The Marvel of Jesus
March 8th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
THE MARVEL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-8-81 10:50 a.m.
And no less do we rejoice to share this hour with the uncounted multitudes of you who are watching on television, on cable television, and all over this part of the world, and here in the great Metroplex, and then on radio; this is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message, the first in the doctrinal series on Christology, on the doctrine of Christ our Lord.
In the long, long series on doctrine that the pastor is preaching Sunday morning by Sunday morning, last Lord’s Day we concluded the section on theology, on the study of God proper – theology proper. And today we begin the series on Christ: Christology. And the title of the message is: The Marvel of Jesus the Christ. As a background text, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the First Gospel, beginning at verse 24 – Matthew 8:24:
Behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; but He was asleep.
And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we are drowning – we perish.
And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
And the men marveled, saying, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!
The marvel of Jesus. Once in a while, I will wonder in my mind how it would be had I also lived in the days of His flesh, and I saw Him, and heard Him, and observed Him, and watched Him. What would my reaction have been? And what would my judgments have been had I seen Him when He walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel?
First: I would have seen a man – another man – a man. When He was brought by Pontius Pilate to Herod Antipas, Herod thought he would see some wondrous monstrosity. But when Christ answered no word in reply to his questions – did no astonishing miracle in his presence – in contempt, Herod Antipas sent Him back to Pontius Pilate [Luke 23:6-11], just another man.
In this story we have read, He is sound asleep in the ship, even in the midst of a storm, a man [Matthew 8:24]. In the fourth chapter of this First Gospel, He is hungry, having fasted forty days [verse 2]. In the fourth chapter of the Book of John, He was weary from the journey and sat thus on the curbing of the well. While He was seated there, a woman came from Sychar to draw water out of the well, and being thirsty He asked her for a drink of water [verse 7]; a man. In the eleventh chapter of that same Fourth Gospel of John, it says that He wept [verse 35]. Several times, our Lord is described as weeping [Luke 19:41]. His heart was moved with compassion for the people [Matthew 9:36]. He easily cried, and I know all about that.
He was a man. He lived a life of a common man, a poor man. He worked with His hands for thirty years. He was a carpenter by trade. He was after thirty years an itinerant preacher and teacher, visiting from town to town and village to village. When He was crucified, He was crucified naked. Our artists have been very kind and very chaste in their pictures of Him, He is always covered – but He wasn’t crucified covered, He was crucified naked; a man.
And from the wounds of the thorns on His brow, and of the terrible lashes on His back, and from the iron nails in His hands, and from the spear thrusts in His side, He bled [John 19:16-34]. He was a man. And when He died, they buried Him in a sepulcher outside the walls of Jerusalem [Matthew 27:57-60]. He was a man. And had I lived in the days of His flesh and seen Him, that’s what I would have seen. I would have seen a man.
But there is something else, and there is something beside, and there is something more. There is something other, for the Man here is sound asleep.
But when He awakens, He commands, just by the word of His authority, and the terrible tempest and storm calm, and the winds and the waves cease their roaring [Matthew 8:24-26].
A man, and something beside. He was "an hungered," then He arose and fed five thousand with the lunch of a little boy [John 6:8-12], a man and something other. He weeps, He is moved with the feeling of our infirmities [Hebrews 4:15]. Then in the next breath, He raises Lazarus from among the dead [John 11:35, 43-44], a man, and something beside. When He is arrested and soon to be crucified, He says, "At My command are twelve legions of angels" [Matthew 26:53]. That’s seventy-two thousands of angels. Just one angel in the days of Hezekiah annihilated the entire Assyrian army of Sennacherib [Isaiah 37:36], seventy-two thousand angels. And when they sought to arrest Him, they fell down and backward [John 18:6], a man and something other. And when He was crucified and died, and they laid Him in a tomb, the third day He arose from the dead, this Jesus of Nazareth [Matthew 28:1, 6].
The marvel of the Man. As I hold my Bible in my hand, I raise a leaf, one leaf. And in this incomparable Gospel of Matthew, in this brief section, the tremendous authority that He has over life and the laws and powers of nature; look at it. In chapter 8, verse 3, a leper comes and He touches him. He touches him, and the leprosy is cleansed by the touch of His hand. In verse 8, a Roman centurion says "Lord, my servant is sick, just speak the word – just speak the word, and my servant will be healed."
