Exclamation of Wonder (The Marvel of Jesus)
October 21st, 1979 @ 8:15 AM
EXCLAMATIONS OF WONDER,
THE MARVEL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-79 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas welcoming the uncounted thousands of you who are listening to this hour on the two radio stations that carry it. The title of the sermon is Exclamations of Wonder, or The Marvel of Jesus, and it comes out of an unusual array of words in Mark chapter 5, and verse 42. When Mark is told the detailed story of the raising of the daughter of Jairus who had died, it says in conclusion, "When the damsel arose, and they were astonished with a great astonishment."
That is a translation: "And they were astonished with a great astonishment" – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight – eight words in English. That is a translation of just three words in Greek. And they are most expressive: exestesan ekstases megale. And you recognize it when I read it out of the Greek text. We’ve taken that word ekstases and translated it – spelled it out – almost exactly the same word in English, "ecstasy." The Greek word histemi means "to sit," "to place," "to stand"; ek is "to be out of." So exhistemi, ekhistemi would be "to stand out."
When you use it in the passive voice, as it is here, it refers to you standing out of yourself. Your mind, your wonder, your response is just beside yourself – beyond yourself. And that’s exactly what the Greek says: exestesan ekstases, "they stood outside of themselves with a . . ." – and then megale means "great," or "intense," or "wonderful." "They just stood out of themselves with a great standing out" – with a great wonder, with an amazement. Translated here, "They were astonished with a great astonishment."
When I look at the Book of Mark, out of which I have just read that text, you’ll find one exclamation of amazement after another at the Lord Jesus. In the first chapter, verse : "And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes."
Then, in the twenty-seventh verse of that same chapter: "And they were all amazed, and they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this?"
Then in verse 45: "They began to blaze abroad the matter, so much so that Jesus could not even walk through a city."
Then, in the second chapter, verse 12: "They were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion."
Then, I look at the next chapter:
He healed many: insomuch that they pressed upon
Him just to touch Him. . . . .
And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down
Before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
And I turn the page again, in chapter 4, last verse: "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
And, then, my text: "And they were astonished with a great astonishment!" [Mark 5:42]. When I just take that one-minute preview of these beginning chapters of the Gospel of Mark, you cannot but help but sense the wonder, and the amazement, and the marvel as people looked upon the blessed Lord Jesus.
Now what we’re going to do this morning, we are going to take some of those exclamations and look at them. The first one; in Matthew 9 and verse 33:
"And the multitudes marveled saying, It was never so seen in Israel." "It was never so seen in Israel." What Israel had seen: they had seen Moses strike water out of the rock; they had seen the marvelous exploits of Gideon, and then of Sampson, in the days of the judges; they had seen the marvelous miracles of Elijah and Elisha; but they had never seen anything like the blessed Lord Jesus.
In this very chapter in Matthew, "When the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, who had given such power unto men" [Matthew 9:8].
And again, "And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land" [Matthew 9:26]. What Israel had seen – but they had never seen anything like the amazing power and wonder of the Lord Jesus.
The thing that was amazing, as you looked at Him, was the power that He had by fiat – just by a word. In this same ninth chapter of the Book of Matthew, there comes to Him a ruler and says to Him, "My daughter is dead: but come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she will be well" – just touch her, just touch her!
And in the chapter before, there came a Roman centurion, and said, "Lord, come and heal my servant." And the Lord said, "I will come." And the centurion replied, "But I am not worthy for You to walk into my house and stand under my roof. You just speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. Just say the word" [Matthew 8:8]. Why, my brother, all the powers in heaven above and in earth below were obedient at the very word of the Lord Jesus, our Christ.
He was asleep in the ship. And a great storm arose. And the disciples, thinking the ship would sink and they’d lose their lives, said, "Master, we perish. Is it no care to You?" And He said, "O ye of little faith" [Matthew 8:23-26]. And He stood up, awakening out of His rest, His sleep. Isn’t that remarkable, sound asleep in the midst of a violent storm?
Why, I’d have been scared to death, like Peter, and James, and John, and all the rest of the apostles. All of us are that way, just frightened at any providence in life. Sound asleep. They awakened Him, and when He stood up, He spoke to the wind and to the sea. And there was a great calm, just by His word. Why, there was not an atom of matter that dared to move without the divine permission. What Israel had seen, but they had never seen anything like the Lord Jesus. "It was never so seen in Israel!" [Matthew 9:33] – an exclamation of wonder at our Lord.
A second exclamation: they sent the officers to arrest Him, bring Him back in bonds. And when they appeared without Him, the Pharisees and the scribes and the chiefs of the temple said, "Why have you not brought Him?" And the officers answered, "Never a man spake like that Man!" [John 7:46]. Now, that’s some exclamation, isn’t it? "Why haven’t you brought Him?" "We have never heard a man speak like that Man!"
