The Wounds of Jesus
August 7th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
8-7-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Wounds of Jesus.
In the nineteenth chapter of the Fourth Gospel, John writes:
Then Pilate delivered Jesus therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.
And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
Then verse 28:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, (a long reed), and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was a high day . . .)
Not only a Sabbath day but also a feast day, making it doubly precious:
. . . besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true: that you might believe.
For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken.
And again another Scripture, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.
This is the background for the title of the message, The Wounds of Jesus, and also the background for the subject sermon delivered this morning. The message is not an exposition of this chapter. It is a subject sermon, and we shall begin like this.
When the Lord went away, when He ascended up into heaven, they did not see Him arise up and up and upward to the great heights wherever God’s throne is, but the Scriptures say that a cloud received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9].
And as we follow the teaching of the Word of God, Christ is incarnate [Matthew 1:20-25]. Here in His church the Spirit of Jesus lives in His people [1 Corinthians 12:12-13]. If you were seeking for an incarnation of our Lord, would you seek it in the moon or in the stars or in the sidereal spheres? Where would you think that the incarnate Christ abides today? Where is the life of the Spirit of Jesus today? With unmistakable clarity, the Word of God presents the life of our Lord as in His body [Colossians 1:18], and the body of Christ is His church, His bride [Ephesians 1:22-23].
As we read the background of the crucifixion of our Lord, there were great wounds made in His body. They pressed upon His brow a crown of thorns [John 19:1-2]. They drove great nails through hands and feet [John 19:16-30]. And last of all, to ensure His death they plunged a heavy Roman iron spear into His side, and when it was withdrawn it was followed by a fountain of blood and water [John 19:34]. The serum of the crimson of life separated from the red corpuscles: the wounds of Jesus.
And applying that story of the crucifixion and suffering of our Lord [John 19:1-34], to the life of our Lord today; the body of Christ is His church [Romans 12:5]. And it is as possible to wound the body of our Lord today as it was possible to wound the body of our Lord in the days of His flesh. And the wounds today bleed as profusely. They are as red as crimson as if they were thrust into the physical frame of our Savior. I shall name three of those wounds that tear apart the body of our Lord, that make the household of Christ bleed, that bring agony and suffering to the travailing soul of our Savior.
The first one I name is this: the destruction of our young. I would suppose that in the life of the beast world, a tiger for her cubs, or a gorilla for the baby gorilla, or any kind of an animal for its young, the destruction of its offspring immediately brings horrific and horrible reaction on the part of the parent. How much more is that true when the church of God and the Lord who is the head [Ephesians 5:23], looks upon the destruction of its young and the leading astray of its youth. In the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke—and chapter 17 follows chapter 16, which closes with a presentation of Dives tormented in the flames of hell [Luke 16:19-31]. And the next verse is “Then said Jesus, It is impossible but that offenses come: but woe unto him, by whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the depths of the sea, than that he should cause to stumble one of these little ones” [Luke 17:1-2]. I would suppose that the most serious of all of the wounds that could be inflicted in the body of Christ would be the leading astray and the destruction of our little ones, of our young.
Now, a youth who passes down a street, and he sees in the gutter a filthy, drunken bum—the flies cover him in his own filth and vomit, he is a stench in the street—do you suppose that a young man seeing him would anywise be influenced by him except in repulsion, in withdrawing? There is no possibility that this finished product of the brewer’s art would ever have any lasting influence upon the young man who passing by sees him lying in the gutter.
But oh, but oh, this fine executive who presides over one of the far-famed merchandising enterprises of the queenly city, or he heads one of the great banks of the city, or he drives one of the fast industrial complexes of the nation, and the young man in his office, or in his home, or in his executive gathering, sees this fine, and affluent, and successful leader lift to his lips the cup. And at the last it stings like an adder, and bites like an serpent [Proverbs 23:32]. What do you think of the influence of the fine executive upon the young man who watches him drink? And one out of every nine of those young men who look upon it will become a helpless, problem alcoholic—one out of nine! It is not worth it. It is not that drunk in the gutter that harms and destroys the life of young men; it is the fine executive in his social culture that sows the seed for the downfall and the destruction of the youth.
Two days ago on the radio, I listened to a radio commentator describe the crime and the corruption and the inanity of the days of national prohibition. He didn’t do it in a sentence. He didn’t do it in a paragraph. He did it by the minutes and the minutes and the minutes. And as I listened to his description, typical of all radio commentators, typical of practically all newspaper editorials, typical of what America has been led to believe, as I listened to it, I thought, “Is it never possible that somebody somewhere might present the truth?” Is there not an equal time somehow, somewhere? It doesn’t exist.
