June 12th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 27:46

6-12-83    10:50 a.m.


This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Hopelessness and Brokenness.  It is a message that came to my heart as I reread, as I have read countless thousands of times, the institution of our Lord’s Supper: “And He took bread, and brake it” [Matthew 26:26], and they all ate of that broken loaf; brokenness.  In the New Testament, such as in Acts 2:42, when you read the breaking of bread, and “the disciples continued with one accord in the doctrine of the apostles and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread” [Acts 2:46], whenever you see that phrase in the Bible, “the breaking of bread,” it refers to the Lord’s Supper, the breaking of bread; the brokenness that all of us experience in life.  And as a background text, in Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying”—this is Aramaic—“Eli”—“El,” God; the ‘i’ is “my”—“Eli, Eli, lama”—why—“sabachthani?”—“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

The brokenness of our lives; the Lord’s Supper, the breaking of bread—the bread itself is made out of wheat that is crushed, and ground, and bruised, and baked.  And without the grinding, and the breaking, and the crushing, and the bruising, it is never bread.  Without the breaking of the grain itself, there would never be a harvest.  It was in the breaking of the bread that our Lord fed the five thousand [Mark 6:41; John 6:1-14].  God uses broken things for His glory.

 In the story of Gideon, it was the breaking of the pitchers that brought the light of victory [Judges 7:19-25].  In the story, beautiful, of Mary of Bethany, who anointed our Lord’s feet with that precious spikenard, it was in the breaking of the alabaster box that the room was filled with perfume [Mark 14:3; John 12:1-3].  God uses broken things.

And the story that we find in the Bible of the breaking, the crushing, of the saints of God has been the medium and the entrance of the glory of our Lord.  Job was the most righteous man in the earth.  God said so [Job 1:8, 2:3].  The Bible said so, but no one knew it better than Job himself, and he was proud of his righteousness and of his goodness.  Then, when God crushed him, he cries in verse 16:12, “God hath broken me asunder” [Job 16:12].  Then in the closing chapter: “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee; Wherever I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6].

Jacob was well-named.  He was a schemer.  His name means “supplanter, schemer”—Jacob.  He stole his brother’s birthright [Genesis 25:29-34], and with the conniving of his doting mother, he cheated his brother out of the blessing [Genesis 27:1-36].  And when God said to him return back to Bethel—to Canaan, he was warned that Esau, who had sworn to slay him [Genesis 27:41], was coming to meet him with four hundred armed horsemen [Genesis 32:7-22].  And scheming as he always did, he separated his flocks, as gifts to Esau, one after another following another [Genesis 32:13-22].  And then he took his family, and took Bilhah and her children, and Zilpah and her children, and Leah and her children, and then Rachel and her one son, Joseph, and then, last of all, he was planning to meet Esau himself [Genesis 33:1-3]—always scheming, always supplanting.  Then, that night at Peniel, God crushed him [Genesis 32:24-32].  He wrestled with the Angel all night long in his proud stubbornness.  And as it began to dawn toward the daylight, the Angel with whom he wrestled finally touched his thigh and broke him down [Genesis 32:25], and, helpless, Jacob cried, saying, “Do not leave me thus.  Help me.  Bless me.”

And the Angel said, “What is your name?”

And he said, “Jacob”—supplanter, cheater, schemer.

“It shall be no longer Jacob.  It shall be Israel,” a new man; Israel, “the prince of God” [Genesis 32:24-28].

And the next day, when they met Esau—his four hundred armed horsemen—Esau met the droves, the gifts, then the children, and finally Jacob.  And when he looked upon his brother, his brother, crushed and broken, hobbled to meet him, crippled, to meet him on a broken thigh.  And Jacob, hobbling and crushed, [went] to Esau who had sworn to slay him [Genesis 27:41].  Esau, looking upon him, wept!  God’s Book says Esau wept and embraced his brother and kissed him [Genesis 33:1-4].  God uses broken things.

Is that not the beautiful fifty-first Psalm, when David cries before the Lord:

If Thou desirest sacrifice, then would I give it; but the Lord delighteth not in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken heart; a contrite and broken heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

[Psalm 51:16-17]

Broken things.

And is that not what God said to Saul of Tarsus in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts? “I have called him and I have set him aside that he might know how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” [Acts 9:15-16]—broken things, crushed, to the glory of God.

But there is no brokenness in the Holy Word like the brokenness of our Lord.  In the sixty-ninth Psalm:

Reproach hath broken My heart; I am full of heaviness; I looked for some to take pity, there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave Me gall…and in My thirst, vinegar to drink.

The messianic Psalm 69:20-21: “Reproach hath broken My heart.”  And that messianic prophecy was literally, literally, fulfilled in the suffering, in the atonement of our Lord:

…because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain [upon the cross] on the Sabbath day… [they] besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken down…Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other…But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs;

But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

He that saw it bare record—I, John, and I know that this record is true—and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.

