SUFFERING AND SACRIFICE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-7-80 10:50 a.m.
Listening to any chorus from Handel’s Messiah brings to my mind a comparison between the things that pertain to God and the transient, ephemeral things that pertain to the world. Can you remember the popular songs that were sung when you were a boy or when you were a girl, and does anybody sing them today? Such as “Red Hot Mama” and “Yes, We Have No Bananas?” That’s what they were when I was a kid. I can’t help but think about that. And the beautiful song that you’ve just heard was written more than three hundred years ago. And after the passing of more than three hundred years, it is as beautifully moving today and as oft sung, as it was more than three centuries ago. That’s the Lord, and those who praise our wonderful Savior.
It is a joy inexpressible for us in our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, to welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour with us on the two radio stations that bear it, and upon the television that you are watching. This is the pastor of the church, bringing the message entitled Suffering and Sacrifice.
It is a heart-searching meditation before the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul, by inspiration, in writing of the Lord’s Supper in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, he said: “Let a man examine himself, then let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” [1 Corinthians 11:28, 31, 32]. And out of that admonition of the apostle Paul came this heart searching for me, discussion and meditation and study before our breaking of bread.
Dr. Luke writes that when Jesus came toward the end of His ministry, He steadfastly set Himself to go to Jerusalem [Luke 9:51]. He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. Going to Jerusalem on this last journey, He followed the path of practically all the Jewish people of His day. He went through Perea, and then crossed Jordan to Jericho, and so up to Jerusalem. I began following the life of our Lord, as Luke writes it, in this last journey that ended in His crucifixion.
Over on the other side of Jordan, in Perea, in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, there came running to Him, and kneeling before Him, a rich, young ruler [Mark 10:17]. There is no part of that that is not fascinating to us. He was rich; to the Jewish people, a sign of the blessing and pleasure of God. He was young, and youth always is fascinating. And even in youth, he was the ruler of his synagogue. He must have been a pristine and exemplary young citizen. And you remember the story. Kneeling down he asks what to do to inherit eternal life [Luke 18:18]. And the Lord says, “Do this, and thou shalt live,” and quoted the commandments [Luke 18:20].
And the fine young fellow said, “Master, all of these have I kept from my youth up [Luke 18:21]. But my life is still empty and my heart still cries out for something other and beside.”
That is always true when religion is determined and defined and delineated in just keeping commandments. “We will do this and we won’t do that.” Religion is a fellowship, if it is fulfilling. It has joy abounding in it, if it’s godly. And that young fellow, looking up into the face of the Lord, said, “This have I done, but what lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:20].
And then the Lord said to him, “Take everything you have, and get rid of it. Give it away. Give it away, everything you have” [Luke 18:21-22].
The young fellow stugnazō. The war in his heart registered in his face. Stugnazō, used twice in the Bible; one time it describes the lowering sky, the lowering sky [Matthew 16:3]. Stugnazō, the threatening sky when it’s dark with thunder and storm, and the other is describing the face of that young fellow. The civil war that he fought in his soul registered in his face, and he went away [Matthew 19:22; Luke 18:23-24].
Wouldn’t you have expected the Lord to say, “Wait, young man. Wait. Wait. Come back, young man. Let’s reconsider this. I think the terms were too harsh. I think the appeal is too all-inclusive. Come back, young man. Let’s discuss it. Maybe not everything you have, maybe just a part, maybe just a piece, maybe just a tribute, but come back and let’s discuss it.” No. The Lord watched him as he walked sorrowfully away, and never called him back, never lowered the term of His appeal [Luke 18:24]. What an amazing somebody is our Lord, everything, all of it. That’s Jesus.
I turn to the next chapter, chapter 19, and He is crossed over Jordan and is now in Jericho, and there’s a little fellow. He’s very rich. He’s a tax collector. He’s a publican. And the Lord calls him down out of the tree. He climbed up there to see Jesus, knowing He would pass by that way [Luke 19:1-4].
And the Lord said, “I am to be a guest in your house” [Luke 19:5].
