The Living Christ
March 19th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
THE LIVING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-19-67 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Living Christ. This is the pastor also, who will be preaching each day at high noon in the Palace Theatre beginning tomorrow. This is the pre-Easter week; next Sunday is Easter Sunday, and for the forty-eighth consecutive year our church has held services downtown at high noon in the Palace Theatre the pre-Easter week. And we shall look for you, all of you who listen on the radio, and all of you who are in this great throng in the house of God tonight, we shall look for you at noon tomorrow in the Palace Theatre.
The title of the message tomorrow noon is The Atheist and the Reality of God. On Tuesday it will be The Liberal and the Deity of Christ. On Wednesday, The Communist and the Living Church; on Thursday, The Materialist and the End of the World; and on Friday, The Sinner and the Sacrifice on the Cross. We shall have great times together, and we shall be host to the city of Dallas. Let us be there to welcome the people by the hundreds and the hundreds, who will be filling that gigantic theatre. It seats two thousand four hundred people and we will overflow it this week: tomorrow noon, The Atheist and the Reality of God.
Now tonight, turn in your Bible to the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And the text is, “Who is this?” “Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10]. It is the same passage out of which the pastor brought the message this morning. We shall read together the first eleven verses. If your neighbor did not bring his Bible, share yours with him and let us all of us read it out loud together. It was written to be read out loud. And if on the radio you share this service, get your Bible and read it with us. Now everybody together, Matthew 21:1-11, reading out loud together:
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them and bring them unto Me.
And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
And the text, “And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10]. Had we lived in that day, we would have been a part of that indescribable excitement. He who could raise the dead [John 11:43-44]; with a word of His voice could heal the sick [Luke 4:38-39]. He, the great Prophet of Galilee, was coming into the city. His royal triumphant entry, presenting Himself as the Messiah of God, the promised King of the Jews. And the whole city was moved saying, “Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10].
But not only then, the same Lord Christ has walked down through the ages and the centuries, even to us today. And the same startled and moving question that was asked in Jerusalem then is no less asked concerning Jesus Christ today: “Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10]. It has been centuries since such a question has been asked about a Julius Caesar. Long ago he was judged, and weighed, and measured, and placed in his proper niche, and no one raises any questions today concerning a Julius Caesar. It has been centuries since anyone asked such a question concerning Plato: he has been read, and his philosophy has been studied. He has been carefully measured and assigned a certain place in human history, and no one raises longer any questions concerning a Plato.
But Jesus Christ, who walks down through the corridor of the centuries, and who faces us in this modern day, the question concerning Him is raised again and again. And when we think it is answered, it is raised yet again. Who is this Prophet of Galilee? [John 7:52]. When we think we have Him weighed and measured, and when we think we have assigned His place in history, and when we think we have bounded Him on every side, behold, the horizons recede and recede and recede.
For every personality today, yesterday, in human history, we can say this man comes thus far and no further. But the Lord Jesus Christ is as elusive as the light. He is higher than the heavens. He is deeper than the deepest sea. He is as timeless as eternity itself. When He stepped into human history He burst asunder time in twain. There is not an infidel tomorrow, in America or in the world, who shall write a letter but who shall be forced to date it March 20, 1967 AD, anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. And if I were to write a treatise on the philosophy of Aristotle, I would have to speak of him 350 BC, before Christ. He dominates all calculated time. One half of the history of this world looks forward to His manger [Luke 2:10-16], and the other half looks back to the star of Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11].
And He dominates all human life. A mother will rock her baby to sleep with the song of the Lord Jesus:
Away in a manger, no place for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
[ from “Away in a Manger,” by John Thomas McFarland]
And when that baby is old and dies, they will write an epitaph on his tombstone and say, “Asleep in Jesus” [1 Thessalonians 4:14].
Who is this who dominates time and the centuries and comes before us in our present life? Who is this? And it is the question of the apostle Paul when he met the Lord on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-4]. And blinded by the glory of that light, cried, saying, “Who art Thou, Lord?” [Acts 9:5].
These are the Christological questions that shook them, the Roman foundation, to its very existence and being. There was Arius and Arianism, and they gathered in the great far-famed council of Nicea to settle the question, “Who is Christ?” But it arose again, and there was Nestorius and Nestorianism, and once again the Roman Empire gathered together in the great council at Ephesus. But the question rose again, “Who is this?” And there was Eutyches and Eutychianism, and the Roman Empire met again in the council at Chalcedon, to settle it. But it arose again, “Who is this?” Then there was Dioscorus, with his Monophysitism, and the Roman Empire again gathered in the third council of Constantinople to settle the question, but it arose again. Then followed Apollinarianism, and then followed Pelagianism, and then followed Sabellianism, and then from it Docetism. And how many “isms” have there risen in the orthodox church, raising the question, “Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10].
As we seek to answer it today, Christ coming down to confront us in this present and twentieth century: who is Christ, the Prophet of Galilee? [Matthew 21:10]. First of all, first of all, He is certainly human; most so, allegedly so, described so, presented so. He is a Man, one of flesh and bone and blood. For example, when He visited His city of Nazareth where He was brought up, and where He was a workman, when He said those gracious words, they said, “Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” [Mark 6:3]. A man of flesh and bone and blood. “Who is this?” [Matthew 21:10]. He is a man, like other men.