[John 19:31-35]

When Joseph of Arimathea, with Nicodemus, asked for the body of the Lord Jesus, Pilate marveled that He was already dead [Mark 15:42-44; John 19:38-39].  The Lord had been placed on that cross at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, and at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon this request was made [Mark 15:33-37].  Usually, they suffered on the cross for three, for five, sometimes seven days.  No vital organ is touched in a crucifixion; the sufferer dies of thirst and raging fever.

And Pilate said, “You mean, He is already dead?” [Mark 15:44].

They avowed so, but Pilate, to be doubly sure, sent the centurion and his quaternion of soldiers, and when they brake the legs of the first to be sure, and they brake the legs of the second one to be sure, they looked at Jesus. These men lived in a world of execution and crucifixion.  There’s no swoon theory that could ever explain the resurrection of our Lord.  He died!  And those soldiers, seeing the Lord Jesus, saw that He was dead.  They said, “He is dead.”  But one of the soldiers, to make sure, took his spear and thrust into the heart of the Lord that iron spear, and when he withdrew the javelin, John, who was standing there, saw blood and water pour out of that wound; blood and water.  “He that saw it bare record; and we know that his record is true” [John 19:31-35].  There flowed out of that wound blood and water.

A doctor will explain that.  The heart beats in a pericardium, a cardiac sac, and the Lord died of a ruptured, broken heart, and when He died of a broken heart, the blood poured out into that pericardium.  And when that Roman spear pierced that cardiac sac, the limpid serum, which is fifty-five percent of the blood, and the red coagulum, which is forty-five percent of the blood—the clear limpid serum poured out, water; and the red coagulum poured out, the crimsoned blood; and John saw it, a sign from heaven [John 19:35-37].

The water represents the Word.  We are cleansed by the washing of the Word [Ephesians 5:26], and our atonement is in the shedding of the blood [Leviticus 17:11, Matthew 26:28, Hebrews 9:22]: the water and the blood [John 19:34], the broken heart of our Lord.  God takes broken things, and He uses them for His glory.

Now may I apply that to us?  Brokenness, hopelessness, brokenness, the broken heart: there is no life but that somewhere, sometime, somewhere shall experience a broken heart.  I read of a sign on a welding shop: “We mend everything but a broken heart.”  Who can mend a broken heart?  Soon forty years ago, when I came to be undershepherd of this dear church, God left Bob Coleman, Robert Coleman, to be here, to help in those beginning days.  He had been associated with the great pastor Dr. Truett for over forty years.  The people loved Bob Coleman, and when I came, he held practically all of the funeral services.  I just helped him, assisted him gratefully, glad for the privilege of doing so.  He knew the people so intimately, and they loved him so dearly.

One of the first funerals that Bob Coleman had in which I assisted him was one of the saddest that I could ever remember.  There was a young woman who sat over there in the family room by herself, and this was her mother who was being laid to rest.  All of the family had died, and that young woman was the only one left, and she sat over there to the left in the family room by herself.  And Bob Coleman, in the memorial service, for the first time that I ever heard it, quoted that famous, beautiful, moving poem by James Whitcomb Riley:

There! little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your doll, I know;

And your [tea]-set blue,

And your play-house, too,

Are things of the long ago;

But childish troubles will soon pass by.—

There! little girl; don’t cry!

There! little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your slate, I know;

And the glad, wild ways

Of your schoolgirl days

Are things of the long ago;

But life and love will soon come by.—

There! little girl; don’t cry!

There! little girl; don’t cry!

They’ve broken your heart, I know;

And the glad, wild ways

Of your schoolgirl days

Are things of the long ago;

But heaven holds all for which you sigh.—

There! little girl; don’t cry!

Heaven holds all for which you sigh.—

There! somebody you; don’t cry!

[ adapted from “A Life-Lesson,” James Whitcomb Riley]

I think of the breaking up of our families.  All of us live in a breaking circle; all of us.  Mother’s gone, father’s gone, a wife is gone, a husband is gone, a child is gone, our grandparents gone.  All of us live in a dissolving circle; all of us.

I think of the pulpit committee that led the church to call me here.  I think of them so often: Judge Frank M. Ryburn, who was chairman of the deacons for thirty-five years; Orville Groener, the secretary of the committee, with the Annuity Board; Bob Coleman, the associate of Dr. Truett; Mrs. Earl Smith, head of WMU here; Ralph Baker, who represented the young people, young himself; Paul Dana; Chesley Brown; the seven of that committee, all of them gone, all of them, some of them for many, many years.

Were it just the breaking up, how sad and hopeless it would be.  But God says we are one in Him [John 17:20-22]; some of us there, some of us here, but all of us one in our Lord, and some glorious day—without death, and separation, and heartache, and tears, and sorrow, and pain—to be together with our Lord.  The broken heart: all of us know it in this life; our broken hopes.

