The So-Different Christ
March 2nd, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-2-69 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, would you turn in your Bible with us in the First Baptist Church here in Dallas and read out loud Luke chapter 19, the first 10 verses. Wherever you are, if you have a Bible, get your Bible and turn to Luke chapter 19, and we shall read out loud together the first 10 verses. This is the pastor bringing the message of the evening entitled Jesus, the Friend of Sinners. It is going to be a message on The So Different Christ, and the text will be verse 10.
Now, sharing your Bible with a neighbor who might not have his, and all of us reading out loud together, the first 10 verses of Luke 19. Now, together:
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And, behold, there was a man named Zaccheus which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.
And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
And Zaccheus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
And the text is one of the great verses in the Bible, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10]. And the title of the sermon, The So Different Christ.
"For the Son of Man," immediately I am constrained to see the meaning of such an unusual designation as that. He calls Himself the Son of Man. And I can see in that nomenclature a reference to His divine origin, His deity, and I can see it by contrast.
Could you imagine anything more out of place than for Peter, or for John, or for Paul to call himself the Son of Man? Such condescension on the part of a mere man would be intolerable! They are so certainly human, and so certainly born as the rest of us. And for anyone to refer to himself as the Son of Man, to emphasize his human nature, would be so entirely out of place. But for Jesus to do it is so appropriate; the Son of Man, a reminder to us of His common nature, our friend and our Savior, our brother in the flesh; the Son of Man. It also brings to my mind His identity with the human race, all of mankind.
We are such nationalists by feature and by voice, and by costume, and by habit. And it’s always been that way. A Jew was very much a Jew in the days of the Greco-Roman Empire, and a Roman was very much a Roman, and a Greek was very much a Greek, a Scythian was a Scythian, and an Ethiopian was an Ethiopian. And each one in his country was a native, and each one out of his country was very much a foreigner. And that same classification pertains today. I feel very much a foreigner in Hong Kong, or in Tokyo, or in Paris, or in Athens, or in Rome. And when a Chinese man or an Indian man comes here with us, he also is very much a foreigner.
We are divided up into these classifications. We are nationalists, most so. And we can’t hide it; we are born that way. But Jesus is identified with all mankind. In Him seems to have coursed the blood of every nation, and every tribe, and every family under the sun. He is at home in France; He is at home in Italy; He is no less at home in China, or in Japan, or in the great subcontinent of India.
I never saw a more interesting series of Christmas cards in my life than many that I have seen from Japan. The Madonna, and the Child, and Joseph, and the scenes, all of it are Japanese. And as I looked at it, I thought, this is entirely apropos, for the Lord Jesus belongs to Tokyo, to Hokita, to Honshu, to Kyushu. He belongs to Japan just as much as He belongs to us, and He belongs to Europe and Africa as much as He belongs to any other tribe, or race, or nation under the sun. The Son of Man identified with mankind. And again, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10]. It also is a portrayal of His universal sympathies, the Son of Man. He identifies with us.
In the message this morning, I spoke of the fact that the disciples were amazed. The Bible says, "and they were astonished," they marveled that He spoke with a woman. It was beneath the dignity of any rabbi to be found in public speaking with a woman [John 4:27]. But the sympathies of our Lord went out to womanhood, motherhood, childhood. He was that way. When the disciples said to the mothers, take these children away, they are a nuisance and a bother; can’t you see that the Master is busy? He has great sermons to preach, and He has a great healing ministry to prosecute. And He has got great theological doctrines to pronounce and to teach. Take these children away [Mark 10:13].
The Lord said, "No, no. Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." And He took them in His arms, and blessed them [Mark 10:14, 16]. That’s Jesus. And His same sympathies were expressed to all men everywhere, of any state or of any class. In the cursing fisherman, He could see the preacher at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-40]. In the harlot Mary Magdalene, He could see a saint [Luke 8:2]. And in this despised publican, Zaccheus, He could see a true son of Abraham [Luke 19:9].
Now, the sympathies of Jesus were always concretely expressed. They were never in polysyllabic terms of philosophical identification, appreciation in the concrete, in the abstract. He always identified with people as such.