Look again, in verse 15: The mother-in-law of Simon Peter is sick with a fever, and He touched her hand and the fever left. Look at the next verse: "And when the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed; and He healed all of them" [Matthew 8:15-16].
Look at verse 27: "And they marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!" Look again, in the story that follows. These two fierce demoniacs living in the tombs of Gadara, exceedingly fierce, and no man dare pass that way; they are healed, and they sit clothed and in their right minds at His feet [Matthew 8:28-34].
Look at chapter 9: the man healed who had a palsy, and when the multitude saw it, they marveled and glorified God [Matthew 9:8]. Look in verse 18: Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, "My daughter is dead," and He lays His hand upon her, and she lives [Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25].
Look again, at the woman with an issue of blood in verse 21: "If I but touch the hem of His garment, the tassel on His robe, I will be made whole." Look again, in verse 30: the two who were blind; He touched them and their eyes were opened. And look again in verse 33: "And the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel" [Matthew 9:33]. This Man, the marvel of Jesus: the very laws of nature and of human life were subject to His command.
Look again at the marvel of Jesus: the words of self-description that He used. They are astonishing! They are unbelievable! He will say in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto Me, all ye who are laboring and heavy laden; for I will give you rest: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls." On any other lips, those words would be so unbecoming. But when Christ says them – "for I am meek and lowly in heart" – somehow they fit.
Look at His words of self-description: "My sheep hear My voice, and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish. My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all. I and My Father are one" [John 10:27-30]. Or, again, in John 14:9: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" – God. Or, again, in verse 6: "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life" [John 14:6], I am, His words of self-description.
When we were reading the New Testament in Greek, my professor, when he came to the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, and we read: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and he that believeth in Me shall never die" [John 11:25-26]; the professor looked up from the text and said to the little group of students around him: "Those words are the profoundest ever uttered in human speech."
Or again in His trial, the high priest said, "I adjure Thee before God, tell us, art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" [Matthew 26:63]. And He replied, "I am: and henceforth shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, coming in the clouds of glory" [Mark 14:62]. No wonder the high priest rent his garments, and no wonder the scribes, and the Sanhedrin, and the doctors of the law, and the Levitical students said, "He blasphemes" [Matthew 26:65-66; Mark 14:63-64]. "No man ever spake like that Man" [John 7:46].
Compare the words of our Lord with those of Moses, or Isaiah, or Plato, or Aristotle, or Buddha, or Confucius, or Mohammed. They were conscious that they were pointing to the truth. He says, "I am the truth" [John 14:6]. They say that they are the messengers of God. He said, "I am the message itself" [John 6:51]. They were conscious of being torchbearers. He says, "I am the light of the world" [John 8:12]. They discoursed on immortality. He said, "I am the resurrection, and the life" [John 11:25]. When a man wanted to know the way to eternal life, He said, "Follow Me" [Matthew 19:16, 21]. When one asked that he might see God the Father, He said, "Hast thou not seen Me?" [John 14:8-9]. "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. Of truth, they thought they were pointing to it. He said, "I am it" [John 14:6]. Of the vision of God, they said," We have found it." He said, "I am the vision itself." Of the spiritual support for humanity, they said, "We have discovered it." He said, "It is in Me."
"Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. Small wonder that when His enemies heard Him, they slew Him. But when the disciples heard Him, they bowed at His feet and worshiped Him.
Christianity, the Christian faith did not arise out of a philosopher’s school or out of an academician’s textbook. Nor did it arise out of an ecclesiastical system. Nor did it arise out of a social or political reformation. It arose out of the hearts of men who had come face to face with Jesus the Christ. And they were never the same again.
