Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-16-75 7:30 p.m.
We welcome you all over this part of the earth who listen to our service every Sunday night at 7:30 o’clock to 8:30 o’ clock on KRLD. And I would like to say to our friend and brother in northern Alabama listening to us tonight, I received your letter saying that the signal of KRLD is as distinctly heard there as though it were located in a town nearby. And in your love and prayers, we are asking God’s merciful remembrance of us as we preach each Sunday night on this great radio station the marvelous goodness and good news of the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The title of the sermon tonight is Jesus is Passing By. And with me read this unusual and faith-healing miracle in Luke, the Third Gospel; in Luke, chapter 18, beginning at verse 35 and reading to the end of the chapter. And if your neighbor doesn’t have his Bible, share your Bible with him. You will find one in the pew rack.
Luke – Matthew, Mark, Luke, chapter 18, beginning at verse 35 and reading to the end of the chapter. And you will see the passage of the text as we read the story, Jesus is Passing By. Now together, Luke 18:35, all of us reading out loud together:
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 a parallel passage in another Gospel we learn that this blind man’s name is Bartimeus [Mark 10:46]. It happened in a country where there is often seen blindness. I remember driving the car up toward the top of the Mount of Olives, just on the other side of Kidron, and parking the car to walk up to the top of the summit of the mount. As the car stopped, there was a blind beggar seated by the side of the road. And when he heard the car stop, he stood up. And with his hands outstretched, felt toward the car, and began at the front of it, and then felt all of the way back to the window, and then the back window, and then back to the front window. They were raised, both windows. And as he felt, beginning at the front of the car, he said in a most pathetic, and in a tone of moving pathos, "Blind, blind, blind, blind." The only English word that he knew, "Blind, blind, blind." A pitiful, sorrowful spectacle.
It was just such a blind beggar who was seated by the road just outside Jericho. And hearing a tumult, a throng, a great group, walking down the road and passing by, he asked one of them what it meant. And he was told that Jesus, the prophet and healer and Savior from Nazareth, was passing by. And when he heard it, that it was Jesus passing by, he cried aloud, "O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy upon me!"
And those who were walking with the Lord said to that blind man, "Hush, hush, hush." But instead of hushing, he cried all the louder, "Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me" [Luke 18:38]. And in his importunity, in his much crying, the Lord stopped and asked that he be brought to Him. And a sweet, kind friend and neighbor led the blind man to the Lord Jesus. And the Lord asked him, "Why do you call? What is it that you want?" [Luke 18:41].
Not that the Lord wouldn’t know. He knows all about us before we ask, before we call. There’s not anything new to God that we could reveal in any prayer of supplication. He knows everything, the deepest recesses of our hearts. He knows it all. But it pleases God that we pray. God has ordained it that we ask [Matthew 7:7]. So the Lord asked him what it was for which he cried so pointedly and so importunely. And he said, "Lord, that I might see, that I might have my sight." And the Lord said, "Because of your importunity, because of your faith, see." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, glorifying God. And all the people who saw it gave praise to the Lord [Luke 18:41-43].
Now, what especially impresses itself upon my heart as I read the passage is this: Jesus of Nazareth is passing by [Luke 18:37]. Did you know, as you compare the story, both in Luke and with the other three Gospels, this was the last time that the Lord was ever in Perea, and it’s the last time He was ever in Jericho? For this was His last journey facing Samaria, to Galilee, and then on the other side of the river, down through Perea and across the Jordan again, through Jericho, finally up to Jerusalem, where He was betrayed, tried, crucified, died [Matthew 26-27].
This was the one opportunity, alone, the only opportunity that Bartimeus had. Jesus is passing by. And in his calling and in his need, the Lord healed him. And had it not been for that asking and that crying and that begging just then, he would have lived all of his life without sight, and would have died in his blindness. This is his one, only, opportunity, for Jesus of Nazareth passes by [Luke 18:37].
Our Lord has been passing by through the centuries and the centuries and the centuries. And His steps pass by our lives and our door today. As the Lord passes by, there are some who receive Him gladly, lovingly, savingly, believingly, faithfully, trustingly, answeringly. How beautiful, any story of the life of a man who opens his heart in hospitality and loving faith and welcome to the Lord Jesus! "O Christ, come into my heart. Come into my home. Come into our house. Abide with us." How beautiful a story like that of Phillip or Bartholomew or Simon or Andrew or John! And through the centuries and the centuries, as the Lord has passed by, there have always been those who received Him lovingly and faithfully.
