JESUS COMES TO DALLAS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-27-69 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus Comes to Our City; Jesus comes to Dallas. Now we are going to read in the Gospel of Luke, Luke, the Gospel of Luke chapter 19, the Third Gospel, chapter 19. We shall begin at verse 37 and read through verse 44. Luke 19:37-44, all of us sharing our Bible, and on the radio, if you can, get your Bible and read it out loud with us; Luke 19:37-44, now together:
And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
And the text, "And when He was come near, when He drew nigh, He beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying . . . The day shall come when they shall encompass thee on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee . . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" [Luke 19:41-44].
What do you think of that? Do you think that this tragic, sad, lamentable incident in the life of our Lord is just for that day, and that hour? And that the lament of our Savior was just over Jerusalem? Or would you believe with me, like the apostle writes, that these things are for our admonition [1 Corinthians 10:11], that we might be instructed in the way of the Lord, and that what God said, and what came to pass, and the tears and lamentation of our Savior over this city, is also over our city?
Well, let’s see; let’s start. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city" [Luke 19:41]. And it is a strange fortune in human life and in our lives that we live in our city and yet never grow nigh it or look upon it. "Well, that is a monstrous thing to say, pastor. I live in this town and I see it all the time." Do you? Really? Do you?
Are not our lives delineated, outlined in little areas, and we go back and forth along those stated routes, and it is just there and here and back again? And isn’t it true that most of this city is strange to us? We don’t recognize the faces. We don’t recognize the voices. We don’t recognize the houses. And isn’t it true that most of this city, we are more than happy to hide from our eyes? We not only do not go nigh it; we don’t look at it. We don’t behold it. Because if we did, oh, the things our eyes would see.
That poor widow counting out rent, and seemingly forever counting out the rent; that poor family with want, gnawing worse than hunger, the children have practically nothing, and the family has practically nothing. And I don’t want to look at it, because it kind of burdens my heart that I should have so much and they should have so little. "Ah, but pastor, you don’t understand. They live in misery and in squalor and in want and in poverty because they are sorry and no-account." Well, I would have believed that had it not been that I grew up with poor people and was one of them myself. No, there is poverty everywhere that is not due to the transgressions and iniquities and sins and derelictions and laziness of the people. And it’s in the city.
What would you see if you really looked at the city? You would see the solitary sufferer work long and hard, and go home at night and sit down and cry. There are widows whose husbands are still alive, and there are orphan children whose fathers are not dead. And the home has been torn apart and broken, and there are tears and heartache and disappointments, dreams that are shattered, rainbows that have come apart. And the loneliness of uncounted thousands in the city: work, go home; there is nothing but four pressing walls that seemingly get smaller and more oppressive every day, and nothing to do but to cry.
What would you see if you drew nigh and looked upon this city? You would see life after life that is sealed with the black seal of suffering and death. Every day is one of pain and increasing pain. They are sick. They are afflicted. There is every kind of a disease under which they suffer that is in the medical category. It’s like a sentence of death, and they are there suffering, day after day and night after night, throbbing with pain. That’s what you would see.
What would you see if you opened your eyes and looked at this city? You would see houses and places where the old folks live. I went to see one last week. Both she and her husband there, so faithful to this church; now can never come again. And she said to me, "Every moment I hurt." And I thought as I looked at her, I’m sure what you mean is, because she is not well – I’m sure what you mean is that every moment you hurt in your physical frame; but I thought in my heart, though I didn’t say it, I would think mostly you hurt in your soul.
Think of the tragedy of coming to the last years of life, and you are in a room and you can’t get out, and you can’t get up, because you are old and have come to the end of the way. And maybe the greatest hurt, because nobody remembers and nobody comes and nobody cares, the hurt of the forgotten and the neglected.
What would you see if you came nigh this city? Oh, I understand. The statistician looks at it, and he says, I see so and so. And the politician looks at it, and he says, I see thus and so. And the financier looks at it, and he says, I added up such and so. And the socialite is here, and she and he say, it is thus and so.
And I watch them. They drive down into the city, and they go to their plush offices and their suites in these imposing buildings, and they belong to these clubs. And when the early afternoon comes, they press the accelerator of a high-powered machine, and drive out where the grass is green and the lawns are like swards, the houses are like palaces; and leave behind them the poor, and the dirty, and the miserable of the city who have nobody else to curse but these who forget them and pass by them.
I don’t quite know how to implement my own sermon, but I might in passing say:
Let me have my church on a downtown street
Where the race of men pass by.
Some of them good, some of them bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban,
Let me have my church on a downtown street
And be a friend to man.
[Adapted from "The House By the side of the Road," Sam Walter Foss]
We don’t do very much in this church, but we do something. And I thank God for those seven chapels, seven – those seven ministries by which, under God and in His grace and blessings, we are expanding, we are extending hands of remembrance and prayer and blessing to God’s people.