And the little fellow stood ten feet tall as he spoke to the Lord in his house. And the Bible emphasizes that he stood [Luke 19:8]—Zaccheus stood—and said to the Lord, “Dear Lord, half of everything I have I dedicate to Thee, half of it. And if I have wronged any man, I restitute, I pay recompense, fourfold” [Luke 19:8]. There’s not a doctrine in the Bible more godly than that, restitution. If we have wronged anyone, we are to restore and ask forgiveness. And this man, Zaccheus: “One half of everything that I have, I give away” [Luke 19:8].
Then as Dr. Luke tells the story, you look at that eleventh verse. Luke 19:11: “And as he said these things to Zaccheus, those that heard them, He added and spake this parable.” Well, what Dr. Luke means when he says, “Jesus added these things,” to what He had spoken to Zaccheus, what follows belongs to what precedes. So it comes out of the story of Zaccheus that Jesus adds, He expatiates [Luke 19:11], and He spoke a parable saying: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” [Luke 19:12]. And He is talking about Himself, going away, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool [Luke 20:43], and someday coming back to be Ruler and King over all the creation [Matthew 16:27]. “He went away and he called his ten servants” [Luke 19:12-13]. Ten is a number for fullness, completion. Ten. There are ten commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], the whole expectancy of God. “He called his ten servants, all of his people, and delivered unto them ten minas” [Luke 19:13].
In the King James Version it’s translated “pounds.” Greek is mina, Mina. We don’t know how much it was. That same word is in Sumerian. That same word is in Akkadian. That same word is in Babylonian. And that same word is in Greek. It is a weight of silver: “And he delivered unto his servants ten minas, and he said unto them, Occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13].
What an unusual word, that “occupy,” pragmateusasthe. Pragmateuō means “to do business, to make money.” Pragmatikos is the Greek word for “a businessman, a man of action and endeavor, a man who makes money.” He’s a pragmatikos. And our word “pragmatic,” a man of daily affairs, comes from that word pragmatikos. That’s the word translated here: “Occupy till I come. Do business. Make money until I come” [Luke 19:13].
Isn’t that a strange thing that the Lord says to His people? These deadbeats and parasites and welfare workers who live off of the state are an affront and a reproach to God, and ought to be to the United States government, and to the citizenship that make up our populace. God says if a man does not work, neither shall he eat [2 Thessalonians 3:10].
Occupy, pragmateusasthe, it is imperative. Do business. Work. Make money until I come.
“So when he came, he called the first servant and the first servant said, ‘Lord, thy mina hath gained ten minas.’”
“And the lord said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’” [Luke 19:16-17].
“And the second came saying, ‘Lord, thy mina hath gained five minas.’”
“And the lord said to him likewise, ‘Well done. Well done’” [Luke 19:18-19].
Money is nothing but coined personality, coined human effort. If I work for you and you give me fifty dollars, that fifty dollars represents that part of my life. If I work for you a day and you give me fifty dollars, that fifty dollars represents a day of me, of my life. I have traded my life for, a day of it, fifty dollars.
If I work for you a week and I make four hundred or five hundred dollars, that represents a week of my life. I have exchanged my strength and living for the salary you pay me, or the money that I’ve made. And when I give it to God, I am giving my life to the Lord. If I make fifty dollars, and I give fifty dollars to the Lord, that represents a day of my life. Or if I make four hundred dollars in a week and I give four hundred dollars, that represents a week of my life.
“And the lord said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
One: “You will be over ten cities” [Luke 19:17]. And the other: “you will be over five cities” [Luke 19:19].
My sweet people, I don’t know of a travesty or a caricature that is more unlike God than every picture you see of a saint, on a cloud, with a halo, and with his wings, a-sitting up there in heaven, a-doing nothing.
“You are going to be ruler over ten cities,” he says to this one [Luke 19:17].
“And you’re going to be ruler over five cities,” he says to that one [Luke 19:19].
In the life to come, we’re going to have the most intensive assignments. Of course, these things are just deductions from what I read in the Bible when God says He is going to remake, rejuvenate, recreate the heavens and the earth [Revelation 21:1-5]. I think the whole creation will be ours; all of it.