Did you know, one time preaching in Kagoshima Prefecture, which is the farthest state down in the isles of Japan, in a little city called Aiduene – there was no missionary there. They brought me there to conduct a three-day weekend revival meeting, and just left me. There was nobody there that could talk to me, could speak English. Even the house in which I lived and stayed had not a word of English understood. When I spoke, my translator was the man who taught English in the Aiduene high school. He was a pagan. He was a Shintoist and spoke English most haltingly. But he could understand the drift, the gist, of the message that I was bringing, and so translated it into Japanese.
Did you know the last, the third night, of that weekend revival meeting, when I was preaching and made appeal for those who would trust Christ to come forward and to stand by me, that English professor stopped in the appeal, and turned to me and said, "Tonight, this night, I take the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. I invite the blessed Lord to come into my heart and into my life. I, too, will be a Christian." And then he turned around and said it in Japanese to the throng that was present. How precious and how beautiful when Jesus passes by and there’s one to receive Him and welcome Him.
We had a brotherhood meeting here at the church here one time, and invited Dr. Wallace Bassett, forty-eight years pastor of the Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Oak Cliff. We invited Dr. Bassett to be our speaker that evening. And, you know, he said in that address, urging our men to be witnesses for the Lord, Dr. Bassett said, "The first time I was ever invited to accept Christ Jesus as my Savior, I did it. The first time."
And he said, "It would surprise you how hungry people are and how ready they are to respond if there’s just somebody to welcome them, to love them, to invite them, to present Jesus to them." Jesus is passing by. How blessed it is when we open our hearts to Him. "Lord, welcome. Come in. Come in."
Jesus of Nazareth passes by. There are some always who despise Him and blaspheme Him and reject Him. They did so in the days of His flesh. There is always an Annas or a Caiaphas or the Pharisees and the Sadducees standing by to mock and to ridicule and to scorn and to reject and to blaspheme. There are always some who say they are atheists, who deride and belittle. And there are always others who scoff. And Jesus passes by, and they’re left in their rejection and in their unbelief. How sad. How sad.
But may I say and point out an even sadder thing? The man who rejects with blasphemous words, harsh and critical rejection, unbelief – it is tragic for that man’s life. But no less so is it sad to see Jesus pass by and these let Him go out of their lives, out of their sight, and do so first with indifference. Just don’t care. Just not bothered. Just not interested.
Can you believe that when the wise men, the Magi, came from the East and asked in Jerusalem, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the East" – and that must have been in Iran, in Persia. "We have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him" [Matthew 2:1-2]. And reading the Holy Scriptures, the scribes answered the king, saying, "In Bethlehem He is born" [Matthew 2:3-5]. And they pointed to the town and pointed out the way, but not one of them ever bothered to go. Do you know how far it is from the king’s palace in Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where the King of kings was born? It is not as far as it is from here to White Rock Lake. It is less than five miles. And not one of them bothered to go; supreme indifference. Oh, how many see Jesus pass by and are uncaring and unconcerned?
We had this morning in the service two men from Stockholm, Sweden. And they were talking to me about the services that I conducted in the Philadelphia Baptist Church, in the Philadelphia Church, the largest Free Church in Europe, in Stockholm, this last summer. And as I talked to the men, it brought to my mind what I think is the saddest thing about the Swedish nation and about practically all Europe. I was there one time before several days, and I talked to everybody who would listen to me. And I invited them to the Lord and told them about Jesus. And without exception, every one of them replied, "I am just not interested. I am just not interested." And always that same reply, "I am just not interested."
There are not two percent of those people who go to church. There is hardly beyond two percent of the people in England or in continental Europe who go to church. And when you talk to them – talk to the man who drives the bus. Talk to the boy who waits on the table. Talk to the young fellow that will take your baggage up to the room. Talk to the fellow who’s conducting you through one of those great museums or one of those unusual historical shrines. Talk to him. Ask him about the Lord, and almost without exception, he will say, "I’m just not interested." Their lives are enmeshed in something else, and Jesus of Nazareth passes by. Not only disinterest, but lack of deep knowledge and concern – what it means not to have a Savior, let Him pass out of your life, out of your heart, out of your sight, and die without God!