But just for the record and in passing, may I present some of the factual information of the noblest experiment any government ever attempted. From America’s best known criminologist, Dr. George Curtchway, president of the American Institute of Criminal Law, director of the National Society of Penal Institutions, commissioner of prison reform in New York State, and warden of Sing Sing penitentiary, I quote from that noble and gifted man. Quote: “Let us take courage from the official record covering the eighteen years, 1910-1927 inclusive, which shows a mark decline of 35 to 40% in the crime rate in the United States.”
This was a fruit of prohibition; a decline of 35 to 40% in the crime rate in the United States. The FBI recently said that crime is increasing five times faster now than our population. And Sanford Bates, the director of Federal prisons in 1935, said, and I quote, “In the first year of repeal, prison population increased by 25%, and the increase in crime was beyond estimate.”
Federal Judge Hopkins said, “Repeal appears to have increased bootlegging to a still heretofore unknown,” and the chairman of the special Senate Committee to investigate crime in 1950 said, “The corruption brought about by the racketeers of today in our large cities makes the corruption of prohibition days look like kindergarten play.”
And Dr. George Thompson of the University of Southern California School of Medicine said fifty-six percent of all American women drink. Seventy-seven percent of all college students drink. And the percentage among our teenagers is almost total. It is the exceptional teenager who does not drink. The harvest of that seed shall come someday in God’s time and in God’s way.
How infinitely better, rather than pouring our money and our agonizing souls into some kind of rehabilitation or pouring our hearts out before God in some kind of an appeal to save the wretched and ruined derelict, how much better to preserve, and to guard, and to keep, and to help our youth.
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing the results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than to deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
[from “A Fence or an Ambulance,” Joseph Malins, 1895]
If this is not reasonable and right, I am not morally sensitive. I cannot tell between right and wrong if this is not right.
The wounds of Jesus: I have spoken of the first one, which is the destruction of our young. That is the purpose of advertising. Advertising pays and every generation has to be taught that way, otherwise they’d go out of business: the destruction of our young.
A second wounding in the body of Jesus: sometimes people say to me, “Why don’t you oftener speak of these things?” such as this second one: the attack upon the Christian faith by ministers of the cloth. The reason I don’t is several. It is not often that you find a doctor attacking other doctors. He just doesn’t do it. It is not often that you’ll find a lawyer or any other legal professor attack another attorney. And I have a great reluctance of standing in the pulpit to attack other men of the cloth. Yet, yet I do not know, in my understanding and in my reading, I do not know of a trauma, of a tearing, in the body of Christ that is as deep, that is as tragic as the attack on the Christian faith by men who are ordained to the gospel ministry.
I have another reluctance in speaking of it. When you speak of the seminary and of the professor of divinity, it is easy for us to gain the impression that all seminaries and all teachers of theology are likewise used to destroy the faith they were called to uphold. That isn’t true. There are many seminaries that deny the faith; not all of them do. There are many professors that to me undermine any confidence and persuasion in the ableness of Christ to save, but not all are that way.
But this morning, we are speaking of the wounds of Jesus, and in two ways, so briefly, and in two ways may I speak of that attack? First: there are men who stand in religious schools—not in state schools; they stand in religious schools supported by people of God—and from the refuge of a chair and in the name of academic freedom, they avow the most astonishing and unbelievable infidelity. Some of them will even go so far as to say if there ever was a God, He now is dead. It is not an infidel avowing that. It is not an agnostic avowing that. It is not a pseudoscientist avowing that. It is avowed by a professor who is supposed to be a man of God in a great institution which was built by people of the Lord.
From an editorial in a Chicago newspaper:
We are struck with the hypocrisy and treachery of these attacks on Christianity. This is a free country and a free age, and men can say what they choose about religion, but this is not what we arraign these divinity professors for. Is there no place to assail Christianity but in a divinity school? And is there no one to write infidel books except professors of Christian theology? Is a theological seminary an appropriate place for a general massacre of Christian doctrine? We are not championing either Christianity or infidelity. We are only condemning infidels masquerading as men of God and Christian teachers.
And one other: men of the cloth who decimate and destroy the very foundation of the Christian faith. And second: I repeat, I do not speak of these things rarely if ever. It’s just thinking of it today in this hour and this service. It is a repudiation and a denial of every basic tenet in the Word of God for men of the cloth to stand in pulpit or in forum and to espouse civil disobedience—it is unthinkable! It is unspeakable!
