The Spirit of Jesus


The Spirit of Jesus

March 26th, 1975 @ 12:00 PM

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell


3-26-75    12:00 p.m.


The theme for our pre-Easter services this year is “The Compassionate Jesus”:  on Monday, The Compassion of Jesus; yesterday, The Love of Jesus; tomorrow, The Tears of Jesus; Friday, The Blood of Jesus; and today, The Spirit of Jesus.

Not in all literature and not in all of the Word of God is there an invitation with such pathos and such moving meaning as this from the lips of our Lord:  “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I, I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” [Matthew 11:28-30].   There is a divine penetration in that invitation that reaches the depths of our hearts.  There is a divine pity expressed in it, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].  There is a burden of life, there is a sorrow of soul that is shared by all of us; no one of us escapes.  There are sorrows in childhood that are as meaningful to them as the sorrows of old age.  The tears of children are as profusely and as sadly shed as the tears of a sorrowing father or mother.  The frustrations and the disappointments of young people are no less real because they are young.  And certainly there is the burden of old age, and finally the sorrows of the pangs of death.  It is universal, the burden of life and the sorrow of soul.

I so well remember the first time that I ever heard a poem, written by James Whitcomb Riley, recited at a funeral service.  When I came to the pastorate of the church here in Dallas, a long, long time ago, the assistant to Dr. Truett, Bob Coleman, the song leader, a layman, a man greatly loved and revered by the congregation, had for a long, long time conducted many of the memorial services among our people.  And the service this day was conducted by Brother Bob Coleman, and I assisted him.  It was a particularly sad service, it seemed to me, because there was one mourner, one member of the family left; all of the family had died.  A brother had been killed in the war, there was no one left but just that one maiden lady, seated over here to my left.  And the burial of her mother that day left her alone in the world.  And in that memorial service, Brother Bob Coleman quoted this famous poem:

There!  little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your doll, I know;

And your tea-set blue,

And your play-house, too,

Are things of the long ago;

But childish troubles will soon pass by—

There! little girl; don’t cry!

There! little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your slate, I know;

And the glad, wild ways

Of your schoolgirl days

Are things of the long ago;

But life and love will soon come by.

There! little girl; don’t cry!

There! little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your heart, I know;

And the glad, wild ways

Of your schoolgirl days

And the rainbow gleams,

Of your girlhood dreams,

Are things of the long ago;

But Heaven holds all for which you sigh—

There! little girl; don’t cry!

[adapted from “A Life-Lesson,” J. W. Riley]


And he expiated on the verse, “Heaven holds all for which we sigh.”  There is no one of us but that feels the burden of the sadnesses of life.

There is in the invitation a divine pity and sympathy and understanding.  The very sound of the tone of the words, bring pathos, preciousness, tenderness, in their repetition.  “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I, I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].  In reading Spurgeon, as I do so often and so much, he told about an English girl who was tragically ill.  She lived in gloom and despair, weary in heart and worn out in body.  Upon a day, she heard through the open window, from somewhere, a choir, a group of children singing:

Come unto Me and rest,

Lay down, thou weary one,

Lay down thy head upon My breast.

I came to Jesus as I was,

Weary and worn and sad;

I found in Him a resting place,

And He hath made me glad.

[from “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” Horatius Bonar]

And when the children sang, “Weary and worn and sad,” the sick girl moaned, “Oh, that is I, that is I.”  And when the chorus of children sang the appeal, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” she turned to the nurse and said, “Have you been to Jesus?”  And the devout nurse replied, “Yes.”  And the girl asked, “Did He give you rest?”  And the devout nurse replied, “Yes.”  And the sick English girl cried, “Oh, that someone would take me to Jesus.”  Where is He?  Where would you find Him?  He is there by your side, He is there where you are.  He is as close to you as hands and feet; He is as near as your breath.

Suddenly, they saw Him in the garden [John 20:11-18].  Suddenly, He was walking with the two on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-32].  Just suddenly He was there in the upper room [John 20:26-31].  Just suddenly He was on the seashore, where the seven disciples were fishing [John 21:1-25].  Suddenly, He was there on the appointed mountain, the rendezvous in Galilee [Matthew 28:16-20].  Here He is in Jerusalem [Acts 1:4], and again on the Mount of Olivet [Acts 1:9-11].  And finally, they did not need to see His physical presence, for they knew Him by the power and presence of His Spirit working with them [John 14:16].  He was everywhere.  Where they were, He was.

In the latter part of the last century archaeologists uncovered in Egypt a leaf of a book that purported to be some of the sayings of Jesus that are not found in the Gospels.  One of those is famous, and you have heard it:  “Raise the stone and there thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood, and there am I.”  After the discovery Scribner’s magazine wrote a paraphrase on the lines that go like this:  “Where the many toil and suffer, there am I among My own.  Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone.  Nevermore thou needst to seek Me, I am with thee everywhere.  Raise the stone and thou shalt find Me, cleave the wood and I am there.”  Anywhere, everywhere, close by your side is the pleading, loving, sympathetic, gracious, blessed Lord Jesus [Matthew 28:20].