"And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. What an amazing thing! Three times are we told in the Book that Jesus cried. Two times in human sympathy: He cried at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35]; He cried, the Bible says, with strong crying and tears in Gethsemane "unto Him who was able to save Him from death" [Hebrews 5:7; Luke 22:44]. "And though a Son, yet He became perfect through the things which He suffered" [Hebrews 5:8]. That is, He did God’s will; He fulfilled God’s purpose in suffering. And the third time is here, weeping over the city [Luke 19:41]. What amazing pity, what amazing sympathy! Take it as a picture. Jesus weeping over the city. Is there anything finer in art? Take it as a sentiment. Is there anything finer in human nature? Take it as a revelation of God: the sympathizing Jesus, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who was tried in all points as we are tried, though He without sin [Hebrews 4:15]; the amazing pity, sympathy, understanding of the blessed Jesus.
You know, you can call it omniscient, and omnipotent, and invincible, and immutable, and all of those high-sounding theological terms. And when you do, and have a Jesus like that, you fall in the philosophical dissertations and metaphysical discussions and theological diatribes. There is a speculative, theological Christianity, and it gives itself to forensics and to debates and to arguments and to discussions. But there is also a Christianity of the heart and of the soul, and its figure and symbol and sign and aegis is the weeping Lord Jesus.
I never heard anybody argue or discuss that – differ, debate over that; not in my life. Theological propositions, yes. Metaphysical interpretations, yes. Theological discussions, yes. But I’ve never heard anybody differ about the blessed and sympathizing Lord Jesus.
And what amazing self-emptying that the Lord should weep. Well, He is omniscient. The power of the universe is in His hands, in His arms. He is the One that flung these worlds out into space. The Book says so. His name is Logos, and everything that is made, He made it. That’s what the Book says. All things were by Him. All things [John 1:1-3]. And omnipotence slumbers in His arms and it is in His hands. And yet He weeps over the city [Luke 19:41]. Well, where is omniscience and omnipotence now? Has omnipotence come to its final end? Has it exhausted itself and nothing left but to weep?
My brother, there is no omnipotence in moral suasion. None at all. None at all. Omnipotence refers to the starry universe. And omnipotence refers to the creative might of Almighty God. But there is no omnipotence in appeal and persuasion, in begging, in pleading. God, self-limited. And you are like that.
Why, you can say no to God, and no to God. You can curse Him to His face. You can blaspheme His name. You can spit on Him. You can tread under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, and do despite to the Spirit of grace [Hebrews 10:29]. Where is omnipotence? It doesn’t exist. In God’s relationship to the human heart and the human spirit, you are free. You can say no, even to God.
You know, I saw that one time in a poignant way. In the little town where I lived there was a fine family. They were not in our church. We only had two churches there, the Methodist and the Baptist. And I often say I was brought up to love God and hate the Methodists. We had two little churches in that little town, Methodist and Baptist.
Well, this was a fine family but they were not in our church nor in any church. They were just fine people. And in that family was a boy. And he and I went to school together. And early in life, that boy exhibited a recalcitrance, an incorrigible disposition, a vicious one. And when we were in high school, I remember, even when he was in high school an older teenager, I remember his coming back from the penitentiary, and he was as white – he’d been in jail so long that his skin was so white.
And I remember all the boys gathered around him, and were just admiring all of those things that he’d experienced in the penitentiary, and those hoods that he knew and those criminals that he’d been associated with. He was a hero coming back from the penitentiary. Isn’t that amazing how boys are? I’m glad you got that cowboy over there, not a steer-riding one but a pig-skinned one. I’m glad you got him over there. Oh, boys can get off the track so easy. Well, that fellow was a hero when he came back from the pen. I remember it so well.
Well, the day came – now to finish that boy, and then I want to go back to where I was talking about – he was sent to the penitentiary again, and he was as violent and as vicious in the penitentiary as he was outside. And a fellow convict picked up a baseball bat and beat his brains out. That’s how he died; that’s how he died.
But this is what I am talking about. As a boy I remember, I don’t know how I happened to be there, I just was there – as a boy I remember that father literally getting down on his knees and pleading with his son, "Oh, son, for God’s sake, please. For God’s sake, son, please, please." Pleading with that boy to do right, to go right, to act right, to live right. And that boy was as hard as though he were made out of brass, or his heart out of stone. And then of course I told you how his life was ended.
That’s the way God made us. You can be vile in your life and vicious in your attitude, and you can curse God to His face. That is the limitation of omnipotence. Beholding the city and weeping over it, all you can do is just cry and appeal. And you fathers and mothers, when your children get up to a certain age, that is all you can do. You can’t physically punish them anymore and you can’t physically correct them anymore. They are too big. All you can do is plead with tears and lamentations.
And that leads me to the third. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. Then, third, His lament. His lament; I suppose, judging by a small segment of time, there was never a ministry less successful than the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Take it any way you could describe it, it seemingly ended in frustration and failure, in defeat, in disappointment.