Now may I illustrate what I’m trying to say? It is very easy for people to love a country like England, but never to love an Englishman. It is very easy for people to stand up and to espouse the cause of the working class, but never do anything for a workman. Or to speak of the downtrodden masses, but never go out of the way to be a friend to anyone who belongs to that submarginal mass. But the Lord was just the opposite; he never approached it in polysyllabic, and He never spoke of it philosophically, but He always expressed His love and His concern for somebody definite. It was always personal with Him and never philosophical or in the abstract.
Now, you have a magnificent illustration of it here in this story of Zaccheus. Zaccheus was a publican, a despised publican [Luke 19:1-2]. There were two reasons why he should have been particularly and especially despised in the day when Jesus passed through Jericho.
One: the way they collected taxes in that day was by farming them out. So a man would bid, let’s say he would bid to collect all the taxes in the Jordan Valley. And whoever made the highest bid was given the task of collecting those taxes. Then he would sublet them to others. Now, the way the thing was done was, he would pay the government the bid that he’d made, but all above that he was able to keep for himself. So the publican by the nature of his office was an extortioner. He was dishonest, he was by nature a fraud. And what he could get out of people, he did in any way because all above a certain bid that he’d made, he kept for himself. And to say "publican" was to say "extortioner." They were synonymous terms.
Now another thing about it; not only was he a despised and dishonest extortioner by office and by trade, but he was also a representative of the oppression of the Roman yoke on God’s people. And for a man, a Jew, to be a publican, to be a tax collector, in the eyes of the Jewish nation was to betray his country. He lived a traitorous life. He was a servant and a pawn of the Roman Empire. And this man was despised. Well, what was Jesus’ attitude toward him? Jesus looked upon him as a human being. He looked upon him as somebody. One of those men he invited to be an apostle and ordained him as such; changed his name from Levi to Matthew, who wrote the First Gospel. He was a tax gatherer, he was a despised publican [Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27].
And another one is this story of Zaccheus here. The Lord in His compassionate identification and sympathies with all mankind included even the tax gatherer, the publican, Zaccheus, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10]; the so different Christ.
Now again, He was so different in His attitude toward sinners, and you’re going to listen to me say some things now that I think are so tragically true and so untrue with the Lord. Part of this I can’t quite understand. Now let’s begin. First: the attitude toward sinners. There are those who are extremely condemnatory; they are harsh. This is the law, and they have broken it. This is what sin is, and they are in it; sinners, and they are very harsh, very harsh. An illustration of that is the woman taken in adultery [John 8:1-11]. She was caught in the act, and she was dumped at the feet of Jesus. And the law was read to the Lord, "the adulteress and the adulterer shall die. And Master, she was caught in the act. Now, what do You say? What do You say?"
Well, that was a very unusual dilemma for the Lord to be placed in. He looked at that woman, and what did He see? Well, the Pharisees saw an adulteress. She had broken the law, and the law said she ought to die. Now, would the Lord say, "I am going to change the law, I am going to do away with the law?" Does He say that? Ah, that would have heaped upon His head the whole wrath of the whole nation.
Well, what is He to do? Well, you know the story. The story is so pointed that most of the manuscripts leave it out; did you know that? Most of the ancient manuscripts didn’t include this story. And that’s why it is so out of place, stuck where it is here in the Gospel of John. It was just beyond what the ancients could receive or take. But it’s in the Book, and God put it there. When the Lord Jesus looked at that woman, He saw a human soul, a human being for whom He came into this world to die [1 Timothy 1:15]. You remember the rest of the story. "If any of you have no sin, you stand up and cast the first rock at her. Then the rest of you, you cast your rocks at her, and we will stone her to death right here, right here" [John 8:7]. All right, let’s begin. Who’s the first one to stand up without sin and cast the first stone? And who’s the second one to stand up without sin and cast the second stone? And the Lord bowed His head and began to write in the sand. I wonder if He were writing the commandments of God. And when He lifted up His face, all of the accusers were gone, all of them. And the Lord said to that woman, "Arise, go, and sin no more" [John 8:8-11]. These are the sympathies of Christ, so different of those who are so condemnatory in their attitude.