I never read a more effective story in my life than this one in a sermon by Dwight L. Moody. He said that in the state penitentiary of Pennsylvania, there was a man on death row awaiting electrocution. And friends and family made appeal to Governor Pollock that the man’s life be spared. So insistent, so importunistic, were the appeals to the governor, that the governor decided to go to the penitentiary and visit the man incognito. Governor Pollock came to the penitentiary. The warden took him inside, and beyond those iron gates and iron gates, finally to death row, and to a certain cell where that man was incarcerated, awaiting execution.
And the governor was ushered into the cell, and the door locked, and he was there alone with the man. The governor talked to him, seeing if in him there was any repentance for the horrible crime that he had committed, seeing if there was any cause or basis of change that the governor might commute his sentence of death. And the man, not knowing who the stranger was, answered him in contempt – no vestige or sign of sorrow or repentance or confession for what he’d done, just bothered that this stranger would have been ushered into the cell with him. And after the conversation and the visit, why, the door was opened and the stranger ushered out.
And after the governor was gone, somebody said to the inmate awaiting execution, "Do you know who that was in the cell with you?" And the man sarcastically replied, "No. Just some fellow who was butting into a thousand things. I don’t know who he was, and I don’t care." And the friend replied, "The man who was in your cell was the governor of the state of Pennsylvania, Governor Pollock." And the condemned criminal cried aloud, "O God, that I had known that the governor was here! Had I known the governor was here, I would have pleaded for my life."
How sad. Jesus passes by, the only one who can save us from death and the grave and the judgment, the only one who can commute our life sentence [Acts 4:12; John 14:6], that we might someday see God’s face and live. How sad. How tragic, without realizing, and He passes out of our lives. Jesus of Nazareth passeth by us.
And how sad that sometimes a man has it in his heart to be a Christian – "I am going to ask God to forgive my sins and to save my soul; I’m going to accept the Lord as my Savior" – and the days pass and the months pass and the years pass and the life passes, and finally Jesus passes by. Just to die outside of God because of procrastination. Some other day. Some other time. Some other service. Not this one, another one. Not this hour, a later one. Not today, but some tomorrow. Oh, oh, oh!
There’s a ship floats by with a swaying lurch,
No sails, 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 lurching gait,
No hope, no joy, 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 no man can say;
He drifts with the tide and whatever wind blows –
And nobody knows
Where the derelict goes.
["The Derelicts," Robert Healy]
Just drifting into eternity, without God; not hating the Lord, not hating the church, not hating the preacher, not hating the Word, not hating the Spirit; just some other day, some other time and Jesus of Nazareth passes by. Oh, is not this the day of salvation? Did not the apostle press the appeal to our hearts when he said, "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation" [2 Corinthians 6:2].
Now is the day of love and grace.
For Jesus is passing by.
Now is salvation, the time and place.
For Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.
O Lord, remember me. In the hour of my death, Master, stand by me. In the hour of need and trial, stand by me. In the hour of temptation, Lord, stand by me. In the hour of decision and choice, Lord, stand by me. Merciful God, be pitiful to me. Save me. Forgive my sins. Lord, write my name in the Book of Life. And when the roll is called for God’s redeemed in glory, Master, grant that I may be among those who answer, "Here, Lord, here am I." Bless the name of Him who saved me, forgave my sins, and has kept me forever.
Would you do that? Would you do that? "Tonight, this night, I will accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and I am coming forward now. In token of that confession of faith and the opening of my heart toward the Lord, I’m coming tonight." Maybe in front of you, leading the way will be a family placing their lives in the heart of this wonderful church. Maybe a couple you, having already received the Lord, having already been baptized, directed by the Spirit of God to place life and love and prayer with us, come and welcome.
Beyond what I could say the sentence to pronounce it, may the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, and in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, come. From the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle, and here to the front, "I’m coming tonight, pastor. I’ve decided in my heart, and here I am. I’m on the way." On the first note of that first stanza, when you stand up, stand up coming down that aisle. God be with you, angels precede you in the way, as you come, as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
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
a. It pleases God that we pray
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 despise, blaspheme and reject Him
3. Most just let Him pass by, indifferent
a. Magi and the king
b. Not much beyond two percent attend church in Europe
c. Governor Pollock
B. Tragedy of procrastination
1. Poem, "The Derelicts"