The marvel of Jesus: consider the spiritual resources at His command. In this ninth chapter of the Book of Matthew, they bring to Him one sick of the palsy, and He turns to the sick and He says, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" [Mark 2:5]. And they who stood by said in their hearts, "He blasphemes, for no man can forgive sins but God" [Mark 2:7]. And knowing what they said in their hearts, our Lord Jesus replied, "That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins; which is easier to say? Thy sins be forgiven thee; or, Arise take up thy bed, and walk?" [Mark 2:8-9]. Would you like to try it? Would any man like to try it? "But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith to the sick of the palsy, I say unto thee, Arise, take up your bed, and walk. And the sick of the palsy arose, carried his bed, and walked" [Matthew 2:10-12].
The sublime power, the overflowing abounding residue of moral strength and spiritual strength in the Man Jesus; in Himself, pure and holy and undefiled, and for others, able, mighty. To the one who is athirst, "Come unto Me" [Revelation 22:17]. To the one who is hungry: "I am the bread of life" [John 6:35]. To us who are lost, He is the Great Shepherd [John 10:11, 14]. To us who are sick, He is the Great Physician [Matthew 9:12; Luke 4:23]. And to us who are sinners, He is the great Savior and Deliverer: the spiritual power residing in the man’s soul.
Look again, the marvel of Jesus: His essential, paramount greatness. The great unlike; unique, incomparable. A Roman historian, Tacitus, dismissed Him with a sentence. A Greek satirist, Lucian, bowed Him out with a sneer. But the verdict of the centuries has been: it was a blind civilization, it was an insensitive culture, and it was an unknowing religious ethical system that failed to recognize in Him the Son of God.
His essential, inherent greatness: a man is great according to the test and trial and criteria of two categories. Number one, the influence he has upon humanity; and number two, his essential inherent goodness; for no man is really great who is not essentially good. And by both of those tests; Jesus is superior to all humanity.
The first test: the influence He has had upon human history. There’s none like Him. Our Lord has done more to alleviate and to soften the brutality of humanity than all of the schools of philosophy, and all of the disquisitions of moralists, and all of the agitation of reformers since the world began.
And the influence of this Man, the marvel of Christ Jesus; in His life and in His ministry, all of the gods of Greece and of Rome disappeared. When He lived, on every high hill in the earth, the smoke of sacrifices ascended upon the rising altars of men. I don’t believe in the earth today there is one sacrificial altar on any high hill on the planet. The unbelievable power of that Man that could subvert the very religious system of the civilized world; that’s Jesus. And the nobility, and the holiness, and the purity of His life – His enemies watched Him closely, maliciously, viciously, and the most they could ever say about the Lord was this: "This Man is a friend of publicans and sinners" [Matthew 11:19].
He is the unique, and the separate, and the apart; there’s none like Him. When we see His name in a long list of the supposedly great of the earth, beginning with Confucius and continuing through Goethe – when we see it, we instinctively feel it is not so much a thing against orthodoxies as it is a thing against decency. You don’t classify the Lord Jesus with a Goethe, or a Dante, or a Homer, or a Mohammed, or a Buddha. He is separate and apart.
And when we think of the greatness of Jesus, you don’t compare Him. Alexander the Great? Yes. Charlemagne the Great? Yes. Charles the Great? Yes. Napoleon the Great? Yes. Frederick the Great? Yes. I never heard the expression, Jesus the Great; He is separate, unique, and apart. There is none like Him. And He never faltered in the beautiful life; always holy, always pure, always obedient to the will and the work of God: the marvel of Jesus.
But there is still more: the marvel of His influence upon human life and human character today. He is the Lord of conscience and of human experience. There is far more to Jesus than just the Christ of history.
What He did nineteen hundred years ago is of eternal consequence and significance. But our Lord is more than just an historical figure. He steps out of every book, out of every history, out of every sermon, out of every discourse, and He stands alive before our very eyes. He rises out of the tomb of time and of place, and He is more alive today than He ever was, this Jesus.
We read of Rameses, and of Pileser, and of Alexander, and of Caesar, and of Charlemagne, and of Frederick, and of Napoleon, but they are dead, and their tombs are pointed out until this day. But Jesus is alive, and He is our contemporary, and we meet Him down every road of conscience. He stands before us.
Like some Saul of Tarsus, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, and suddenly, there He stands in the way. And stricken and blinded, the arch-persecutor cries, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And that risen, and immortalized, and glorified, and contemporary figure replies, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest" [Acts 9:1-5; 22:8]. How many of us have gone down some self-chosen way and suddenly have met Him in the road, and it is never the same again?