And in those days since His ascension there have been those who have seen Him in the flesh, the body and bones, the physical presence of Jesus.  Stephen saw Him when they crushed him to death beneath the weight of stones [Acts 7:59-60].  He looked up and saw the Lord standing at the right hand of the Majesty on High [Acts 7:55-56].  Saul of Tarsus met Him in the way on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-5].  The sainted apostle John saw Him in lonely exile on the Isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-19].  From time to time, God’s saints have seen Him, the living presence of the living Lord.  Close by, standing near.

I don’t think there is a more dramatic story in the life of a minister than the story of George W. Truett in the darkest days of his life.  On a hunting outing he had accidentally killed the chief of police of the city of Dallas.  And when the man died, it plunged Dr. Truett in indescribable sorrow.  For days he shut himself up.  It had come to his heart that he would never preach again—lost in a sea of sadness.  And in those dark and sad days, in the nighttime, the Lord appeared to him, and encouraging him said, “Fear not, from now on you are My man.”  He awakened, went back to sleep, and the Lord appeared to him the second time, saying the same words.  He awakened, went back to sleep, and the Lord appeared to him the third time, saying the same words.  And standing as God’s servant, the announcement was made that Truett would preach the following Sunday in this church.  The announcement spread like liquid fire over the city of Dallas, “Truett will be preaching this Sunday.”  The other congregations, Presbyterian, Methodist, dismissed their services to be present as God’s servant stood up to deliver God’s message.  How near is the Lord to us?  As near as our heartbeat, as near as life and breath itself.

“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].  How do I come to Jesus?  How do I do it?  How do I bring myself to the Lord, and how do I bow myself in His presence?  How do I come to Jesus?  You know, I think our meeting with the Lord is not in categories or in catechisms.  I don’t think we know the Lord, really, doctrinally, or theologically.  I think if anyone ever comes to know Jesus it is lovingly, tenderly, preciously, as someone who is dear to your soul.  How do I come to the Lord?  In the same way that I may be introduced to a wonderful friend.  That can be sometimes in an inadvertence; that can be sometimes through an acquaintance, sometimes through a gesture, sometimes through an adventitious circumstance, sometimes just a casual speaking or touch of a hand.  Every life touches that of Christ at an angle that is unique to you.  There is an experience that you have in knowing Jesus that is all your own.  It is peculiar and unusually yours.

This is the way that I met Him.  This is how I came to know Him.  Why, sweet friend, some of the dearest relationships we have in life came to us through just a casual word or a casual introduction.  So in our meeting Jesus, there is an incalculable, an incommensurable, an imponderable element in it always.  Sometimes it may be through mother’s tears or prayers, or a message that the pastor preached, or some word in a sermon, or a providence in life, or some turn that just brought us to the knowledge of our need of God.  But however it is and how different it is for each one of us, however it is there are three things that I think are common, commonly shared by all of us in our coming to the Lord.

Number one: I think we all come to the Lord in a way of humility and obeisance.  I don’t think anyone comes to Jesus as a peer.  “Hello, old buddy, buddy.”  I don’t think that.  And I don’t like songs that are too familiar with God.  I think for a man who is made out of dust and ashes [Genesis 18:27], he ought to approach the great throne of deity in deepest humility and obeisance.  And I feel that anyone who really comes before the Lord comes with a bowed head, and a bowed heart, and a bowed knee.  “I’m not worthy to stand in His presence”—in deepest contrition and humility.

When we were in Copenhagen one time, with great effort I found Thorvaldsen’s statue, The Pleading Christ.  Thorvaldsen’s was one of the great sculptors of all time, and you’ve seen many times a picture of that statue he carved of the pleading Christ; Jesus standing with His hands extended, saying these words, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].  It’s at the front of a church in Copenhagen.  And as I stood and looked at it, I thought of a story I had read.  From afar, there came an art critic to look at the famous statue.  And as he looked at it from this angle and then this angle, and then moved to this side, plainly there registered on his face displeasure and unhappiness at what he saw.  And there happened to be a little child in the church, who was watching the man as he looked from this angle, and this side, and this angle, at the great and famous statue.  And the youngster came up to the critic and touched his arm and said, “But, mister, you must go close, you must draw nigh, and you must bow down and look up into His face.”  The critic thought, “Maybe the child has brought me a word that needed to be said.  I’ll try it.”  He drew nigh, he knelt down, he looked up into the face of the pleading Christ and was rewarded with a vision of heavenly sympathy and divine comfort.  I think all of us who approach the Lord really, blessedly, I think we come in humility before Him, in confession, in repentance, bowing in His presence.

