critics avowed, and Jesus, discouraged, left off His preaching and ceased His healing and His ministries of mercy”? “And Jesus, sitting under a juniper tree, asked that His life might be taken from the earth in the face of so tragic a criticism”? Does it say that? No. For the next verse, after it is avowed of what the Pharisees said of the Lord [Matthew 9:34], the next verse says, “And Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and disease among the people” [Matthew 9:35]. Whatever others might say, and whatever vile and blasphemous word by which they would castigate His ministries and mercies of love, He paid no attention, just kept on preaching the gospel of the kingdom, kept on opening blind eyes, and unstopping deaf ears, and healing all manner of disease, bringing the good news of the kingdom to the people [Matthew 11:5].
Ah, what a marvelous way to be! Do you ever get discouraged? And if somebody says something about you, don’t you have the feeling, “I think I ought to quit”? Not our Lord. However anyone might say, or criticize, or describe the work we seek to do in belittling terms, just keeping on as unto God, like our blessed Savior. Now there’s a reason for it, and the next verse avows it: for when the Lord saw the multitudes in those cities, in those villages, people everywhere, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them” [Matthew 9:36]. Jesus, moved with compassion, is His enduring name [Mark 6:34, 8:2]. The response of the Lord, when He saw great throngs and great masses of humanity, was one of pity and sympathy; He would weep looking over a great city [Luke 19:41].
We are so different from that. And as I visit in a great metropolis and listen to the people describe its magnitude—and the reason I think of it so poignantly now is because I have just been in a tremendous city, one that covers more area than any other city in the world. And I listen to the citizens of that metropolis as they describe its length and its breadth and all of the marvelous things that comprise its glory and grandeur—and we’re that way about anything multitudinous and tremendous and big. We’re that way about multitudinous matter, a mountain. You wouldn’t give a dime for a shovelful of it. You wouldn’t walk fifty yards to see two tons of it. If you had some of it in your backyard, you’d hire somebody to haul it away; rubbish, dirt and rocks, stuff. But let it pile itself up foot by foot, and yard by yard, and mile by mile, until finally it cools itself in the snows of even the summertime, and it breathes the rarified air, why, bless your heart, we will take summer vacations just to look upon it. We’ll build chateaus just to see it. We’ll form excursion trains to make a trip. We will write of it in our magazines and in our papers and in our descriptions of all of the things to see where we live, because of its piled-up height and its grand and marvelous multitudinous size, its impressive greatness.
And we’re that way about a city. This tremendous city: look at its great boulevards, and its bright lights, and all of the attractiveness, and all of the things of interest in it. Look at this great population numbering millions! What might and what power! Why, I suppose about the last thing we would ever do would be to look on a vast panorama of a city before us and feel thoughts and responses of sympathy and compassion, and yet that is exactly what Jesus did.
Coming to the brow of Olivet, looking over the city of Jerusalem, He burst into tears [Luke 19:41-43]. And as He looked over the vast concourse of people, Jesus was moved with compassion, for on the inside of that city—any city, our city, wherever there is a concourse of people, how many tears? How many broken hearts? How many souls in agony? How many bowed down in unspeakable grief? Jesus and the city.
I sat with a circle of our little family in the slumber room where my mother lay so still and silent. And as I sat there, I listened to the sobbing of a family across the little hallway, who also sat in a slumber room where a loved member of their family circle lay so still and silent in death. And as I sat there, I listened to the sobs and the tears of the family across the hall. And when the driver came to pick us up in the limousine, I said to him, “How many services do you have in Forest Lawn today?”
And he reached in his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper, and he said, “Here, pastor, look at it for yourself.” I counted the services. That one day in that one Forest Lawn cemetery they numbered twenty-nine, twenty-nine in that one day.
And I asked the driver of the limousine, I said, “Is this unusual, twenty-nine?”
He said, “No, there are some times that I can remember when we have had as high as fifty-three.” Fifty-three!
When you read the ninetieth Psalm, the psalm of Moses, the man of God, how infinitely sad is that psalm [Psalm 90:1-17]. And the reason is plain: for forty years Moses saw every day more than three hundred funeral possessions! As the Lord looked upon the great multitudes, “He was moved with compassion on them” [Matthew 9:36]. And how it is for us so easily done in the church, inside these precious walls and in these services! As I felt this morning, this is a holiday weekend, and when I came to the 8:15 o’clock service this morning I was overwhelmed. I could not believe my eyes! This auditorium, to that last top seat, at 8:15 o’clock was filled this morning. And the audience that came at 10:15 was hardly less honoring to God in its attendance, and in its praise, and in its service. And standing here in this congregation and feeling the prayers of so great a multitude, I am sometimes tempted to think, why, the kingdom of God has come, this old and battered and weary world is renewing itself. It’s a new heaven, it’s a new earth, it is time for us to stand and sing the triumphant anthem!