However the glorious, miraculous star that shined above the manger in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11], and however the glorious song of the angels [Luke 2:13-14], it was a baby’s cry that was heard in that manger [Luke 2:12]. And how ever the glorious, marvelous erudition and intelligence and theological understanding of that Lad, twelve years of age [Luke 2:46-47], He was still a boy subject to His parents [Luke 2:51]. And however those yoke that they say were so easy to bear, they were made by the Carpenter in Nazareth [Mark 6:3]. Who is this, weary, seated by the well, brokenhearted, crying human tears over Jerusalem? [Luke 19:41].
And the substance of His flesh was human. When they pressed on His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29], when they plucked the beard from His cheek [Isaiah 50:6], when they slapped Him with the back of their hand and said, “Tell me what’s my name? Who slapped Thee?” [Matthew 26:67-68; Luke 22:64]. When they drove the nails through His hands and through His feet [John 19:16-18], and when they thrust that spear in His side [John 19:34], it was the substance of human flesh that they tore, that they pierced. And it was human blood that crimsoned the ground [John 19:34]. And it was a human body that they wrapped in the long winding sheet, sheet with spices, and laid in Joseph’s new tomb [John 19:38-41]. Who is this that they buried?
Can you bury moral purity and excellence? When Jesus came to the baptism of John, John had never seen Him before, but instinctively, the great Baptist forerunner said, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” [Matthew 3:14]. And when the officers of the temple assayed to arrest Him, they fell back to the ground in the presence of such moral excellence and purity. [John 18:6] And when He was on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator said, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. And Christ has been judged by the generations and by the centuries, and the verdict of the ages has still been, “I find no fault in Him at all” [James 18:38].
Who is this that was buried in the tomb? Can you bury omnipotent power? The same Lord, who by fiat, by His word, spoke these universes into existence [Hebrews 11:3] is the same Lord God, that by fiat found the entire world subject to just the pronouncing of a sentence from His omnipotent lips [Romans 3:19]. As the centurion at Capernaum said when he pled for his servant:
Just speak the word, I am not worthy that You come under my roof: just speak the word . . . for I am a man under authority
and I tell this man go and he goes, and I tell this man come and he comes . . . You speak the word and my servant will be made whole again.
Omnipotence: He could speak a word and the wind ceased, He could speak a word and the waves would lie down [Mark 4:37-39]. He could speak a word and the leper was cleansed [Mark 1:40-42]. He could speak a word and the blind could see [Matthew 9:27-30], the deaf could hear [Mark 7:31-35], the dumb could speak [Matthew 9:32-33, 12:22]. He could speak a word and the very dead raise from the grave! [John 11:43-44]. Can you bury omnipotent power? Who is this that they buried?
Can you bury immortal words? The words of Christ our Lord shine like diamonds. They are priceless and beautiful as rubies.
Consider the lilies of the field how they grow:
They toil not, they spin not; yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.
When you see these beautiful lilies at Easter time, do you think of that? When you see the sparrow on the tree branch, there’s not a sparrow that falls to the ground without the heavenly Father [Matthew 10:29]. His words are immortal. He greeted the dawn saying, “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. He stood at the grave and said, “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. He stood before the brokenhearted and said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden” [Matthew 11:28]. And in the presence of the sorrow of death He said, “Let not your heart be troubled” [John 14:1]. Can you bury immortal words? Who is this that they laid in the tomb? [John 19:40-42].
Why, the third day He rises again by the power of the Spirit of God [Romans 1:4]. And the triumphant Spirit of His resurrected life and glory pass down through the unending centuries, until we shall see Him face to face, when He personally appears in glory with the holy angels of the Father [Matthew 16:27].
Bury the Lord Jesus? How inconceivable, how unthinkable, how impossible! The guard, who were stationed there at His tomb with that Roman seal [Matthew 27:66], when they saw the angel, they fell down as dead men in the presence of that great glory [Matthew 28:4]. And the women who were buried in sorrow became the messengers of joy and gladness [Matthew 28:5-10]. And the disciples themselves, who were buried in the shadows of despair, became the preachers of the glorious resurrection gospel of the Son of God. And that spirit of triumph in the living Lord has been walking down and triumphing down through the unending centuries still.
Think of it, think of it! A Saul of Tarsus, buried in rabbinical scholasticism [Acts 22:3], now the missionary to the Gentiles of the Greco-Roman world [Acts 9:15, 13:46, 18:6, 22:21]. Think of it, think of it! A peasant monk, buried in a monastery, now the reforming Luther with a flame of fire in his soul. Think of it, think of it! The little precise Oxford don buried in the methodical studies of Oxford University, now the John Wesley up and down the streets and the cities and the byways, preaching the gospel of the Son of God.