How do I come before the great High God, and bow myself before the Lord Jesus standing at the Majesty on High, how do I come to the Lord?  Not only in obeisance, in humility, but in obedience in some act of faith.  I don’t know why God did it that way, He just did.  If a man comes to the Lord, always it will be in some act of committal, of obedience, some positive demonstration of his faith [Luke 9:23].  Now, it may be small.  The thief that was nailed to the cross by the side of the Lord could do nothing but turn his head and say a prayer; but he did that.  He turned his head to the Lord, dying with Him on the center cross, and said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” [Luke 23:42].  I sometimes turn it over in my mind.  Would he have been saved had he not turned his head, and had he not said, “Lord, remember me”?  I cannot say.  But I can speculate:  I don’t think he would have been saved.  I think the faith that God gave him in repentance in his heart found expression unto salvation in turning his head and saying, “Lord, remember me” [Luke 23:42].  I think God does that with all of us.  There’s some act of obedience in our coming to Jesus.  Maybe going down an aisle, taking the hand of a pastor, confessing the Lord to a dear friend, or standing before men and angels committing life to Him; but always that act of commitment and faith.

Sometimes I turn over in my mind the story of Naaman, the great Syrian general who was a leper [2 Kings 5:1].  And when he came to Elisha, Elisha did not even go out to see him, but sent his servant Gehazi to tell him, “Go down to the Jordan River and dip seven times, and your flesh will come again like unto the flesh of a little child, and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:10].  And it infuriated Naaman, the proud Syrian general.  He turned, and driving that chariot back to Damascus in a rage [2 Kings 5:11-12], one of his servants standing by his side put his hand on his arm and said, “My father, my father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, conquer Parthia, conquer Persia, bring a million dollars, would you not have done it?  How much rather than when he says, Wash, and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13]. Now I want you to look at this:  when Naaman exclaimed, “Are Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel?  May I not wash in them and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:12].  Have you seen the Abana River?  Have you seen the Pharpar River?  They are as clear as crystal, flowing out of the great Lebanon Mountain.  Have you seen the Jordan River?  The descent—it means “descent”—is vigorous and it’s muddy as mud itself.  I agree with Naaman, Abana and Pharpar are beautiful and crystal and clear.  Why would I be asked to go down to the muddy Jordan and dip myself seven times in the waters of Israel?   That is the way we come to God:  in some act of humility, obeisance, and in some act of obedience.  I don’t think there was any cleansing in the waters of the Jordan more than in the waters of the Abana; it was the heart that bowed and the spirit that obeyed.  And God cleansed him and made him whole again [2 Kings 5:14].

How do we come to the Lord?  In obeisance and humility, yes.  In an act of obedience, yes.  How do we come to the Lord?  In an acceptance of a discipleship.  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me . . . for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” [Matthew 11:29-30].  In the acceptance of a discipleship, of a responsibility: “Simon, Simon, lovest thou Me?  Lord, You know that I love You.  Feed My lambs, take care of My little ones.  Simon, Simon, lovest thou Me?  Lord You know I love You.  Shepherd My sheep, take care of My flock” [John 21:15-17].  There are children that God hath given us, ours and others.  There are young people, there are babies, there are older people, there is the whole world in need around us.  And the way we come to Christ is in the acceptance of a yoke, a responsibility.  Maybe it’s just washing the window or sweeping out the floor or standing at the door, just something.  Maybe I can’t do very much, but what I can do, that am I willing to do as a disciple of the Lord.

I close.  In my studying I came across an unusual thing.  I’m talking about the yoke that Jesus places upon us that He says is easy and light [Matthew 11:29-30].  This was it.  There was a famous preacher in England named Chambliss.  And the great preacher said that when he was a boy, on a Saturday morning, that morning he got up early, and he did all of his work, and at noon he had finished it.  And he went to his father, living in Manchester, he went to his father and said, “Father, I’ve done all of my work.  Now I want to go to the football game,” we call it a soccer game, “Now I want to go to the football game.  And would you give me money now to go to the football game?”  And the father, responding not at all to the boy’s request for a gift to go to the football game Saturday afternoon, the father said, “Son, I have a big package here I want you to deliver to the paper man.”  And the father laid upon the boy a package, heavy, bigger than he was, and he was to take it on the other side of Manchester and to deliver it to the paper man.  The boy never spoke a word of disappointment in return.  When the father laid on him the burden, the lad replied, “Yes, sir,” and obediently struggled with the big package.  Finally made it to the railway tram, the freight car, lumbered with it on the street car, went across town, got off with it, and struggled finally and brought it to the man who makes paper.  The man picked it up and put it on the scales, and looking at the scrap paper said, “Oh, son, this will make fine linen paper.”  And the boy, with his lips quivering and his eyes full of tears and an infinite disappointment, replied, “Yes, sir,” and turned to walk out of the store.  When he got to the door, the paper man said, “Wait a minute, son, wait.  There’s a letter here from your father.”  And the boy turned back.  And the man looked at the letter, and the paper man said, “Son, your father says to me to weigh the paper, the scrap, and to give you the money for the football game.”  And the man weighed it and gave the boy more than enough for the football game, and more than enough to enjoy the afternoon.  And then the boy realized that the paper man was located on the same side of Manchester that the football game was to be played.  He saw that his father had planned it all, planned it all, and had done it just to see if the lad in obedience would accept the burden from the hands of his father.  And as the boy went out the door, he exclaimed to the man, “Oh, I wish it had been four times bigger.”

Don’t you sing a song like that?  “And the toil of the road will seem nothing when we get to the end of the way.”

“For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” [Matthew 11:30].