FOR I FIND IN HIM NO FAULT AT ALL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 18, 19
5-25-80 10:50 a.m.
It is a gladness for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the uncounted thousands and thousands of you who share this hour on television and on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled For I Find in Him No Fault at All. Three times do you find that word in the last part of the eighteenth chapter of John and the first part of the nineteenth chapter. At the trial of Jesus, the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate said, in verse 38 of chapter 18, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. Then the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John:
Pilate took Jesus, scourged Him.
And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and put on Him a mock purple robe,
And said, ridiculing, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote Him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.
Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Idou ho anthropos,
the Greek—ecce homo, the Latin——”Behold the Man!” English—
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: but I find no fault in Him.
The first hostile confrontation between the Sadducees and the Pharisees and the scribes and the elders against our Lord concerned the Sabbath day, and the Gospel of Matthew presents it in chapter 12, beginning at verse 9, concerning a synagogue service in which congregation was a man with a withered hand.
And the scribes and the Pharisees asked Him, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? in order that they might accuse Him.
Then He said, If a man have a sheep, and it fall into a pit, would you not lift him up?
How much then in a man better than a sheep?
Then turned He to the man with the withered hand, and said, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.
The way the question is framed, the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the scribes and the elders knew what He would do. The question is framed, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” for they thought that He would heal that man. So they framed the question before He did it: “Is it lawful to do what You are preparing to do?” What made them think that Jesus would heal that man with the withered hand, even though it was on the Sabbath day? Because nobody stayed sick in the presence of Jesus; nobody stayed dead in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Wherever there was hurt, there our Lord healed it. Wherever there were broken hearts, there He brought the gospel of hope and encouragement. Wherever there was need, the Lord was that ample and abounding supply. They went out in a council, in order to destroy Him because He was a compassionate Lord. “Jesus, moved with compassion” [Matthew 9:36], is His ever-enduring name [Matthew 14:14, 15:32]. He was the Great Physician [Matthew 4:23; Luke 9:11]. He was the Helper and Healer of our hurts [Isaiah 53:5], and the Savior of our souls [Acts 16:31; Hebrews 10:39]. They went out to hold a council against Him [Matthew 12:14]; “but I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
The second confrontation concerned His friendship with sinners: in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the scribes and the Pharisees murmured, saying, Houtos” [Luke 15:1-2], that’s a contemptuous reference to our Lord as being a worthless and scum-of-the-earth flotsam and jetsam, houtos, translated here, “This Man,” houtos, this guy, “This fellow receiveth sinners, and He eats with them” [Luke 15:1-2]. Imagine that! Then He told the story of the parable of the lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the story of the lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the story of the lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. Houtos, “This guy receiveth sinners, and He fraternizes with them, He eats with them” [Luke 15:1-2].
In the house of Simon the Pharisee, where He was a guest, as He reclined at dinner, a woman from the street, a prostitute, a harlot, came and bathed His feet with her tears and dried them with the hair of her head [Luke 7:36-38]. And Simon the Pharisee said, “This Man,” houtos, “This guy, He is no prophet, for He would know what kind of a woman that is, and He would not let her touch Him” [Luke 7:39]. And the Lord replied to Simon the Pharisee:
There were two men who owed a great debt; one an enormous one, astronomical, and one a smaller one. And the good man forgave both of the men, cancelled both of the debts. Which one would love him the more? And Simon the Pharisee said, I suppose the one who owed him the greatest and astronomical amount. And the Lord replied, Yes, even so, and this woman, because her sins have been great, being forgiven is greatly grateful.
That’s the Lord Jesus: He is our Friend; not because we are lovely, but because we are unlovely; not when we’re healthy, but when we’re sick; not when we’re strong, but when we are weak. “This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” [Luke 15:2]. And the scribes and Pharisees murmured against Him [Luke 15:2]. “But I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
A third confrontation in the last passion of our Lord:
He came into Jerusalem: and went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and He overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And He said, Is it not written, My house shall be called . . . a house of prayer? but you have made it a den of thieves.
