Jesus Is Passing By
February 23rd, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-23-69 7:30 p.m.
If you share the service with us on radio, turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 18. Luke chapter 18, the Third Gospel. And we will begin reading at verse 35 and read to the end of the chapter. With the great throng of people here in the auditorium of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, if you can get your Bible, wherever you are, and read it out loud with us. The title of the sermon tonight is Jesus is Passing By.
As we read the story, you will easily see how I came by the text and the title, Jesus is Passing By. I could also say another thing, in a shift that I have made in the sermons delivered on Sunday night. For a long time, for years, I have been preaching through the life of our Lord. I have been doing it in a harmony of His life, taking the four Gospels and putting them all together, following the life of Jesus. No one gospel tells all of the story of the life of our Lord. John says if one were to tell everything, the world itself would not hold the books [John 21:25]. But each Gospel picked out some of the things, and according to divine inspiration and the purpose of the message he delivered, he wrote the life of the Lord, and we have four of them in the New Testament.
So, what I was doing, I was preaching through the life of our Lord chronologically, as each Gospel might present it: one passage here, one here, and one there. I began to think, in my praying and in my studying and preparation, there’s a great weakness in that; for most of the proportions of the gospel concern His death and His resurrection. And yet, doing what I was doing, the years were passing, the years were passing, and I was not coming to the great climactic purpose of the gospel until years to come, preaching of the cross of Jesus.
Well, I began to think that is the inspiration of God; for the gospel breaks it up into four parts, and four different times as you go through the life of Christ in the inspired New Testament, four different times will you come to the glorious story of His cross and of His resurrection.
So, I said, "Why don’t I do what the Holy Spirit inspired the Gospel writers to do? Instead of following the life of the Lord chronologically, why don’t I preach through the life of the Lord as Matthew wrote it, and then come to the glorious atonement by which we are saved, and His incomparable resurrection? Do the same thing in Mark, and come again to the story of His atoning love on the cross and His resurrection. Do the same thing again, preach through Luke, and come again to the story of the cross and His incomparable resurrection. Do the same thing a fourth time, preach through the Gospel of John, and come again to the story of the cross and the resurrection. That’s inspiration! That’s the way God did it in the Book. And if I do it in the pulpit, as by inspiration it was done in the Bible, I would achieve that purpose that I felt I ought to do as I prayed and prepared in my study.
Well, the reason we’re in Luke is, I was there when I came to that conclusion. So instead of going back, what I thought I would do, I was already in Luke when I felt that conviction in my heart, so I thought, I’ll just preach through Luke. And when I get through Luke, I’ll preach through John. When I get through John, then I’ll go back and preach through Matthew.
Now, years ago, when I was preaching through the Bible, it took me two years to preach through Matthew; it took me two years to preach through John. It took me a year or more to preach through Luke. So what I’m telling you is that by the time I get done doing this – just preaching on Sunday night through the life of our Lord through these four Gospels – I shall be something like ninety-eight or ninety-nine years old! Because I used, you know, when I preached through the Bible; where I left off Sunday morning I’d started Sunday night, and where I left off Sunday night I’d start again Sunday morning. But here, I’m just doing it Sunday night. But I’m staying with that conviction that on Sunday night I ought to preach from the life of Jesus, no matter what we’re preaching about Sunday morning. Sunday night I preach from the life of our Lord, and I intend to do this until the Lord calls me home.
Now some of you all are persuaded that I’m going to stay with this in strength and health until Jesus comes again or until this century is out. Well, I hope you’re right. You can’t ever tell. If we can keep a bunch of these young people around here to keep us humble, I may do it. I may do it.
Now you got your Bible? You got your Bible? Now let’s read this beautiful story. Luke, chapter 18, beginning 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 shall 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.
In the story of the life of our Lord, if you follow it chronologically, this happened in the Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem. He made a great circular route in this last trek. He was in Judea, and He went through Samaria and through Galilee, crossed over the Jordan into Perea, down through the eastern side of the Jordan, then at the ford of the Jordan where He was baptized, crossed over again into the western sector and so up to Jerusalem in the Passion Week, at which time He was crucified [Luke 23:26-], buried [Luke 23:50-56], and raised from the dead [Luke 24:1-12].
Now, in this journey, this long circular journey, somewhere in Perea, passing by, He was called upon with great loudness by a beggar who was blind [Luke 18:35-38]. Any of those countries, any of them, though Israel’s work had so greatly changed the pattern of life in their new and flourishing state, but most any of those Oriental countries, and as it used to be in years past, the beggars are everywhere, crying, "Bakshish, bakshish, bakshish."
In Africa one time, when I was preaching in one of the churches in a city in Africa, when I came out, the church had a yard and had a gate. There at the gate sat a great many beggars. "Bakshish, bakshish, bakshish," the Arabic word for begging something, an alm. Bakshish.
So I said, "Is this every service?"
