The Faithful Jesus
January 25th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE FAITHFUL JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6; Matthew 12:14-21
1-25-76 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Faithful Jesus. It is the expounding of one of the most beautiful prophecies of the coming of our Lord and His gentle ministries in the earth. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 42, and the first verses read like this:
Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment, justice, to the nations.
He shall not cry, nor lift up His voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed shall He not break, and the dimly, smoking wick shall He not quench: till He shall have brought forth justice unto truth.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set justice in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law.
I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, and for a light to the Gentiles.
[Isaiah 42:1-4, 6]
And the expounding of that incomparably beautiful prophecy of the ministering life of our Lord Jesus will come from how it is that Matthew applied it. So I turn to chapter 12 in the First Gospel, and beginning in verse 14, I read again:
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.
But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all;
And He charged them that they should not make Him known:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying—
then the evangelist Matthew quotes the forty-second chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 42:1-4, 6]
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying,
Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen; My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment, justice, to the nations.
He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed shall He not break, and a smoldering, dimly burning wick shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory.
And in His name shall the Gentiles, shall the nations, trust.
What is presented here in the prophecy that so moved Matthew the evangelist, the writer of the Gospel, was the incomparable display of divine power in this Jesus of Nazareth, and at the same time His absolute freedom from ostentatious ambition: the power of God upon Him as Matthew would write of the miraculous healing and divine ableness of this Man of Galilee, and at the same time, the deep humility by which He carried forward His ministry of healing and teaching. And when I read it, I sense that same awe of the ideal Man and the ideal King in the way our Savior was in Himself; not strive, not cry, not lift up His voice [Matthew 12:19], humble, tender, gentle, continuing His sweet ministry in the face of bitter and tragic opposition.
So we look at it. Does it say, that when the Lord met such hateful and bitter reception, does it say that He quit? He stopped? He ceased doing His precious and gentle ministries because of the reception of the official mind? Does it say, that in the face of His repudiation by the leadership of the nation, that He fell into a great gloom? That He forgot the needs of the multitude? That He closed His mouth in a stubborn silence? That the hand that had been raised, lifted with just the hope to bless and to heal, now lay paralyzed by His side? Does it say that? No!
When the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him, there were following Him great multitudes, and He kept on healing them all [Matthew 12:14-15]. The official sectarian mind might despise Him, but the multitudinous mind loved Him. The common people heard Him gladly [Mark 12:37]. But Lord, You don’t realize. Don’t You know that in yonder city there is a council whispering against Thee, and the meaning of that whisper is death? Don’t You realize that? “The Pharisees held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” [Matthew 12:14]. Master, don’t You know that?
At this moment they are meeting in secret, star chambered session, and the meaning of that session is to plot, to achieve, to encompass Your death! Don’t You know that? Nothing at all, He just kept on with His ministry of healing. “The great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” [Matthew 12:15]; not looking at the difficulties or the hardships or the trials or the cost, but looking at the need, at the ministry.
Don’t you wish that we had a people and a church and a staff like that? “Oh, but, pastor, you don’t realize the difficulties! You don’t realize the problems.” No matter, whatever the cost—tears, blood, sacrifice, effort—we have committed ourselves to serving God by ministering to His people, preaching the gospel, teaching the Word, gathering the families together, responsible for their souls, building buildings, organizing schools, knocking at doors.
Why, my dear people, when I think of those Christian leaders that assemble with us in the executive section of our Baptist World Alliance, and the cost by which they verily everyday lay down their lives for Christ, then I look at the ease with which we play at being a Christian and serving God, I am ashamed and confess before our Lord in dust and in ashes. But look again, and “the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” [Matthew 12:14-15].
“And He gathered together some of those who were closest to Him, and filled with bitterness, He plotted the annihilation of His enemies. And He said, I shall fight fire with fire, and death with death, and hatred with hatred, it shall be a tooth for a tooth, and an eye for an eye, and a jaw for a jaw until we have swept them off the face of the earth.” Does it say that He gave Himself to bitter retaliation? No! “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets” [Matthew 12:19], just humbly continuing His ministries without retaliation; just quietly, humbly continuing being Himself. How could such a thing be? With no striving, just continuing in a sweet, beautiful, precious, gentle, and tender way; just being Himself.