His castigation, His caustic denunciation, calling what they had done, “making God’s house a den of thieves” [Mark 11:17], was because the Sadducees who ran the temple, the party who had control of all of the revenues of the temple, they sold the sacrificial animals at an exorbitant price [Mark 11:15]. And when they changed the money of the Roman Empire into the money of the Jews that it might be offered as a holy sacrifice unto God, they made a large differential between what the Roman coin was worth and what the Jewish coin was worth, and brought all of that profit, the exorbitant exchange, went into the private coffers and pockets of the Sadducees who ran the temple [Mark 11:15]. Therefore Jesus said, “You have made God’s house a den of thieves” [Mark 12:17]. And when the chief priests and the Sadducees heard what the Lord had said and done, they sought how they might destroy Him [Mark 12:18]. “But I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
The next confrontation concerned their challenge of the authority of our Lord, which challenge they had a right to present. Jesus came teaching the way of life. He said He was “the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6], and as such, they had a right to ask Him, to confront Him, concerning the truth of the way that He taught. Therefore, in this day in the temple, they surrounded Him, and one after another of those hostile and caustic groups confronted Him [Mark 12:13]. I am now reading in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, beginning at verse 13; they send unto Him all of this hostile, antagonistic denunciatory group, “They send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch Him in His words” [Mark 12:13]. So they framed a question, an anomalous one: whichever way He answered it the dilemma spelled trouble for the Lord. “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” [Mark12:14]. If He said, “Yes, we ought to give tribute to Caesar,” then the whole nation would rise to denounce Him, for they were galling under the Roman yoke and hated their Roman conquerors and oppressors. If He says, “No, it is not right to give tribute to Caesar,” then He can be arrested for sedition and for insurrection. Whichever way He answers the question, He falls either into the wrath of the Jewish nation or under the condemnation of the Roman government.
So He said, “Would you bring Me a denarius, a Roman coin?” [Mark 12:15]. And they brought it. And holding it up, He asked, “Whose is this image and superscription?” And they said, “Caesar’s” [Mark 12:16]—Augustus Caesar, or Tiberius Caesar, one of those coins—He held it in His hand. “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” [Mark 12:17].
Let Caesar’s dues be paid
To Caesar and his throne;
But conscience and soul were made
To serve the Lord alone.
“And I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
The second question concerned the resurrection: “Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed” [Mark 12:20]. According to the Levirate law, lest a family among the people of God perish, when a man married a wife and left, died leaving no child, then his brother was to take the man’s widow and raise up seed for his brother, that his family not perish [Deuteronomy 25:5-6]. Now, this is an old-stock story that the Sadducees had used for generations. They didn’t believe in the resurrection; they didn’t believe in an afterlife. They were what you call our modern “secularists” and “materialists,” actual atheists. So the Sadducees come saying, “This man married a wife and left no seed. So his brother took the wife, and he died leaving no seed. And the third brother…and the fifth, and the sixth, and the seventh brother, all of them died having no seed by that woman. Now in the resurrection therefore, ha, ha, ha!—whose wife shall she be? For all seven had her to wife” [Mark 12:18-23]. That was a stock story of ridicule of the resurrection of God on the part of the Sadducees.
“Jesus answering said unto them, You do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God,” for when we shall rise from the dead, there will be no more procreation in heaven [Mark 12:24-25]. All of our children must be born in our relationship in this life; for in heaven there will not be children born. Procreation will all be just in this earth, and not there:
But, as touching the resurrection of the dead, did you never read in the book of Moses where God said, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: therefore you do greatly err.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? The Lord believed in the infallibility and the inerrancy and in the inspiration of every word of the Holy Scriptures; and He bases the tremendous doctrine of the resurrection of the dead upon the tense of one verb: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” [Mark 12:26]. Not the God of the dead, but of the living [Mark 12:27]. “And I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
The next one: a lawyer stood up, a man who represents the finest knowledgeable casuistry of all the tradition of the elders. And he brings before the Lord a debated subject for a thousand years among the rabbinical schools of Israel. And the question is this: which is the first commandment of all? [Mark 12:28]. And Jesus quotes the great Shema, the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy and the fourth verse: “Hear, O Israel, the people of God; The Lord our God is one God” [Deuteronomy 6:4]. He is not many gods. We are not polytheists; we are monotheists:
Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength—
and then the Lord added—
And the second commandment is like unto that first one—
and He quotes from Leviticus 19:18—
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” [Romans 13:10]. And the Lord says, “And on those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” [Matthew 22:40]. To love God with all of one’s heart and soul, and to love our fellow men as ourselves, these are the great commandments of God [Matthew 22:37-40]. “And I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
When they brought the Lord to trial—and I’m reading now from the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Luke—“The whole multitude of them arose, and led Him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found houtos,” and there’s that same sarcasm again, houtos, “this guy,” this fellow, this flotsam; we found houtos, “this fellow, perverting the nation.” Second, “Forbidding to give tribute to Caesar,” and third, “[Saying] that He Himself is Christ a King” [Luke 23:1-2]. And Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You a King? And He answered him and said, Thou sayest it” [Luke 23:3]. That’s the strongest affirmation in the Greek language. “Then Pilate said to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this Man” [Luke 23:4]. Verse 13, “And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests,” these are the Sadducees and the rulers, these are the Sadducees of the people:
He said to them, Ye have brought this Man unto me, as one that perverteth the people:
And, behold, I have examined Him before you, and I have found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him.