And they answered, "Yes."
Every service, because they were Christian people, and Christian people were known as gracious, and kind, and compassionate, the beggars would come. Ah! What a sight – crippled, diseased, emaciated, starved, blind – sat there at the gate in the street, "Bakshish, bakshish."
Well, that is characteristic of Oriental life. And the Lord passing by had a multitude around Him, and this man who was blind heard the noise, the commotion, and asked what it was. And they told him Jesus of Nazareth the prophet is passing by [Luke 18:35-37]. So he cried out, just as loudly as he could, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me!" [Luke 18:38].
Now, Jesus had that following because He was a tremendous prophet, an important man, and you shouldn’t disturb important men; that seems to be an unwritten law. If the president of the United States goes to Europe, you shouldn’t disturb him, if he should go by in his limousine. We’re changing some of those habits in modern life; we’re learning to throw bricks, and rocks, and eggs, and vegetables, and try to turn the car over. But usually, the important man was not to be disturbed.
And Jesus was an important man and had that throng around Him. So when this blind man, when he called to the Lord, those that were around him said, "Shut up! Shut up!" And they rebuked him. They not only told him to hush up, but they told him how out of place and out of character it was that One so busy, and so magnificent, and so great as Jesus should be called upon to pay attention to somebody as little, and small, and inconsequential, poor, blind, and beggarly as he was. But instead of heeding their admonitions and being quiet, he called the more loudly. He refused to hold his peace and said those same words, "Blessed Jesus, have mercy on me" [Luke 18:38-39].
Well, Jesus stopped, and He commanded him to be brought to Him, and somebody went over there and led him by the hand to the presence of the Lord. And the Lord asked him, "What would you that I do for you?"
And he said, "Lord, I believe You can speak the word, and I can see" [Luke 18:40-41].
And the Lord said, "Thy faith hath saved thee," and he could see, and went with the multitudes, praising, glorifying God [Luke 18:42-43].
Now, it is very obvious; the text, and the title, and the message of the sermon. That was the last time that Jesus was ever in Perea, that’s the last time He ever passed down that road. That’s the last time He ever could have spoken a word of salvation and healing to that beggar, and had he let that opportunity pass, he would have died in his blinded beggarness. When they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by, his importunity won for him the salvation of his soul and the healing of his eyes. Jesus of Nazareth passeth by; and he took advantage of the one opportunity he had in his life, and he was saved, and his eyes were healed [Luke 18:40-43].
Now, the sermon. So the Lord passes through the centuries and the generations, and into our lives, and before us. And as He passes, there are so many different responses to the Lord as He passes by, and as He comes to our life, to our day, and to our generation.
There are some of us who receive Him immediately, gladly, lovingly. I did, in that little dedication there, of that work of our teenagers. I cannot remember – she said as she read the dedication, and when I was six years old, I gave my life to be a preacher – I cannot remember when I did not have that loving, devoted longing to testify, and to witness, and to preach for Jesus. And when I was ten I was baptized, having given my heart to the Lord. And there are many just like me, many, many. When they hear the gospel message, they respond. When Jesus passes by, they adoringly, lovingly receive Him, accept Him.
I was down in Japan, in Kagoshima prefecture, down at the end of the nation, in a little city called Ijuin. The missionary left me there. I had no interpreter and translator, so they assigned me the professor of English in their high school. He was an atheist. He was an atheist, had been all of his life, but he was my translator. The messages that I preached in that three-day revival meeting at Ijuin, he was the one who stood by my side, and he translated the message that I brought. I doubt whether he had ever heard the gospel preached, I don’t think he had. He was importuned because the missionary had gone to another city and left me there alone. And they had to have somebody who could translate my sermon, so they asked the teacher of English in the high school if he would do it. I want you to know, though he was an atheist and didn’t believe in God, in one of those services, my translator turned to me and said, "Sir, I have been an atheist all of my life, but tonight I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior." And he made that confession to the people, and he was baptized.
All of us revere the memory of Wallace Bassett, who for forty-eight years was pastor of the Cliff Temple Baptist Church in our city. Wallace Bassett one time came to our men’s meeting here in the church and spoke. And he said that the first time he was ever invited to accept Jesus as his Savior, he did it. There are lots of people like that. The first time you invite them, they’ll respond. And the first time you extend an invitation, they will accept the Lord.
Now there are those who vigorously reject Him. As the Lord comes by in their day and in their generation and appears before them, they violently repudiate Him. That’s been true from the beginning.
Annas and Caiaphas said, "If this Man is received, we shall lose our place and our station" [John 11:48]. Demetrius, the silver smith, said when Paul was preaching in Ephesus, "If this man succeeds and the people turn to Jesus, we will be out of our idol-making business, our manufactories will fall into decay and disuse." And they violently opposed the preaching of the gospel and the saving grace of Jesus [Acts 19:24-28]. And I could go for hours here, speaking of Celsius. Did you know there are no new arguments against Christianity? In about 200 AD, Celsius, the Greek philosopher, voiced every one of them. There’s not a theologian, or an infidel, or an atheist today, or since his time that’s ever said anything new against Jesus. Celsius said it all back there, one thousand six hundred fifty years ago.