In my humble judgment, I cannot understand why men of learning and training and education cannot see that when, in the name of religion, you teach a people that it is right to be civilly disobedient to one law that you don’t like, and not reap the repercussion of some other time being disobedient to other laws others may not like, you set the framework for anarchy and the dissolution and destruction of the very foundation of government and civilized life.
From the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the big daily newspaper in Philadelphia, just before one of the great historical Protestant denominations had its annual, national meeting—at which time the denomination said, “We no longer believe that it is wrong to drink,” and they espouse drinking, that great denomination. In that denomination they also espouse the cause of civil disobedience. And the bulletin, in the daily paper of Philadelphia, carried this cartoon. There is a cartoonist making a sign for them to carry through the streets, and the man looking at it said, “Pardon me, isn’t that spelled wrong? For the sign reads ‘Civil Riots.’” Not civil rights, but civil riots. And what you see in America today is no small part of the repercussion out of the leadership of men of the cloth who are teaching civil disobedience: “break the law, we don’t like it.” You cannot sow to the wind and not reap the whirlwind, but this has the imprimatur of men of God.
A third, and ever so briefly, wounding the body of our Lord: I speak last and briefly of the colossal, indescribable, unbelievable, indifference, secular indifference to the things of God, and of Christ, and of the faith. At the turn of the century, this century, as we came into this twentieth century, Lord Hugh Cecil, the son of the prime minister of Great Britain, Lord Salisbury, Lord Cecil said, “The tragedy that we face following the new discoveries in science and in medicine, the tragedy we face is not that Christ will be looked upon as untrue, but that they will come to regard Him as unnecessary”: the Lord, even God, is an appendage that belong to the superstition of the ages past, but we need Him no more today.
Guess who said this?
Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I will be proved right. We Beatles are more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus may have been all right, but His disciples were thick and ordinary.
[John Lennon, 1966]
This is the spirit of the new day and the new age. And these are the idols of millions and millions of teenagers in America and in the whole world. “Forget it. Pass it by. It is an atrophying appendage. It is a shriveling addendum. Forget it.” Indifference. “It has no message and no pertinency today.”
When I stood on Calvary in Jerusalem, I thought, “I must realize the holiness and the sacredness of this place. This is where the blood of the Lamb of God was poured out for the sins of the world [Luke 23:33]. I must think great thoughts.” But I couldn’t think great thoughts. I was in the midst of a disheveled, unkempt, Muslim cemetery. Before me was a highway to Nablus with the people coming and going, and just in front a junkyard, and beyond that the Damascus Gate, and peddlers hawking their wares. If anybody thought, if anybody considered, if anybody paused, if anybody prayed, if anybody turned or anybody look, I could not find myself aware of it, in absolute, utter disregard, indifference.
When Jesus came to Golgotha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
But when Jesus came to Dallas-town,
They simply passed Him by,
They hurt not a hair of His head,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
They would not cause Him pain,
They simply passed on down the street,
And left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them,
They know not what they do!”
And still it rained that bitter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.
[adapted from “Indifference,” G. A. Studdert-Kennedy]
Anything but, “I don’t care. I’m not interested. What is it for me?” “Behold, all ye that pass by, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” [Lamentations 1:12].
O Lord, speak to us. Have pity and mercy upon us. Lord, help us; and there is help in God. And while we sing our song of appeal, you, somebody you, give yourself to Jesus. Come and stand by me. A family you, putting your life in the fellowship of the church, come, make it now, a wife and a husband and the children. A couple, a youth, a child, however God shall say the word, open the door, lead in the way, come. In the balcony round, this great throng on the lower floor, down a stairwell or into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I make it now.” On the first note of that first stanza, come. Stand up coming, “Here I am. Here I come.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Word of God presents the life of our Lord as in His body
B. The body of Christ is His church
A. It is the successful business executive, not the drunk in the gutter, who sows the seed for the downfall of the youth
B. Commentary on Prohibition
C. Poem, “A Fence or an Ambulance”III. The attack upon the Christian faith by men of the cloth
1. The Chicago editorial
B. Political, civil disobedience
1. Cartoon in Philadelphia newspaperIV. Indifference to the things of God and of the faith
A. Quote of Lord Hugh Cecil
B. Standing on Calvary in Jerusalem
1. Poem, “Indifference”
C. A sorrow (Lamentations 1:12)