I was in the storm that swept the northeastern quadrant of the nation this last week. Blustering wind and snow and blizzard, and in one of those planes high, high, high above it, I thought of the weather below, the clouds, the snow, the ice, the sleet, the wind, the blizzard. And up there, without any effort at all, the sky just blue, blue, just being itself, crystal blue, just being itself.
And in Columbus, Ohio, I sat in a motel room looking out the window and the snow falling, falling, falling—just being itself without effort, white, white, white, and covering the whole earth, just white, without effort, just being itself. Or a flower that’s fragrant without striving, just being itself, fragrant. Or a songbird, a mockingbird, just singing to the top of its voice, effortlessly, easily, just being itself.
So the Lord just continued being Himself. He shall not strive, nor cry [Matthew 12:15, 19], nor retaliate, nor hate, nor answer, just continued being Himself, sweet, and gracious, and tender, and gentle, however His enemies might despise Him and however the councils might plot His death [Matthew 12:14], just continuing being Himself, calm, unperturbed; whatever they might say about Him, just continuing His wonderful teaching [Matthew 9:35]. When He was bound, some of them spit on Him, covered with spittle [Matthew 26:67; 27:30], and some of them plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6], and some of them came up and slapped Him in the face. “Tell me Thou Christ, prophesy, who is it that struck Thee? What’s my name?” [Matthew 26:68]. Calm, made no answer at all, and when He was arraigned before Caiaphas and finally before Pilate and many witnessed against Him, He made no defense at all. He said not a word [Matthew 26:57-63; Mark 14:60-61]. And when they nailed Him to the tree, He offered no resistance, none at all [Isaiah 53:7]. And when dying on the cross they insulted Him with every blasphemous word they could command [Matthew 27:39-43; Luke 23:35-37], His only reply was, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34].
Ah but Lord when they say, “Come down from the cross, and we will believe Thee, Thou imposter” [Matthew 27:42], I have a feeling in my heart. Lord, do it! Do it! Wrench Yourself from the wood and from the nails and come down from the cross and strike unmitigated terror in their heart! Do it, Lord! No, when finally He is brought down from the cross, it will be a helpless, dead, limp corpse that they are winding in a winding sheet to lay Him in the tomb [Matthew 27:50, 58-60].
Ah, but Master, when You rise from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and all authority and power is given unto Thee in heaven and in the earth [Matthew 28:18], then Lord, then Lord rack upon these heads that wagged at Thee [Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29-30], all the vengeance of heaven; drag unmitigated destruction in their midst! No, what He says is, this is the evangel: to preach the gospel of the remission of sins to those who will turn and believe [Luke 24:47-48]. How could such a thing be? “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets” [Matthew 12:19]. Sweet, gentle, humble, and then these marvelous analogies, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and a smoldering, dimly burning wick will He not quench, until He bring justice unto victory. And in His name shall the nations trust” [Matthew 12:20-21]. These beautiful analogies, “A bruised reed shall He not break” [Matthew 12:20]. What could that be? A bruised reed, is it a bulrush that some big, heavy animal crushed as it went down to the river for water? Or is it some tender, succulent plant that an indifferent man ground and crushed and broke under an iron heel? Is that it?
And the Lord was pitiful to it, and He picked it up, and He rejointed it, and He made Mother Nature pitiful to it, for Mother Nature is a wonderful wizard in healing, covering all the dark gashes of the earth. And He brought it back to life, this little plant so crushed. “A bruised reed shall He not break.” Could it be a little flute made out of a reed? One of the most pastoral of all things I’ve ever seen in Israel, a little shepherd boy, in the front of his sheep and his goats, playing on a little flute. Is that reed a little flute, a little reed, a little pipe? And somehow, somebody crushed it, and it lost its song, and it wouldn’t play anymore, and it was cast away. And the Lord took it, and repaired it, and gave it back its melody, and it plays again. Is that it?