Well, what Israel had heard – Israel had heard Moses, the great lawgiver, speaking on the plains of Moab, delivering those marvelous addresses that we call the Book of Deuteronomy. They’d heard that. They’d heard David sing his psalms. They’d heard Solomon deliver his proverbs. They had heard the matchless court preacher Isaiah deliver parabolic, poetic pararations beyond what human speech had ever been used for before. But this exclamation: "Never a man spake like that Man"; nobody ever said words, ever like the Lord Jesus.
I looked at the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and there are five times in that one chapter where the Lord will say, "Now, you have heard it said by them of old time. . ." – then, He will quote a commandment in the law, or some great tradition of the elders. Then after He quotes it, He will say, "That is what they said, but I say unto you. . . ." This Man puts Himself above the law, above the covenant, above all that is said by them of old time. He does. No wonder the exclamation: "They were astonished at His doctrine: For He taught them as one having authority" [Matthew 7:28-29].
You look again at the words of the Lord Jesus. No man ever said such things as the Lord Jesus said. They never did. If you’ll ever take time to look through the Gospel of John and just count those verses where He says things that are beyond imagination: "I give unto them eternal life. I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish," and no one shall pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them Me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are One" [John 10:28-30], making Himself equal with God!
Or, take again: "Verily, I say unto you before Abraham was, I Am" [John 8:58] – the great I Am [Exodus 3:14]. Think of that. Or, the profoundest sentence ever said in human speech:
I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in
Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and
whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.
Or, take again, that glorious word: "I am the way, the truth, the life [John 14:6]. I am the truth. I am the life. I am the way." My dear people, on any other lips, those words would sound ridiculous and inane. I could not imagine an Alexander the Great saying those words. I could not imagine a Julius Caesar saying those words. I could not conceive of a Napoleon Bonaparte saying those words.
I think one of the greatest men who ever lived of all time is Winston Churchill. When the whole world was in gloom and in despair, every speech he’d made would lift up our hearts. Every time I could, and it was announced he was addressing Parliament or the nations of the world on the radio, I’d be there, listening. Do you remember that word that he said? "If the British Empire shall last a thousand years, let it be said, ‘This is their finest hour,’" defending Britain, when Britain was standing alone.
But could you imagine Winston Churchill saying these words of the Lord Christ? It’s inconceivable. He is unique, and separate, and apart, and alone. It’s a marvelous thing about our Lord Jesus – just go along like a humble peasant as He was – simple, good, kind, answering the needs of the people.
Then, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, suddenly, He leaves all parallels, and all paradigms, and all paragons, and all precedents. And He stands before us as God Himself. So much so like God that if a man looking at Him were to exclaim, "My Lord and my God," there’s not a one in the listening audience who would be surprised, as though it were irrelevant or irreligious.
The amazing wonder of the Lord Jesus: His Word and the acknowledging word of the human heart are parallel. They balance each other. He is not one among many. He is many in one. He is the multitudinous Man.
Another exclamation: not only what Israel had seen, not only what Israel had heard, but what Israel had felt: the compassion, and the sympathy, and the love of our blessed Jesus. All of us know the response of our Lord at the death and at the tomb of Lazarus. He asked, "Where have you laid him?" And they said, "Lord, come and see." And the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept" [John 11:34-35]. Literally, Jesus burst into tears.
And now the exclamation: "Then said the Jews, Behold, how He loved him!" – exclamation point. "And some of them said, Could not this Man who opened the eyes of the blind have caused that even this man should not have died?" "Behold, how He loved him" [John 11:36-37].
What Israel had felt? They had heard the prayer and intercession of Moses, when he said, "Lord, forgive their sins. But if Thou doest not forgive their sin. . ." – a long black dash – he doesn’t complete it. He just adds, "Then blot my name out of the book which Thou hast written" [Exodus 32:32]. If they can’t live, I don’t want to live either. What Israel had felt; Israel had witnessed the incomparable devotion of Ruth to Naomi:
Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following
after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where
thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people,
and thy God my God.
Or again Israel had witnessed the lament of David over the death of Jonathan. Israel had heard and had felt the lament of Jeremiah over the lost nation: "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night over the slain of the daughter of my people!" [Jeremiah 9:1]. But they had never seen, or heard, or felt such compassion as they saw in Jesus, our Lord – never.
Look at this: iIn the story of the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead, it starts like this. Jairus came – this is the fifth chapter of Mark: Mark, [verse] 22. Jairus came;
Fell down at His feet, and besought Him greatly,
saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I
pray Thee, come and lay Thy hands on her, and she will
be healed; and she will live.