But, ah, outside those walls and in the great concourse of the multitudes in this city, how many tears, and how much of heartache, and what agony of soul would you find among our people. And that’s why we should never shut ourselves up in four walls and say this is the kingdom of heaven. We should never enclose ourselves in gardens of praise and beauty and thank God just for the verdant lawn around, and the beautiful trees and shrubs that surround, and all of the beauty that God has given and bestowed upon us, for outside that enclosure and beyond that garden gate, there is ugliness, and there is sin, and there are all kinds of dark and seamy things that plow up the human soul. We’re not to forget to thank God for everything of beauty, nor to return to Him our gratitude for every heavenly blessing, but our horizon should be as great as the enfolding arms of God, and we should see not a roof but a sky, and not a garden plot but the whole earth.
The Lord was like that: “And when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them” [Matthew 9:36]. The Lord saw not only the sheep but the wolf, not only the saved but the lost, not only these that were in the kingdom, but the Lord saw those who were vexed in soul, afflicted by ten thousand demons whose black bat-like wings obscured the very life of the sun. And Jesus, when He saw the multitudes, was “moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd [Matthew 9:36]. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” [Matthew 9:36-37].
Now an English teacher would not like that. They’d call that a mixed metaphor, for the Lord looked upon them and said they are as sheep not having a shepherd, and it’s like a harvest that is plenteous and ripe, but the laborers are few. An English teacher would not like that, mixing those metaphors of a sheepfold and a harvest field. But there is a grammar of the heart and there is a language of the soul just as there is a grammar of precise and concise English. And this is the grammar of the soul.
Our humanity and our people are like a sheepfold, and they are like a great harvest field. And they criy for shepherds, and for laborers, and for harvesters, and for teachers, and for pastors; the compassionate and sympathizing Jesus. And in this ministry that God hath entrusted to us in this dear church, in the heart of this great city, oh, how I have come to see the meaning of our Lord when He says, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will thrust forth laborers into His harvest” [Matthew 9:37-38].
I am often asked by pastors of other churches, in smaller congregations, I’m often asked, “Don’t you have so much you don’t know what to do with it? Don’t you have so much money that you don’t know how to spend it? And don’t you have so many teachers that there’s no place for them to teach? And don’t you have so many leaders that there’s no place for anybody to lead? And don’t you have so many workers that you have no place to assign them? Isn’t that true in your church?”
And I reply, “I suppose there is no experience that has ever come to me with such infinite surprise in my life as my introduction in the pastorate of a large church, for it seems to me that when I was pastor of my smaller churches in these days past, I had far more money with which to do with and I had far more people and leaders with which to work with than I have in the great, enormous First Baptist Church in Dallas.” I don’t have any money for anything in this church! Not anything. And if there’s anything I want done in this church, I must beg on bended knee from some affluent, compassionate soul who might be moved to help me, because the budget is overspent all the time and there’s nothing left for anything that we might desire. That’s this church.
And when appeal is made for workers, I am amazed at it! In the more than twenty years that I have made appeal for our missions, to this day we have been unable to find anybody, practically anybody, who will work in the missions of our church. It is a non-existent ministry on the part of our people. The missions are out there tonight, and they’re over there tonight, and they’re out yonder tonight, but our people are not working in them, nor can any amount of prayer and supplication and appeal ever reward us with somebody to help in our missions.
And that same thing runs throughout the gamut of the whole church. I had one of my finest leaders say to me, “Pastor, there is no limit to the number of young people that we could have down here on Sunday night in Training Union if our people were dedicated to sponsoring them, and leading them, and opening their homes to them, and guiding them in their work.” You could multiply Unions in this church by the dozens and illimitably if you had people who would devote their lives to those young people. We do not have them. There are not leaders, husbands and wives, couples, who will give themselves to that ministry.
And the same thing is true throughout the church. I will hear some of my divisional leaders say, “Pastor, I need seventeen workers right now in my division,” seventeen. And I’ve taken the list of the church and the membership roll, and the Sunday school roll, and our adult classes, and I’ve called everyone that I know to call. I’ve called by the hundreds, and I have maybe one or maybe two. Oh, what God could do with us! What God could do with us if we were available, and yielded, and surrendered, and usable. And the Lord, looking with compassion on the people, said, “They are like sheep not having a shepherd. They are like a harvest field, white unto the harvest, and the laborers are few” [Matthew 9:36-37].