Think of it, think of it: buried? Buried? a Jerry McAuley in the gutters of New York City, now the flaming preacher in the Water Street Mission. Think of it, think of it, think of it. Oh, my soul! A young student in the University at Yale, buried in the affluence of a rich family, now the young missionary, Borden of Yale; this milk company we know so much about. Think of it, think of it. A business man, buried in dismal failure, now risen to be one of the great tycoons and magnates of modern business, a Mr. J. L. Kraft.
Think of it, think of it! The spirit of resurrection, the spirit of triumph, the spirit of glory, the spirit of conquest in the power of the name of Christ, down through the centuries and to this present day. “Who is this?” Who is this? “And all of the city was moved together [Matthew 21:7-9], saying, Who is this?”
We have a certain and holy answer. Seven hundred fifty years before He was born Isaiah spake of Him in His humanity and in His deity. “For unto us,” said the prophet:
For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given, His humanity, His deity. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
And of His government there shall be no end, upon the throne of His father David…to establish it in justice and judgment…for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
This is the God-Man, Christ Jesus our Lord [1 Timothy 2:5]. John the Baptist saw Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And Andrew saw Him and said, “We have found the Messiah” [John 1:41]. And Simon Peter saw Him and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:16]. And Thomas saw Him and said, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28]. And John saw Him and wrote, “He is the Root and the Offspring of David,” the father and descendent of David. How could it be? Who is this? The Bright and the Morning Star [Revelation 22:16], the God-Man, Christ Jesus. And Paul wrote, “He is the image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15]. And in Him doth all the fullness of the Godhead dwell bodily” [Colossians 2:9]. Who is this? [Matthew 21:10]. The God-Man, the Savior of the world, the King of glory, the Lord of life; the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ our Lord in our day, in our time, and in our generation.
As I prepared this message, I turned to some of the great poets of the English language who had found in Christ, an incomparable acknowledgement of His deity, of His Godhead, of His Saviorhood. Browning, Robert Browning,
I say, the acknowledgment of God in Christ
Accepted by thy reason, solves for thee
All questions in the world and out of it,
[from “A Death in the Desert,” Robert Browning]
Oh, for a robust faith like Robert Browning! Or sometimes the acknowledgement comes in a great, heart-broken sorrow, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in the great poem “In Memoriam,” to the great author Henry Hallam:
Strong Son of God, immortal love,
Whom we, that have not seen Thy face,
By faith, and faith alone embrace,
Believing, where we cannot prove.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, Thou.
Our wills are ours we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.
[“In Memoriam A.H.H.,” from the Prologue by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1849]
Or again, William Cowper:
Let everlasting thanks be Thine,
For such a bright display,
That makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.
My soul rejoices to pursue
The steps of Him I love,
Till glory breaks upon my view,
In brighter worlds above.
[“A Glory Gilds the Sacred Page,” by William Cowper]
Who is this? The King [1 Timothy 6:15], the God-Man [John 1:1, 14], the Lord of life [Acts 3:15], the Savior of the world [1 John 4:14]. “And the acknowledgment of Christ in God solves for thee,” as Browning says, “all questions in heaven and in earth.” There is nothing that He does not know. There is no power for right that He does not possess. To forgive our sins, to bless our lives, to hallow our days, to keep us forever, to present us sometime in the presence of His great glory without spot or blemish [Ephesians 5:27; Jude 1:24]; this is the triumph of the Son of God, our Savior and our Lord [2 Peter 3:18].
To acknowledge Him tonight, publicly, to confess Him tonight, would you come and stand by me? In the throng in this balcony round, the press of people on this lower floor, there’s a stairwell at the front and the back on either side. There is time and to spare. You who are in the balcony, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, tonight, tonight I give my life in commitment to the blessed Lord Jesus and here I come [Romans 10:8-13]. Here I am. Here I stand. God help me and bless me.” Do it. Come tonight.
A family you, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children, all of us are coming.” A couple you, one somebody you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it tonight, make it tonight. “I open my heart to the Lord Jesus. I accept Him as my Savior [Ephesians 2:8]. And if I were to die tonight, I would die believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus.” Do it, make it now; let God see you through. I can’t answer the questions; He can. I don’t know the tomorrow; He knows. I’m not able; He is able. In life, in death, in the judgment, and forever, let Jesus come into your heart. Do it now, make it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up, stand up coming. “Here I am, preacher, I am coming tonight. I am coming now.” Do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Who is this?
A. Meet Him coming into
Jerusalem (Matthew 21:10)
B. Meet Him in history
II. He is a Man (Mark 6:3, Matthew 26:68)
A. His moral purity
(Matthew 3:14, John 18:6, 18:38)
B. His infinite power
immortal words (Luke 12:27, John 8:12, 11:25, Matthew 11:28, John 14:1)
Can you kill and bury one as Jesus?
III. He is the God-man (Isaiah 9:6-7)
of Christ our Lord in New Testament (John 1:29, 1:41, Matthew 16:16, John
20:28, Revelation 22:16, Colossians 1:15, 2:9)
of Christ our Lord in our day
Alfred, Lord Tennyson