Instead of those awesome rings on Saturn, instead of that atmosphere around Venus, everything that God has wrought will be made in its primal and pristine beauty as it was in the beginning. And we’re going to be God’s servants to serve Him and work for Him, throughout all eternity over all God’s creation [Revelation 22:3-5]. We’re going to be busy.
As you know, I’ve already asked for a planet on which I’m going to put a soapbox, and I’m going to preach forever, and there’s not going to be any clock up there saying, “This is time to quit.” And anybody I’ve already invited them through the years that want to go to the Criswell planet and sit there and listen to this preacher expatiate on the love of God in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:39], you just come and visit me. We’re going to have a big time. We’re going to have a wonderful time. I may take up a collection up there. You’ve got to help God run His universe. It’s in the Book. It’s in the Book [1 Corinthians 6:3].
Then following the Lord Jesus—He is now in Jerusalem—and we’re in the next chapter, 20. And He tells them the story of the wicked husbandmen beginning in verse 9 [Acts 20:9]. A man has a vineyard, and he sends to the husbandmen, to the men who work in the vineyard, that they pay him what is due him. They won’t give it to him. And he sent others, and they were treated shamefully and sent away empty.
Finally he sent his son, “They will reverence him” [Luke 20:9-13].
And they said, “This is the heir of the vineyard: let us kill him, and take the inheritance” [Luke 20:14].
And of course the story is told as though God were vastly displeased and will judge them. What’s the matter with God that He is like that? Why is God displeased? If I take what He gives me, and I don’t use it for His glory, and I don’t offer to Him somewhat in gratitude for the privilege of using His vineyard, why is God not happy with that? Why is He so wrathful and judgmental?
The reason is, we don’t possess actually anything. It all belongs to the Lord, all of it. And I just use it; pragmateusesthe. I just do business with it for a brief while, and then I am called for an accounting. I don’t own it. It’s not mine.
And that’s why the Lord spoke of that foolish man who built his barns bigger and bigger and said to his soul: “Eat, drink, and take thine ease. Look at the abundance you possess.”
And the Lord said, “That night somebody knocked at his door”—you know who it was? It was Death—knocked at his door, and then the Lord said, “And whose shall these things be?” [Luke 12:16-21].
We just use them. Death is so all prevailing and pervasive. Why do we forget that? Somebody asked, “Why is the ninetieth Psalm so sad? The only one in the psaltery written by Moses, the man of God—it is so sad. Why?” And the reason is obvious. Every day, out there in the wilderness, for forty years, Moses looked upon two hundred fifty to three hundred funeral processions, every day [Psalm 90:1-17]. Our life is so fleeting, it is so brief, and for me to take what I have and to spend it foolishly or selfishly and forget God is of all things displeasing to the Lord and hurtful to us.
Then I turn to the twenty-first chapter of the book, and our Lord is now in the temple. And He is watching the people as they give in the temple. And a certain poor widow cast in two mites—that would be about a tenth of a cent. And He said to His disciples, “Come and look at that poor widow. Out of her penury, she hath cast in all her living, every thing that she has” [Luke 21:1-4].
You know, sweet people, what I’m going to do when I get to heaven? I’m going to find that woman, and I’m going to ask her, “You gave your entire living to God, depending and trusting on the Lord to take care of you. Did God do it?” I just want to hear what she’d have to say. “You were trusting God to take care of you, giving your entire living to Him. Did God do it? Did He take care of you?”
Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
Sing the chorus with me.
God will take care of you,
Thro’ every day
O’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.
[“God Will Take Care of You” by Civilla D. Martin]
Do you believe that? I do. Jesus noticed it. And I think when I talk to that poor woman in heaven, she’s going to have the most marvelous testimony to tell me. Trusting God and letting God solve the problems we have in life.
Now I turn to chapter 22—and this is the institution of the Lord’s Supper—22:19- 20: “He took bread, and gave thanks . . . This is My body. And the cup . . . This is the new covenant” [Luke 22:19-20].