Like that—and I have it here and will not take time to read it—of that old violin and an auctioneer is holding it up, and somebody bids a dollar for it. And somebody bids two, and he asks that somebody pay three! Then an old, gray-headed man comes from the back and takes the violin, and wipes off the dust, and tightens the bow, and tunes the strings, and he plays as the angel sings. And the auctioneer, “Somebody, one thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, three thousand dollars!” Somebody asks, “What was the difference?” And the difference was, in the poem, the touch of the Master’s hand. And then the moral of the stanza that follows, there is many a man that is almost gone, and Christ lifts him up, touches him, saves him, gives him a song. “A bruised reed shall He not break, and a dimly lighted wick will He not quench” [Matthew 12:20].
They had no candles then. They had little lamps, little clay lamps and a little wick, a little piece of cloth, and the lamp is just about burned out—just like a man whose hope is almost gone, just one little spark is left, and ordinarily throw the thing away. No, the Lord tenderly trims it, and He adds the oil of the Holy Spirit, and it brightens and shines again. You know, I think that is an exact picture of what happens to older people. Their light almost gone and for the most part the tendency is to throw them out, cast them away, send them away, get rid of them. But the Lord, but the Lord carefully, tenderly, lovingly makes the light of hope to shine again in their lives.
Lord, if we could have a ministry like that in our church, it’d be worth ten thousand prayers and ten thousand dedicated efforts. I don’t know of anything more heartbreaking than to come to the day in life when you feel useless! Like a smoldering wick in a lamp just about to go out, absolutely unneeded, unwanted, useless, an old man, and there’s nothing left. An old woman and there’s nothing left; useless, the one little light of hope about to die.
You know what I found among men, when they retire most of the times they soon die. Why? Because there’s nothing left; they are drones. They are parasites. They are useless. The reason to be and to live has passed, and they perish with it. Wouldn’t it be glorious to have a ministry in our church with Dr. Freeman, with Richard Peacock, with Gary H. Moore whereby all of the older people in our church felt needed and wanted and had a contribution to make. We’ve already started such a ministry, one of prayer and intercession. All of these people in these rest homes and invalid and confined, taking to them the burden of intercession, praying for us, praying for the lost, praying for the church, praying for the ministries of Christ that He has bestowed upon us. A smoking flax, a dimly, burning wick will He not quench, but build it up and make it shine again [Matthew 12:20].
I haven’t time even to speak of it as it applies to the lost. Ah! How many, many, many there are who, finding themselves enmeshed in weakness and in sin, give up, give up. “There’s no need to try. There’s no need to try to lift up myself or to cleanse myself or to change myself! I am lost, lost, lost!” And the Lord touches them, and quickens them, and forgives them, and saves them, and the light burns again in their souls [2 Corinthians 5:17].
I must sum up. The whole meaning of the whole prophecy is this; that our Lord Jesus came into this world that He might seek and to save us who are lost [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 10:5-14], that He might give meaning and message in our lives, that we might count for something for God, that we might shine as lights in His kingdom [Matthew 5:16], all of us. He did not come to condemn the world [John 3:17]. He did not come to blame. He did not only come to seek, it was to save that He came [Matthew 18:11]. And when we call Him Iēsous, Jesus, Savior, we call Him by His name [Matthew 1:21]. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench, till He bring victory to us who live in the earth” [Matthew 12:20]. What a wonderful, wonderful statement.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and a somebody one, you, to open your heart God-ward and Christ-ward, would you come and stand by me? A family to put your life in the circle and circumference and communion of this dear church, would you make it now? A couple you, however God shall press the appeal to your heart, on the first note of this first stanza, would you come? Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way”; trusting Him [Ephesians 2:8-9], asking Him to give us strength and help [Psalm 46:1], forgiveness [1 John 1:9], write our names in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], keep us forever [John 10:27-30], give us an open door to serve Him” [Ephesians 6:7]. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, make it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.