Or I could speak of Julian the apostate, who tried to turn the Roman Empire back to idolatry after the conversion of Constantine. And I couldn’t speak of Nietzsche, and I haven’t time to speak of the violent anti-godliness of the modern march of Soviet communism. Ah, ah! The bitter enemies we have in the Soviet Union and in world communism. Jesus passing by. There are those who violently reject Him.
Then there are those who just indifferently let Him pass. One of the strangest of all the things that I read in literature, I read here in this Holy Bible. When the magi, the wise men came from the East saying, "Where is He that is born the King of the Jews, for we have seen His star, we have seen His star, and we have come to worship Him. Where is He? Where is He? God has announced His birth" [Matthew 2:1-2]. And Herod called the scribes, the doctors of the law, the men of the seminaries, of the schools, these academicians who read and studied, and he inquired of them diligently, "Where should the Lord Christ be born?" And they said, "In Bethlehem" [Matthew 2:3-6].
Now you can stand in Jerusalem and see Bethlehem. It is right there. The contour of the land makes it very close by. It is less than five miles, five miles. Jerusalem is here, and Bethlehem is there. It is less than five miles. But did Herod go? No. Did one of those scribes go? No, not one; and that is the most amazing of all the developments in human story I have ever read! This is the great intervention of God in human history. This is the incarnation [Matthew 1:20-2:1]. This is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Covenant. Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is born. The King is come, and He is in Bethlehem [Luke 2:10-16]. What of it? Not one of them went, not one; only the magi. They followed the star until it came to the place where He was. And they worshiped Him [Matthew 2:9-11], but not a scribe, not a doctor of the law, not a representative of the court, least of all the king himself. They just passed Him by.
Ah, I will never forget my journey through Sweden. I don’t think in my life have I ever seen such impenetrable, colossal, unfathomable, imperturbable indifference as I found in Sweden. Nobody goes to church. Nobody goes to church. It is such an infinitesimal handful that do attend, that I can almost say no one goes to church.
So, while we were there we met many guides, and tourist directors, and many people, and being a little group of pastors, we would talk to them. And they’d say, "I am not interested, I am not interested." And I never got any other response.
And I’d say, "But have you ever been to a Baptist service?"
"I am not interested."
"Well, have you ever been to a Non-conformist state service?"
"Well, would you try, would you just see?"
"No, I am not interested. I am not interested."
The colossal indifference of that whole nation. And a great deal of what you find in modern Sweden is beginning to be found in the response of our American people, "I am just not interested." Why, if you were performing miracles, they wouldn’t come. If you were having the most glorious outpouring of the miraculous Spirit of God that they ever saw, they would not be here, "I am just not interested. I’ve got interest in these TV programs, and I’ve got my heroes on the screen, and I’ve got a thousand other things, but I am not interested in Jesus, or the church, or the salvation of my soul. I’m not interested in the forgiveness of my sins, and I don’t want to hear about the judgment day or coming death. I’m not interested." And they drift into eternity without God.
There’s a ship close by with a swaying lurch.
No sail, no crew, no spar.
And she drifts from the paths of her sister ships
To wherever the dead ships are.
The song of her crew 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 swaying lurch.
No hope, no song, 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 he alone can say.
He drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows,
And nobody knows where the derelict goes.
["The Derelict," Robert Healy]
They just die without Jesus. They just die without God. They just die and are buried without hope. The indifference by which the mass of humanity pours into the grave, O God! And the Lord is passing by.
Master, Master, that we might be like this blind beggar [Luke 18:35-43]. Lord, save my soul, open my eyes, bless my life, Lord, do it, do it. This is my great moment, my hour of opportunity.
This is the season of hope and grace.
Jesus is passing by.
This is for salvation, the time and place.
Jesus is passing by.
[from "This is the Season of Hope and Grace," Elisha A. Hoffman, 1884]
JESUS IS PASSING BY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The story
A. The road – Perea, Jordan, Jericho, Jerusalem
B. The blind man begging – Bartimaeus
C. His one great opportunity – Jesus of Nazareth is passing by
1. Told to hush his crying; he cried out all the more
2. The Lord asked him what he cried for
3. His sight and salvation
II. The application
A. Jesus has been passing by through the centuries, and today
1. Some receive Him gladly
a. Japanese translator
b. Dr. Wallace Bassett
2. Some vigorously reject Him
3. Most just let Him pass by, indifferent
a. Magi and the king
b. Colossal indifference I found in Sweden
c. Response of our American people – "uninterested"
B. Tragedy of procrastination
1. Poem, "The Derelicts"