Jesus Is Passing By
February 26th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS IS PASSING BY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-26-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus Is Passing By. And if you would like to follow the text, turn to the eighteenth chapter of Luke. Luke chapter 18, and we begin reading at verse 35:
And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
And he cried, saying, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him,
Saying, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
[Luke 18:35-43; 19:1]
And the text, “And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by” [Luke 18:36-37]. And the title of the message, Jesus is Passing By.
This story of His entrance and passage through Jericho is a story in the last journey of our Lord to Jerusalem. When He came to the end of His journey in this story, He was arrested; He was arraigned; He was crucified [Luke 22:54-23:46]. This is the last journey of our Lord before His crucifixion. He never passed that way again. The Lord, in that last journey, made a circuitous route through Samaria, and Galilee, in Perea, across Jordan, through Jericho, up to Jerusalem and to His death [Luke 24:7]. Now as He followed that way, the last time passing by, there was on the roadside near Jericho a man who was blind. And unable to see, he just heard by the hearing of his ear, a throng passing. And he asked, “Who is this? What is happening?” And they told him that Jesus was passing by [Luke 18:35-37].
On a day I was on that road and the car stopped at a little place, just a little wayside. And I was seated in the front seat of the car, and seemingly out of nowhere, there appeared a blind man so wretchedly poor, dressed in rags. And he came and felt of the car with his hand, and then followed it back with his hands seeking an open window. And then followed it back feeling with his hands to the front window, all the windows were raised. And then he began to say, as he put his hand against the front window, “Blind, blind, blind.” Oh, I’ll never forget the wretchedness of that beggar and the tone of that pleading voice, “Blind, blind, blind!” I just suppose that people who came by in cars were always Americans; other people were not able to hire a car. So he knew one American-English word and repeated it.
And I thought of this blind beggar here. “Blind, blind!” And oh, with my whole soul, how I wish that there was some power that I possessed that could open that man’s eyes! Jesus had that power, the Son of God. All authority in heaven and earth is committed unto Him [Matthew 28:18]. And when this man heard that the Lord was passing by he cried aloud, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me” [Luke 18:38]. And the people who were accompanying the Lord, I presume some of the disciples even, when they saw and heard this blind man crying aloud to Jesus, why, they told him to hush, “The Master has not time for blind beggars, hush!” And they rebuked him [Luke 18:39]. Had he hushed, he would have spent the rest of his life in darkness. But he cried so much the more and the louder, “Thou Son of David, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me!” [Luke 18:39].
Then the rest of the story you know. The Lord stopped and asked that the man come. And he, casting aside his garment in his haste, he came to where Jesus stood. And the Lord asked him, “Why do you cry?” And he replied, “Oh, that I could see; that I might receive my sight!” And the Lord said, “Receive thy sight, thy faith hath saved thee” [Luke 18:40-42], so persuaded was he that Jesus of Nazareth could heal him. And he received his sight that moment and glorified God, [Luke 18:43]. What a wonderful, a glorious, a moving, a meaningful story. But for us, our text: “and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by” [Luke 18:37]. And though the centuries and through the generations and to us today, our Lord is passing by.
And the story of the passage of our Lord and the response of the throng and the multitude to Him is, oh, sometimes so glorious, and sometimes so pitiful and tragic. Jesus is passing by, through years through the centuries, down to every generation and to our own; Jesus passes by [Luke 18:37].
There are those who receive Him joyfully, gloriously, in faith, in trust, in acceptance, in love, in worship, in adoration; Jesus passing by. And how welcome He is in the hearts and the love of some. An Andrew, a Simon Peter, a James, a John, a Philip, a Nathanael, a Matthew, passing by. A Saul of Tarsus, gloriously converted [Acts 9:1-18]—Jesus passing by. And the saints of all the generations, an Ignatius, a John Chrysostom, a Savonarola; Jesus is passing by. A Calvin, a Knox, a Wesley; Jesus is passing by. A Spurgeon, a Moody, a Scarborough, a Truett, and to us today, through the generations, through the centuries, Jesus is passing by. And there are those who receive Him so joyfully, so worshipfully.
And I see it in my ministry, all through the years of my life. When I was a boy, I had that wonderful experience of receiving the Lord, opening my heart to Him, trusting in Him. When He came by my life and spoke to my soul, Jesus is passing by. And in the years of my preaching the Lord coming, and speaking and calling, and to see the joyful response of those who receive Him is a sight next to heaven itself.