Look at the three things that they say, accusing our blessed Lord. First, “We found this fellow perverting the nation” [Luke 23:2]. What could they mean? The lowly Jesus from house to house, from village to village, from place to place, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, cleansing the leper, ministering to the poor, raising the dead, teaching us the way of life everlasting [Matthew 11:5]. But they say, “He perverts the nation” [Luke 23:2].
The second accusation: “Forbidding to give tribute to Caesar” [Luke 23:2]. Just the opposite: He said, “Render to Caesar the things that belong to the government, and render to God the things that belong to God” [Mark 12:17]; just the opposite. And then, “That He Himself is Christ a King” [Luke 23:2], but the Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world [John 18:36]. I am no antagonist of a Caesar. My people belong to a spiritual priesthood; they are the ones who love and serve the Lord God.” These are the things they accused Him of, for which they asked His life be forfeited. “But I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
And last of all, reading now from the twenty-seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “They brought Him to a place called,” in the Hebrew tongue, “Golgotha,” in the Latin tongue, “Calvary,” in our language, “the Place, the Hill of a Skull” [Matthew 27:33]. “And they crucified Him there [Matthew 27:35]; and they set over His head His accusation, written”—they wrote it in three languages, so public was the execution of our Lord. May I parenthesize here to say, it is the purpose of God that Jesus be exhibited openly, publicly, for the whole world to see Him? And when we seek to circumscribe the gospel message of Christ in a house, or in a temple, or in a cathedral, or in a church building, it is the opposite of what God intended. He was crucified outside the city wall, on a highway [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12], so public that it took three languages to describe His accusation: written in Hebrew and in Greek, and in Latin, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” [Matthew 27:37; Luke 23:38].
There were two thieves crucified with Him, one on one hand, one on the other hand: And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
But it will not be a superhuman man tearing Himself from the wood; it will be a limp, dead corpse who is taken down from the cross and buried in a sepulcher, but the third day rising in triumph over sin and death and the grave [Matthew 27:46–28:7]. “And I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
“Likewise also the chief priests, the Sadducees, mocking Him, with the scribes and the elders, said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save” [Matthew 27:41-42]. How truly did they unwittingly, unknowlingly, unknowledgably say the gospel. If we are to be saved, He cannot save Himself. If there is to be expiation and atonement for our sins, then He must die in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. In His blood is the remission of our sins [Matthew 26:28] and the hope of our poor souls. “He Himself He cannot save, though He saved others” [Matthew 27:41-42]. And I find no fault in Him at all [John 18:38].
And they said, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God” [Matthew 27:43]. He trusted in God; He did. He gave Himself to the smiter [Isaiah 50:6], and He gave Himself to the hammering of the soldiers [Mark 15:16-24], and He gave Himself to crucifixion and to death [Philippians 2:8]; but He trusted in God that, though dead and laid in a sepulcher, He would be raised from among the dead by the power of God [1 Corinthians 6:14]. And God honored that faith, and raised Him the third day from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:4]. “And I find no fault in Him at all” [John 18:38].
Long time ago—I’m speaking now over forty years ago; how the days multiply into months, and the months add up into years—over forty years ago, graduated from the seminary, I was called as pastor of my first full time church in a little county seat town of about fifteen thousand people in southeastern Oklahoma. I noticed that on Saturday the farmers came from all over that part of the state, that part of the county, and they came there every Saturday bringing their produce, bringing their cotton, their corn, their cattle. So I took me my Bible, and I sat me, stood me, on the curb of the courthouse square, and I opened my Book and I raised my voice, and preached the gospel every Saturday afternoon to that throng that came into that county seat town. God so blessed the message that I preached standing on the curb of the courthouse square, that they built for me a little pavilion like, because the sun was so very hot beating down on my head. So I had a little pulpit there, with a little shade over my head; and I stood there and preached the gospel on that courthouse lawn. It was so blessed of God that I announced that I would begin services on the courthouse lawn at night. Not only would I preach in the afternoon, but I would also have services at night. So every Saturday night I’d mount my little pulpit there, and open my Bible, and proclaim the gospel to the throngs that came.