Then in the forty-fourth verse of that same chapter: “Being in an agony in Gethsemane He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” [Luke 22:44].
I have often wondered at that, and you have too. Our Lord’s crucifixion was plain to see. But what was that agony in the garden when great drops of blood fell down to the ground? I’ve always thought that we had an answer to that in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah: “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” [Isaiah 53:10]. And then the next verse, [verse 11]: “God will look upon the travail of His soul, and be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11].
And if I can understand it at all, it is this: our Lord’s sacrifice for our sins not only pertained to the physical frame that God made for deity, the sacrifice of His body [Hebrews 10:5-14], but also the sacrifice of His soul, the soul-suffering of our Lord. “Thou shalt look upon the travail of His soul, and be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:10-11]. Sin is atoned for, it is paid for, and we are forgiven and justified in His sufferings [Romans 5:11].
And then, last of all, chapter 23, in verse 33: “And when they were come to the place, which is called the Place of the Skull,” Golgotha in Hebrew, Calvary in Latin, “there they crucified Him” [Luke 23:33].
And you know, as I stand there and look at Jesus die, for the first time I’m beginning to understand something that our Lord said. Do you remember we started off this meditation with the rich, young ruler and the Lord saying, “Give everything that you have, give it away. It stands between you and God.” And then He added, “And come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Luke 18:22].
And the Lord said as He spoke to the people, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23]. What did our Lord mean by that? As I stand and look at Jesus on Calvary, I understand.
How many times do you hear it said, “I have a heavy cross to bear,” and the one who is speaking maybe has a son that breaks the heart of the parents, or a daughter that is wayward, a child that is difficult? Or maybe it’s like a thorn in the flesh. “I have a cross to bear.” There’s an illness, or a hurt, or a suffering somewhere. Now I can understand all about that, and you can too, but this doesn’t mean that.
When Jesus said, “Take up the cross, and follow Me” [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23], He is not talking about a burden or a hurt. What Jesus is talking about is dying. A cross is something to die on. A cross is an instrument of execution. And when the Lord invites that rich, young ruler [Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21], and finally, us all, to pick up our cross and follow Him, He is asking us to die to ourselves that we might live unto God [Galatians 2:20].
The picture in baptism, buried with our Lord and dead to the world and to ourselves, and raised in the service and likeness and ministry of our wonderful Savior [Romans 6:3-5]. Lord, how do you do that? How do you crucify yourself? How do you die to yourself? It is so hard, but that is the call and invitation of our Savior, to die to ourselves that we might live unto God [Galatians 2:20].
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace
To carry me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Isaac Watts]
Take up your cross, die on it, that you might live unto God [Matthew 10:39]. May we stand?
Our Lord in heaven, You know all about what we’ve tried to preach this morning. You know what it is to hurt and to suffer. You know what it is to give everything to God. And You know what it is to die on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. But for the joy set before You, You endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now crowned with honor and glory at the right hand of Majesty on high [Hebrews 12:2]. And You bid us come and share the glory with Thee, to die to ourselves that we might live unto God [Galatians 2:20]. Not to be enticed or beguiled or bewitched by the false allurements of this life, but to remember God hath given us these days just to use for Thee. And then someday, in an upper and better world, God will reward us [2 Corinthians 5:10], even as He rewarded the man with the talents [Matthew 25:21-23], and the man with the mina [Luke 19:16-19].
So Lord, today, if we know our souls, we give ourselves to Thee all over and anew and again. Take us, Lord, mold us and fashion and make us, and then use us for Thy great glory.
And in this moment that our people wait and stand before God, make that decision for Christ [Romans 10:8-13]. You, a sweet couple, a couple I’ve been praying for, as we face this hour, come. Come together, you and your wife. A family you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart. “Dear God, today I’m answering the call of the Spirit with my life, and I’m coming.” Down the stairway, down one of these aisles, and angels attend your way as you come. And so bless, Lord, the sweet harvest You will give us this moment, in Thy saving name, amen. Now while we stand and wait and pray and sing, down that aisle, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Welcome.