I was left in southern Japan in my preaching mission there some years ago in a town in the lower part of Kyushu Island. The town was named Akune. We had there a very devout and gifted Japanese pastor, and he had built a wonderfully spiritual church. My interpreter was a high school professor. He was the only one who was able, with any adequacy at all, to translate the language in which I preached into the Japanese. As so many of the educated of the world, he was a nominal atheist. He had given up his native religion, he had given up any hope in Shintoism, their national devotion, and was thus without God, just living in a sterile and empty vacuum. Well, I was preaching there in the church in that mission for three days, and he was my interpreter. And the last night of that three day preaching mission, that professor of English, teaching English in Akune, he turned to me and said in English, then to the congregation in his Japanese, he said, “In these years past I have been a nominal atheist, but,” he said, “now I believe in God, and I do now accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.” Jesus is passing by [Luke 18:37].
I preached the closing message at our Southern Baptist Convention in San Francisco, and it was an evangelistic service. The man who had the control of the public address system—which was over to the right of the platform, a very large instrument—he had sat there all through the service, guiding those instruments. And while I was making an appeal, he came around from the large instrument panel at which he was seated, and standing there said, “I, listening to this service tonight, have responded to the invitation of Jesus, and I accept the Lord as my Savior tonight.” Jesus is passing by [Luke 18:37].
In the revival meeting in Harlingen last week, there was a couple who came down there to stay during the days of the revival, and their room happened to be next to mine. And the man came into my room and sat down, and I asked him why he honored me with this visit. And he said, “My wife is leading the maid to Jesus and I stepped out of the room in order that she could be alone with the maid.” So, he stayed there until his wife had won to Christ that little maid in the motel, and she was saved. Jesus is passing by.
Wednesday night, this last Wednesday night, a fine-looking young fellow shook my hand, and he said, “I, in college, I have been a nominal atheist. But,” he said, “coming to church here, and listening to the services here, I have been saved. I have received the Lord as my Savior.” Jesus is passing by. And some receive Him joyfully, gladly, worshipfully, lovingly, adoringly. He has passed by your door; He has called your name, and you have opened your heart and your house and your home to Him—oh, how blessed! Jesus is passing by [Luke 18:37].
Now there are those who, when the Lord comes, reject Him viciously. Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, and accused Him of treason and said He was worthy of death [John 18:13, 24, 28, 29-32]. Jesus is passing by. And there are those who reject Him spitefully and bitterly and viciously: Demetrius the silversmith in Ephesus. When he saw that his trade in making idols was being ruined by the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, raised an uproar against Paul and his companions [Acts 19:24-28]. Jesus is passing by.
Nor could I describe the viciousness of those who have sought to destroy the Christian faith; the emperor Julian, Julian the apostate, Boethius, Nero, Domitian, those who bitterly denied the faith and slew those who called on the name of the Lord. A Nietzsche of Germany, from whose strain of tragic teaching and philosophy has plunged the world into one world holocaust after another. Jesus is passing by, and there are those who viciously reject Him.
And today, there has never been in the story of mankind, a confrontation with the Christian faith that ever had the bitterness in challenge of atheistic communism. And the flood tide of that bitter rejection has overflowed the entire earth, and is like a tide before which our whole government prays and asks God for wisdom. And against which the lives of our American men are being thrown every day and every night. Oh, what a system, and what a rejection, and what a vicious hatred!
I saw—out of Russia I saw a cartoon, and in this cartoon was a ladder of a working man leaning against a cloud in the sky. On the earth there were the ruins of God’s churches, they had been beat and destroyed. And the wreckage and the rubble of those churches were scattered over the globe. And on this ladder, leaning against the cloud, was a Russian working man with a heavy hammer in his hand. And there, seated at a table, on the cloud, was the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. And this working man with his hammer, had it raised to destroy the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and the caption in Russian as it was translated to me, the caption said, “As we have destroyed God in the earth, so shall we destroy God in the heaven.”
The blasphemy of such a conception! As though God could be hit with a hammer, as though God were floating on some cloud, as though there were three Gods, Father, Son and Holy Ghost! There is one God [Mark 12:29], and the name of the Lord God is God the Father whom we love [Mark 12:30; 1 John 2:15]; God the Son, who saved us and whom we adore [Titus 2:13]; God the Holy Spirit, who is in our hearts and shall raise us from the dead [Romans 8:11]. There is one God and the feeble human hand that could think to destroy God from the earth is inconceivable. And yet this is the kind of vicious rejection that has covered this earth like a flood. Jesus is passing by [Luke 18:37].
Those who receive Him with love and worship and adoration, those who reject Him viciously; but so many are sort of neither. Jesus is passing by; they are indifferent. “It is nothing, why should I think of it? It is something that you say, but I am untouched, I have no interest.” And so many, so many of the multitudes of the world are like that, “I am not interested.” As I went through Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Helsinki, oh! the colossal indifference of the Western world is an astonishing thing to me: England, Scotland, France, and so much of America: “I could hardly care less.”