In my own experience, it is not because people are hard and adamant. It’s because there is not tremendous dedication on our part. “Pray ye,” He says, “the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” [Matthew 9:38].
There is one thing above all other things that has impressed me foremost and above all in my study of the Holy Spirit, in which series of morning sermons we have been for these months and shall continue through the summertime. That one impression is this; that God has a place, and an assignment, and a calling, and a ministry for every member of the body of Christ, all of us [1 Corinthians 12:8-10]. All of us. And every one of us is vitally needed in the household of faith, in the congregation of the Lord, in the membership of the church.
There is a Holy Spirit gift for you, for us, for each, for all, and when we offer to God and yield ourselves to God, oh, how the Lord is glorified, and how God can bless us and use us! You, the humblest member in the body of Christ, there is a gift vital to the body of Jesus, there is a gift the Lord has bestowed upon you, and it takes us all to make God’s household glorious [1 Corinthians 12:8-10].
I so well remember when I was away in a revival meeting; I so well remember a tragic falling, accident, of an American Airlines plane coming into the runway at Dallas Love Field. I read of it in those tragic black headlines, in the newspaper in the city where I was holding the revival meeting. I felt the hurt and the poignancy of that accident that had taken place in our city of Dallas and at Love Field. Practically every member of the crew and practically every one of the passengers died in that flaming tragedy of the American Airline at Love Field.
And when I came to Dallas, the CAB was holding a board of inquiry in our city, and the day that I arrived; on the front page of the Dallas News was a picture of the captain. I remember his name; his name was Claude, Captain Claude of the American Airliner. He was testifying before this government agency regarding the terrible accident, and that picture on the front of the paper showed the captain who had survived, with his face buried in his hands, weeping profusely over the tragic loss of those scores of lives in that great airliner.
And a few days after that, there was published why it was that airplane fell, and the CAB official report was this that that pilot, Captain Claude, bringing in his plane, had one engine out. And he was guiding the plane in with the other three engines. And on that non-stop flight from Washington, D.C. to Dallas, as he approached Love Field, he had everything arranged and balanced for the three engines to carry the loss of the fourth. But as he came into the field, he needed to correct the pattern just a little, and he called on the power of the other three engines to guide into the perfect pattern, landing at Love Field. But unknown to the pilot, unknown to the captain, another member of the crew had cut off one of the other engines and had feathered the propeller. And when the captain called on that little bit of extra power to guide into the perfect pattern the landing at Love Field, unknown to him the other engine didn’t respond, and he couldn’t guide and he hit one of those buildings on the ground. And the plane swerved so tragically, caught fire, and practically all of his passengers were lost.
When I read that official report from the CAB, I thought of God’s people and God’s church. We all are needed, every engine, every propeller, every working part, every vital piece in the mechanism. And those little old pieces that we think and may say are of the least significance may be the answer of life and death to the ongoing of the ministry of the kingdom of God. We all must be at our best, our finest. “Lord, what I can do I will do, by the grace of God.”
I do believe the Holy Scriptures, that the Lord hath fitted the body of Christ together. Each one of us has a part, and it is vital to the functioning of the body of our Lord. “The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” [Matthew 9:37-38]. You are needed, and God calls for you.
Our time is far spent. While we sing our hymn of appeal tonight, as the Spirit of Jesus will make appeal to your heart, come, come. “Pastor, tonight, publicly and before men and angels, I want to give my heart to the Lord Jesus. I want to dedicate my life to Him, and here I come.” “Pastor, tonight we’re putting our lives in the circle of this dear church to work for God, to pray with you in this ministry of Jesus.” A family you to come; a couple to come; one somebody you, maybe the Holy Spirit will whisper to somebody tonight. If you have been led of God to do a work in the church, and you turned it down and refused, but tonight you give yourself to do what God called you to do, would you come? We’ll have a prayer together. You can either stay or you can go back to your seat. I cannot make the appeal. The Spirit must do it. God must do it. But as we sing this song, if there is some wooing of the Holy Spirit of God in your heart, answer with your life. “Here I am, Lord, and here I come. I accept Jesus as Savior” [Romans 10:9-10], or “I put my life in the church,” or “I answer a call of God to work for Him.” As the Spirit shall lead in the way, come now. In a moment when we stand, when you stand, stand up deciding for Christ, “Here I am, and here I come.” Do it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.