As the days passed—I did that for the last two years that I was pastor there—as the days passed, just sometimes I’d do something that I hadn’t thought for, hadn’t planned for, just exuberantly and adventitiously, just do something while I’m preaching or in the pulpit. And that’s why sometimes I plan a sermon for twenty minutes, and it lasts forty or fifty. I just didn’t plan it that way; it just comes along that way. Well, it was one of those things. So I said to that throng that night on the pulpit, from my little pulpit on that courthouse lawn, I said, “Why are you not in church? Why don’t you go to the house of God? Why are you not numbered with the people of the Lord? Why don’t you belong to God’s redeemed? Why don’t you go to church? Why do you separate yourself from God’s people?” Now, that was a rhetorical, oratorical question in a sermon, and then I added to it, “If you can give any good reason why you separate yourself from the people of God and why you don’t go to church, come up here and tell us why don’t you go.” Well, I never intended for anybody to come up. That was a rhetorical sermon; it was a forensic gesture. But to my amazement and surprise and astonishment and bewilderment, they came one after another. There were preachers out there. There were deacons out there, Sunday school teachers out there; every kind of a church member you can think for out there, men and women. And when I gave them that opportunity, one by one they seized it, and they came up there behind that microphone, and they poured out the most endless flood of vitriolic, caustic, castigation I ever listened to in my life! Some of those preachers would stand up there and they would describe the most terrible confrontations they had with the fellowship of deacons, or with the church membership, and why they resigned the ministry, and why they left their gospel message, and why they turned aside from the church, and why they never intended to go back. Then there were deacons there, and they came up and talked all about the preacher, and all the bad experiences that they had. And there were Sunday school teachers that came. It was awesome and terrible!
After that service was over, I went home, buried my face in my hand, and said, “Lord, Lord, I can’t imagine my making a mistake like that. O Lord, how did I ever get into that? It was terrible!” I can make the biggest mistakes, and that was one of them. Well, as I said, that’s been over forty years ago. I have thought of that night a thousand, thousand times. I have reviewed what those preachers said as they castigated the church, what those deacons said as they castigated the preachers, what those people said as they found fault with the church and why they weren’t ever going back. I have reviewed that a thousand times, and gradually there came into my heart a tremendous and convicting observation: they had much to say against the preacher, much to say against the deacon, much to say against the church, much to say against the people, but I happened finally to realize not one, not one in all of that throng, not one ever said a word against the Lord Jesus Christ. “For I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38].
The preacher, how many foibles and failures; the deacons, how weak and how human; the whole fabric of the church of God, how filled with weakness; being human, made out of clay, how often stumbling and falling; “but I find no fault in Him.” We may not be all right, but He is all right. We may not be headed right, but He is. We may be filled with every sense of failure, but there is nothing but praise and triumph and victory in Him. “For in Him I find no fault at all” [John 18:38].
And that always is our appeal and our invitation to your heart. To join us is just to identify yourself with the church that Christ loved [Ephesians 5:25], but there’s no salvation in us, no salvation in the ordinances that we present. There’s no finding a way to heaven by following us. But we never fail following our blessed Lord. He never made a mistake. He never guides us astray. He never lets us down. He is always in all things what God would have our Savior to be. “He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us” [Hebrews 7:25]. And that’s our appeal to you today. To give your heart to that faultless Christ, to identify yourself with the people, however feeble we may be, who name His name and lift Him up, and someday as a part of God’s redeemed family to thank Him in His presence for all of the mercies and blessings that have come from His gracious hands.
Make that decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, down that stairway in the balcony, or into the aisle on this lower floor: “Pastor, we have decided for God. My whole family is coming, and here we are” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or just “My wife and I,” or “My friend and I,” or “My sweetheart and I,” or just one somebody you: “Today we are following that inimitable and infinitely precious and ably saving Lord, and here we are.” Make the decision now, right now, and when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle. Do it, and the Lord bless you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.