All right, a second thing: there are those, and these are increasingly vocal today – there are those who are far, far and beyond even the word "liberal." There is nothing, there is nothing but that is acceptable to them. It’s an astonishing development in modern life, there is nothing but is acceptable to them. Anything. They use the word "permissive." This is the permissive generation.
Eli was like that. I’ll not go into the story of what his boys Hophni and Phinehas were doing [1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36] but old Eli, the high priest at Shiloh, was like that; permissive. And when they came to him about these sins and the transgressions, the vile iniquity of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, why, old Eli said, "Boys will be boys, boys will be boys. They’ve got wild oats to sow. Let them sow them." Permissive.
Because of that permissiveness, God judged the house of Eli, and through their generations found themselves under the judgment of Almighty God; a long story. We don’t ever escape the penalties of God’s judgment upon our sins, and it fell upon the house of Eli and upon Hophni and Phinehas [1 Samuel 4:10-22]. Now there are those who go to the other extreme, like Eli and are very permissive.
Now, this thing about Jesus that I cannot understand: as surely as you are living, where there is tremendous righteousness, you will find evil people pulling away from them. It’s just always true, always true, always true. Where people are fine, and pure, and holy, and righteous, and good, you’ll find sinners pulling away from them. They don’t like to be in the presence of them. They don’t like their company, they don’t like the way they live, the way they talk, the way they act. They just don’t like them. You look at any church service and see how many of the vile sinners, these unspeakable, unnamable ones – just look around you and see whether they are here tonight, or whether they are here at any other service. They don’t like us, and they pull away from us. But this is the most inexplicable thing I know of about the Lord Jesus. Wherever He was, vile sinners – the Bible says harlots, prostitutes, sinners gathered around Him to listen to what He had to say.
All right, you would think that the Pharisees were right when they said, "Why, that’s explicable; He is one of them [Luke 15:2], birds of a feather flock together. He is just like one of them Himself." That’s what they said about Him. And like likes like, and like draws like, and "He is just like them, that’s why they gather around to listen to Him." Well, is that correct?
Well, listen to what He would say. He not only said you do not kill, but Jesus said, if you hate in your heart you are a murderer [Matthew 5:21-22]. Jesus said you are not to commit adultery, but He went far beyond and said that if you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery already in your heart. You are an adulterer [Matthew 5:27-28]. And Jesus said, "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees" – and they were the most meticulously righteous of any group that ever lived in the earth – "Except your righteousness exceed that righteousness, you will not enter into the kingdom of God" [Matthew 5:20].
The Lord never lowered those standards; He upped them and upped them and upped them, until they were like heaven itself. He didn’t demand human perfection; He demanded heavenly perfection.
And yet, and I say it’s one of the most inexplicable things that I know in literature and human life, with all of the high ideals and high standards of the Lord Jesus, you’ll find in the Bible again and again that sinners, and harlots, and prostitutes, and gamblers, and robbers, and murderers, sinners, loved to gather around Him to listen to what He had to say. You know, I – just philosophizing about that, I just wonder if way down underneath these who lived such vile and unspeakable lives, I wonder if they don’t dream of a better way, and maybe Jesus somehow offered to them a door of hope in their helplessness, and they felt it. Down in the human heart there are feelings lie buried that only God could know and understand.
Well, we must hasten. My time’s already gone. I have one other word: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10]. The so different Christ, in His sympathies and in His attitude toward sin and sinners. And at last, in the object of His solicitation, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." And as He would spell it out, He would say, "For the Son of Man came not to call righteous to repentance, but sinners" [Matthew 9:13].
Or He would say it like this: "For I came not as a physician to heal the well, but the sick" [Luke 5:31]. And the gospel of Christ is addressed to sinners. That’s what it is. If a man feels himself righteous, there is nothing to say. You can argue, I suppose, but there’s nothing to say. The gospel message of Christ is addressed to sinners.