A guide, a university girl hired by the government to take us and show us these places—being preachers we always sought our best to witness; here would be a church, and we would take it as an occasion to ask, “Do you ever go to church?”
“Have you ever been to church?”
“One Christmas I went just to see.”
“You belong to the church?”
“Yes, I was christened as a baby but I knew nothing about it.”
By state law you must belong to a church, say in Sweden.
“And you never go?”
“Why do you not go?”
“I am not interested.”
“Have you ever been to an evangelical church?”
“Have you ever been to a free church?”
“Wouldn’t you go with us this Sunday?”
“We would be so happy to have you.”
“But it would mean so much to you and you might find God.”
“I am not interested.”
And always finally, that shrug of the shoulder, “I am not interested.”
And the whole world is like that. Outside of those who viciously reject the faith, the deity, the saviourhood of Christ, outside of militant atheism, the great throngs and hosts of the world, the Western world especially, “I am just not interested.”
I thought, as I listened to that guide—and she was so typical of all the rest of them—I thought of a young man that I had done my utmost to win to Jesus. A young fellow, he was a chemist right out of the university and in one of the great companies of the southwestern world. And our effort, mine and the Sunday school teacher’s, to win that young fellow to Jesus; he came out of a devout home, his father and mother were devout Baptist people. And always he answered, “I am just not interested, don’t knock at my door, don’t call me on the phone, I am not interested.” And upon a night—and it is an amazing thing is how quickly this could develop—and upon a night, they called me at the home. And I went to the hospital and by the time I got to that boys’ room he was dead, he was dead. And that word, “I am not interested, I am not interested.” Oh, if we just realized who is passing by, who is calling us, who is naming our name. If we just could realize.
I don’t think, in all of the marvelous stories that Moody ever told, one is more true and apropos than this one: he said that Pennsylvania had a devout Christian governor by the name of Pollock, Governor Pollock. And in the state penitentiary of Pennsylvania, awaiting execution, there was a criminal. And the mother of that criminal came to the governor and pled for the life of her son. And he, being a Christian man, moved by her appeal, called the warden and said, “Warden, at such-and-such time and such-and-such hour, I will be at the penitentiary, and I want to see such-and-such man.” And he came to the pen, he was received by the warden, he was taken down those cold steel corridors, he was locked in that death cell with that prisoner, and he talked to the prisoner. And after his visit he went back to the state house. And the prisoner said to the warden, in contempt and dismay, “Who was that feller? Stuck here in my room, and asking me a thousand questions; who was it?” And the warden said, “My dear boy, that was the governor of the state of Pennsylvania.” And the young man buried his face in his hands and with tears and sobs of agony cried, “O God! O God! And the governor was here and I didn’t know it, and I didn’t know it!”
We’re like that. Jesus is passing by, and the whole world is not cognizant and does not realize there is life to live and there is death to face, and there is judgment for our souls. And Jesus alone can save us, can heal us, can deliver us [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]; Jesus is passing by [Luke 18:37]. And beyond childhood, and beyond youth, and beyond manhood, in procrastination His footsteps are fainter and His figure dimmer. And finally, in our rejection and our hardened hearts, He literally disappears out of human life. Oh, the wreckage of human souls on the shores of eternity, drifting into the great beyond without God!
There’s a ship floats by with a swaying lurch,
No crew, no sail, no spar,
And she drifts from the paths of her sister ships
To wherever the dead ships are.
The song of her youth is hushed for aye,
Her name no man can say,
She drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows
And nobody knows where the derelict goes.
There’s a man slinks by with a lurching gait,
No song, no hope, no star.
And he drifts from the paths of his brother men
To wherever the other wrecks are.
The song of his youth is hushed for aye,
His name but he can say,
He drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows
And nobody knows where the derelict goes.
[“The Derelict,” by Robert Healy]
Dying without God, drifting into eternity without Jesus. Ah! the Lord is passing by [Luke 18:37].
This is the season of hope and grace:
Jesus is passing by.
This, for salvation, the time and place;
Jesus is passing by.
[from “Jesus Is Passing By,” Elisha Hoffman]
“And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried saying, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” [Luke 18:36-38].
When the Lord calls your name, answer with your life. When the Lord passes by the door of your heart, open wide your soul and let Jesus come in.
Just now, reject Him no more;
Just now, your doubting give o’er,
Just now, throw open the door;
Let Jesus come into your heart.
[from “Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart,” by Leila Naylor Morris]
Do it. Do it. While we sing this song of appeal, somebody you give himself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]; a family you, putting your life in the fellowship of God’s church; a youth, a child, you, answering with your life, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come. I make it now; I make it this morning.” Do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.