And as the Lord looked on the city and lamented, He said, "If thou, even thou hadst known in the day of thy visitation" [Luke 19:44]. And in another of the Gospels it says the Lord lamented saying, "How oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" [Matthew 23:37-38]. The lament of our Lord. Oh, Oh! Never was there a wind that moaned in greater desolation. Never was there a desert that withered in greater destitution than the Lord as He looked over the city and prophesied its coming judgment.
Now, the same Lord God that presided over the fate of Nineveh, that presided over the fate of Babylon, that presided over the fate of Jerusalem, that presided over the fate of Rome, is the same Lord God that presides over the fate of the cities of America. And there has never been in human history a nation that turned the way that America is turning and escaped the judgment of Almighty God. And if America can go the way that our nation is now turning and escape, it will be the first nation in human history that has done it.
I want to show you how this thing is. And I meet it everywhere. America literally and actually is reading God out of human life. This last week I listened to the radio as I visited in the city, sometimes driving clear across it, I listened coming, going, I listened for a long time this last week to a radio interview. And you heard it too, many of you, because it concerned suffering, human suffering.
And the authority who was the guest of that radio hour had written a book on human suffering. And as I listened to it, how to answer, to respond to human suffering, there was not one time, not one time, that the name of God was mentioned. But the entire volume that was written, from what they said, and the entire discussion concerned psychiatry and all kinds of psychological approaches. And never one time the name of God.
My brother, you are going to have so many candidates for the psychiatric couch, if we keep going that direction, that you never saw a nation so neurotic or psychotic in human history as Americans are going to be if we keep going in that direction.
Leaving God out, even in human suffering. If ever there was an event, a time, a fortune where you would think that people would turn to God, it would be when we are crushed. The children have died, the family has met disaster; wouldn’t you think you would name the name of God? No. We need the psychiatrists to come and to help.
My God, my soul, my Lord, is this the way? These things that they are trying to do with the chaplains in the service, they are not to name the name of God, the chaplains aren’t, in these initiatory lectures they make to the men. Even the chaplain is not to say the name of God. Ah! And for its substitute we have all these things that we read in modern America life.
And Jesus says something here in this lament that to me is the saddest of all of the parts of His crying and of His lamentation. "And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee" [Luke 19:44]. I would not mind so much the judgment of Almighty God if it were to fall on me and upon us. I don’t think I would mind so much. When the atom bomb falls and explodes over Dallas, and it will come, it’s just a matter of when. That’s why they are stockpiling these atomic warheads. They are getting ready for the great Armageddon. And when that final time comes I wouldn’t mind for me and for us. May it explode over my head. I don’t want to live to see the tragedy and the shambles of this nation in that final and ultimate war. But the tragedy lies with our children. "And thy children within thee" [Luke 19:44]. They are the ones that are going to suffer; the lament of our Lord.
I close. There is never a rejection of God but that carries with it an ultimate and final judgment, never. Not in national life; not in state life; not in educational life; not in personal life; not in private life; not in public life, and not in your life. There is no such thing as a rejection of God without an ultimate and final judgment. That’s why Jesus cried, why the Lord wept [Luke 19:41]. And that is why His sympathy, and His grace, and His love, and His mercy extends even to you. Won’t you turn? Won’t you come? Won’t you respond? Won’t you be saved?
That’s why we preach. And that’s why we sing, and that’s why we make appeal. Give your heart to the Lord. Open your very soul, the innermost you and say, "Lord Jesus, come into my life." He says, "I stand at the door of your heart, and knock: if you will open the door, I will come in" [Revelation 3:20]. Let Him in. Make a partner out of the Lord Jesus.
Do you work? Let Him work by your side. Do you walk? Let Him walk with you. Do you rise up in the morning? Let the Lord raise you up. Do you lie down at night? Let Him be your guardian Angel. Do you wrestle with problems? Let Him help you solve them. Do you lack strength? Let Him see you through. Do it. Find in our Lord that sweet and precious and ultimate Savior, forgiving your sins, blessing you now. And in the hour of your death and in the eternity that is yet to come, do it tonight.
In a moment we shall sing our song. And when we do, into that aisle and down here to the front, come, come. In the throng in this balcony round, down one of these stairwells, and come. A family you, "Pastor, my wife, my children all of us coming tonight." Or a couple you, or just somebody one you, make the decision now. And when we stand in a moment to sing, stand up coming. God bless you in the way as you come, as we stand and as we sing.
CHRIST AND THE CITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. His eyes – "And when He came near He beheld the city"
A. Our difficulty
1. Never come near it
2. Not willing to look upon it
a. What would we see if we really looked?
B. The statistician and the socialite
1. Poem, "The House by the Side of the Road"
II. His tears – "And wept over it"
A. Three times in Word of God it is said that our Lord wept (Matthew 26, John 11:35, Luke 19:41)
B. What amazing sympathy
C. What amazing self-limitation, self-emptying
1. We are free to reject Him
III. His lament – "O Jerusalem, Jerusalemâ€¦" (Matthew 23:37-38)
A. What the city did (Luke 19:14)
B. The solemn judgment (Luke 19:43-44)
C. The fate of the cities of America