Once in a while someone would come to me and say, "I don’t feel worthy to take the Lord’s Supper." Man, how you have missed the point of it! The object of the Lord’s Supper is this, that we are lost sinners, lost sinners, and Jesus died to save us, and this bread is His body given for us, and this rich fruit of the vine in this cup is His blood poured out for us that we might be saved from our sins [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. That’s the point of it. The invitation is to sinners, and if you’re not a sinner, why, it’d be meaningless to you. But if you are a sinner, O Lord! What Jesus means to us.
Now that was the object of His solicitation, "for sinners." To the Pharisees who felt themselves righteous, He had no message at all. To the scribes who felt themselves indoctrinated in the things of the kingdom of God, He had no message at all, nothing to say. But to the sinners, He offered a door of hope and a way of life, and blessing, and salvation, and forgiveness, and purity whiter than snow, as that song that we sing.
Well, we’re still on the air, so let me make one other comment, then I’ll close. How did the Lord do that? Well, we talk about sin in philosophical terms and discuss it, you know, as though it were something beyond, but how’s the Lord do with sin?
Well, here’s what He does. He comes to the town where the sinner is, and Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. He comes to the town where the sinner is, and He goes to the very street on which the sinner lives, and He stops at the tree up which the sinner has climbed, and He calls him by his name. Did you ever think about that? And He came to that tree and said, "Zaccheus, Zaccheus." How did He know Zaccheus? Well, you’d think He had known him all of his life. He calls that sinner by name, "Zaccheus," just like He knows you. Sin is not philosophical. Give me your name and your address, and I’ll give you a good specimen of a sinner. Now, Jesus goes to that sinner, the town, the street, the tree up which he’s climbed, and He says, "Zaccheus" – He calls him by his name – "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down, for today I am going to spend, abide in thy house" [Luke 19:1-5].
And Zaccheus, sinner, publican, despised outcast, oh, he couldn’t believe his ears! And he made haste and came down, and all of the other people said, "Look at Him, look at Him, look at Him. The Lord’s gone to be the guest with the man that’s a sinner; vile, evil," all that they said [Luke 19:7]. But when Zaccheus had the Lord in his house, the little man stood up and said, "Lord, today, today I have made a great change in my life. Today, today, Lord, half of my goods I am going to give to the poor, just out of honor of this day. And not only that, but if in the future I ever wrong a man, I’m going to restore him fourfold" [Luke 19:8]. He was a changed man, because Jesus had come to see him. And the Lord Jesus said to him, "Truly, truly this day salvation is come to this house" [Luke 19:9].
And that’s the way the Lord Jesus does with sinners, with you and me. He knocks at the door. "And if anyone opens the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with Me" [Revelation 3:20]; the fellowship of the Son of God. Why, bless His name, you want to shout and sing, forever! That good thing the blessed, blessed Jesus has done for us.
Now, Lee Roy, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing this song, you, to give your heart to the Lord, come and stand by me. A family you, to put your life in the circle of this dear church, a couple you, come, come, come. Make the decision now. Do it now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming; from the balcony, down one of these stairways, on this lower floor, into an aisle and down to the front. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SO DIFFERENT CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. An unusual designation – "the Son of Man"
1. Reminder of His common nature
2. His identity with the human race
3. Portrayal of His universal sympathies
B. Sympathies of Jesus always concretely expressed
1. Always expressed His love and concern for somebody definite
a. Zacchaeus, a despised publican
i. By nature of his office an extortioner
ii. Representative of Roman oppression on God’s people
C. Jesus’ attitude toward Zacchaeus
II. The attitude toward sinners
A. Some harsh and severe
1. The woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11)
B. Some liberal, permissive
1. Eli (1 Samuel 2:12-36)
C. Wherever Jesus was, vile sinners gathered around Him to listen
1. His standards the highest (Matthew 5:20)
III. The object of His solicitation
A. Gospel of Christ addressed to sinners (Mark 2:17)
1. No message for those who call themselves righteous
B. Christ’s way of redemption and restoration is personal
1. He came to the town where the sinner is; calls him by name