Now I want to ask you, why "Thy hands"? "Come and lay Thy hands upon her." Why wouldn’t anybody’s hands do? Why wouldn’t it? Why that Somebody One? "You come and lay Your hands upon her." You know, we’re a strange people. We’re just all put together in a strange way. Time without number are there times in our lives when, in distress and sorrow and grief, we say, "Oh! That my dear old mother were here – there was healing in her godly hands. If mother were just here." Or, "Would to God my husband were here. He had hands to help." Isn’t that strange? Just certain hands: there was a certain wonder, and beauty, and healing, and compassion, in the hands of our Lord. "Come, lay Thy hands upon her, and she shall be well" [Mark 5:23].
I want you to look at another thing. In the next verse, it says, "And Jesus arose and followed him" [Mark 5:23]. Why, man, He is just like a slave. He is just like a servant, just following after, like a hired hand." That’s the Lord Jesus. He was not proud or lifted up, as though it were beneath His dignity to follow after – to follow after a hated and despised Roman soldier – a sign and a symbol of the oppression of the nation.
You see, when you read the life of our Lord, you will never cross one time where somebody made an appeal to Him that He did not answer – never. Any time anyone asked of Him, He would follow after, and was there to help. There’s not an exception to it in the whole life of our Lord. Ah! The wonder of the compassionate love of the blessed Jesus.
So you say, "Well, I called upon Him. And He didn’t answer." Let me ask you, "How did you call Him? And how did you seek Him? Did you call Him in some kind of intellectual curiosity? Did you call upon His name in some beguiling, of wise, of just seeking to see whether He would answer or not, or perform a miracle or not? How did you call upon Him? How did you do it?
I have been a pastor now fifty-one years, and this is what I have learned. When a man’s eyes are on the dust, and his hand is upon his heart, and he sobs out his prayers – he can’t even pronounce the words – my brother, He will be there. He will be there.
I have never seen the Lord crown pride and arrogance and self-sufficiency, but, my brother, I have been present at a thousand coronations where the Lord has circled the brow of the choicest garlands in heaven, when the man is crushed and humble and bowed before the Lord.
We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched
with the feeling for our infirmities; but was in all
points tried as we are, though He was without sin.
We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched
with the feeling for our infirmities; but was in all
points tried as we are, though He was without sin.
Therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, to
find help in time of trouble.
The compassion, and the sympathy, and the understanding, of the lowly Lord Jesus; now out of a multitude of other exclamations, I choose just one. This is the exclamation of His great enthronement:
I heard the voice of many angels round the throne . . .
the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand,
and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. For He hath redeemed us
to God by His blood: out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hath made us unto our God, kings and priest: and we shall reign upon the earth.
What Israel had experienced: a great and mighty deliverance at the Red Sea. What Israel had experienced: deliverance from the armies of Amalek, deliverance from the tremendously effective encirclement of the armies of Sennacherib. What Israel had experienced: deliverance from the hand of God from that evil Haman, after which they instituted the Feast of Purim.
But, my brother and my sister, there is no deliverance Israel ever experienced comparable to the deliverance that Christ has purposed for us – we, who are redeemed by His blood, out of every nation, and language, and tribe, under the sun – when we sing with the angels: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive riches, and honor, and glory, and power, and dominion, forever, and ever [Revelation 5:9-13].
As every syllable and sentence in history moved toward the incarnation and the cross of our Lord, so today every syllable and sentence in human history moves toward the great consummation of the end. When the Lord cometh, it is beyond even what language can bear, what syllables and sentences could portray – what even the Revelation could describe. Ah! Our deliverance from sin, our deliverance from death, our deliverance from the grave: when sorrow and sighing flee away, and there will be no more night, and no more death, and no more sorrow, and no more crying. For these things are all passed away [Revelation 21:4]. O God: the wonder and the glory and the marvel of our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
May we stand? Our Lord in heaven, forgive the feeble, stammering lips that have tried to say words of the wonder and astonishment we feel in our souls before our living Lord Jesus. O God, that we could say the word as it ought to be said, sing the song as it ought to be sung, portray our wonderful Lord as He really is – the wonder, the amazement, the marvel of the blessed Jesus. Precious Savior, all we can do in our limited and humble way is just to bow in Thy presence and to cry, "My Lord, and my God" [John 20:28].
Our Savior, bless this great, listening throng. And in this moment of appeal, may there be many who find Thee as Savior, others who put their lives with us in this dear church. May God bless the appeal with a sweet harvest of souls. And with no one moving except toward this altar, and all of us praying and standing in quiet before the Lord God, somebody you, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m on the way." Coming into the fellowship of the church, coming to be baptized, moving a letter here, coming by statement, accepting Jesus as Savior, giving your life in a new and deeper way to the blessed Jesus, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, do it now. I’ll be standing right here. Come, and stand by my side, "Pastor, we have decided for God. Here’s my family. We’re all coming today." Or just one somebody you, while we wait, while we pray, and while we sing.