We read the works of the great literary geniuses of the earth, of Plato and Aristotle, of Euripides and Aurelius, Emerson; the great poets, Shakespeare, Milton; the modern literature of the scientific world. Then we read of the life of our Lord, and somehow there is a spiritual disturbance that enters our deepest souls when we read about Jesus. It does something to our conscience.
Ingersoll, in this last century, the number one brilliant orator and infidel of America, riding on a train with Lew Wallace, governor of the territory of New Mexico, both of them infidels, and Bob Ingersoll said to General Lew Wallace, "Why don’t you read the life of Christ and write a book showing its evident, shallow, lack of authority and depth and purpose, the cheapness of the faith?" The great general thought he would. He read. He studied. He bowed before the convicting presence and power of the Lord, and he wrote his book. It’s entitled Ben Hur, and in parenthesis, A Story of the Christ.
Look at Him. Read of Him. See if He does not probe the conscience and convert the soul. He is the Lord of the Bible. He is the Lord of the church. He is the Lord of my father and my mother. And He is my Lord, and my Savior, and my God.
He is the Christ of my conversion. He is the Christ of my childhood. He is the Christ of my call to the ministry. He is the Christ of my shepherdly care in the days of those country churches. He is the Christ of these thirty-seven years as an undershepherd in this dear and blessed church: the Christ of my youth, the Christ of my manhood, the Christ of my old age, and the Christ of my death.
Jesus is all the world to me.
I want no better friend.
I trust Him now, I trust Him then,
When life’s brief days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a friend,
Beautiful life that has no end.
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He is my Friend.
["Jesus is All the World to Me"; Will L. Thompson]
The marvel of Jesus!
May we stand together?
Our Lord, it seems to me we ought to be on our knees, we ought to be on our faces in the presence of the great God and our Savior Christ Jesus. Behold, we have taken on ourselves to speak about Thee, we who are but dust and ashes. May the Holy Spirit of God take the words of testimony and guide them to our hearts in convicting power. O Lord, is the any song that is commensurate with Thy glory? Is there any poem that sets forth the beauty of Thy character? And is there any testimony that quite equals the gladness and the glory of what Jesus has done for us? Hungry of soul, the bread of heaven; thirsting of heart, the water of life; lost like a sheep, the Good Shepherd who has found us; a sinner dying, and He has saved us. Oh, blessed be His wonderful name!
While the people bow in the presence of our Lord, in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal; a family you, a couple you, or one somebody you, "Pastor, today we have decided for God and here we are. We are coming answering with our lives." On radio and on television, among the throngs of you who have worshiped with us this hour, is there one somebody you there in a house somewhere or listening to the radio driving down a highway, would you pause and bow in the presence of the Lord and say, "Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Make me a new creation. Give me hope." And here in answer to prayer, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "We are coming pastor. This is God’s day for us." Wonderful Savior, marvelous Redeemer, thank Thee for the sweet harvest God shall give us this precious hour; in Thy saving name, amen. While we pray and while we sing, come, come.
I. A Man
A. Like any other man (Luke 23:6-11)
slept, hungered, wearied, thirsted, wept (Matthew
4:2, 8:24, John 4:6-7, 11:35)
B. Jesus lived the life
of a common, poor man (Mark 6:3)
died and bled like any other man
II. The marvel of the Man
The ease with which He commanded the forces of life, nature (Matthew 8:3, 8, 15-16, 26-28, 9:8, 18, 21, 30-31, 33)
astonishing words of self-description (Matthew
11:28-31, 26:26-30, 62-64, John 6:53, 7:46, 10:27-30, 11:25-26, 14:6, 9)
spiritual resources (Matthew 9:1-8)
essential, inherent greatness
The influence he has upon humanity
His essential, inherent goodness
III. The marvelous Jesus of history is the
Jesus of conscious human experience
A. He is more than
B. He lives today in
converting power; stands before our personal conscience
1. Saul on the
Damascus road (Acts 9:1-5)
C. Jesus is Lord
1. "Jesus is All the
World to Me"