Have you seen sometimes on an oil slick how the water will be broken up into a prism, and it looks like a rainbow, the colors of a rainbow on an oil slick?  A little boy was walking by his mother down the street and saw in the gutter a puddle and an oil slick and the rainbow colors on it, and the little lad stopped and said, “Momma, look, there’s a rainbow gone to smash.”  The little fellow, unknowingly, was eloquent in so many of the experiences of our lives.  Our rainbows go to smash; the visions, and the dreams, and the hopes, and the prayers we’ve had turn to dust and ashes in our hands—broken hopes, broken dreams.

This last week I read of the most world-famous authority in his field, in medicine, and he had in his company, and by his side, a gifted young doctor who was a woman.  And in the midst of her beginning her work in that clinic, she became victim in a tragic automobile accident and found herself paralyzed from her waist down.  First, in her hopelessness, she was bitter, then fell into despair.  But the kindly doctor, encouraging her, finally said to her, “I want to talk to you now about your future profession.” In despair, she said she had none—every dream she’d had as a doctor was broken—but he encouraged her, and after therapy and therapy and therapy, she was able to renew her practice seated in a wheelchair.  And because of her own sorrow, and heartache, and disappointment, and her own affliction, these to whom she ministered found rapport with her: “She understands, she knows.”  And not only did she become a marvelous instrument in God’s hands to encourage and to heal the broken, but she is now one of the great world authorities on physiotherapy.  Broken things; God uses broken things.

And that leads me to our last:  broken lives, broken lives.  I read of a cathedral in Europe—I don’t know which one, it didn’t name it, but there is a cathedral in Europe that has beautiful, beautiful stained-glass windows in it; beautiful stained-glass windows.  But the most beautiful one is an amazing creation of the artist who created all of those windows, and they asked him, “Where did it come from?  What is it?”  And his reply was that when he had finished making all the great windows of the cathedral, that he had thousands of little broken pieces left.  And he said it came to his heart to take those thousands of broken pieces and to put them together, and he made that most glorious window of all out of those thousands of broken pieces.

God can do that; God does do that.  I heard about a preacher, a marvelous preacher, but this visitor hadn’t heard him in years.  And the friend talking to him said, “You say you heard him years ago?  Sir, you ought to hear him now!  You ought to hear him now!” a broken life, a broken life.

I suppose there’s no Word in the Bible more beautiful, or beautifully meaningful, than Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”…“not I, but Christ.”  They say that a “C” for Christ is nothing but a crushed and broken “I.”  It is bent.  As long as we are full of ourselves, proud in ourselves, self-sufficient in ourselves, as long as we justify ourselves and glorify ourselves, as long as we defend ourselves, and retaliate for ourselves, and revile for ourselves, as long as we live for ourselves, God can’t use us.  We’re full of ourselves!  But when a man is broken and he’s emptied of self, he admits his faults and his failures, he confesses his weaknesses, he doesn’t justify himself or defend himself, but he just casts himself upon the mercies of God, oh, how God can use a man like that!  It is God who made us [Psalm 100:3]; it is God who can remake us [2 Corinthians 5:17].  It is God who can put us together again and make us right.

Did you ever hear this little poem?

I played with my blocks;

I was but a child;

Houses I built

And castles I piled,

But they tottered and fell;

All my labor was vain.

But my daddy said kindly,

“We’ll try it again.”

I played with my time—

What’s time to a lad?

Why pore over books?

Play, laugh, and be glad—

Till my youth was all spent

Like a vanishing rain.

Then my daddy said kindly,

“We’ll try it again.”

I played with my soul,

The soul that is I;

The image of God in me,

I smothered its cry.

I sullied it and soiled it,

And now, oh, all the pain!

Then my heavenly Father said kindly,

“Let’s try it again.”

[author unknown]

There is no such thing as despair with God.  There’s no such thing as impossibility with God.  He made us, He can remake us, and He does it beautifully, preciously, gloriously, when we are nothing in His hands.

Lord, Lord, I bow in Thy presence.  Be kind and good to me.  And the Lord does it!  He does it.  Emptied of self, He fills us with the Spirit of God.  Broken and helpless, He binds us up and makes us anew.  Remember 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation.”  God does it and He does it so beautifully, and preciously, and savingly, and everlastingly.

In a moment we are going to stand and pray, and after the prayer we are going to sing us a song, and while we sing that song, a family you this morning: “Pastor, God has spoken to us.  We’ve decided for Christ, and we’re coming together.  We are going to put our lives in this wonderful church.”  A couple you, a friend and you, a young husband and you: “God has spoken to us and we are coming.”  Or a one somebody you, a child, a youth: “God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life” [Romans 10:9-10].  In the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, we are on the way,” and God bless you and angels attend you as you come.  Now may we stand for the prayer?

Our dear Lord in heaven, tempted and tried in all points like as we are, a sympathetic High Priest who understands and knows all about us [Hebrews 4:14-16]—who has cried, and our Savior did not weep?  Who has known disappointment and frustration and despair, and our Savior did not meet it?  Who has found in his life a broken heart, and our Lord did not also find it?  O Thou sympathizing, loving Jesus, bind us up, make us anew, recreate us in Thy image [Genesis 1:27], and may there be less and less of us and more and more of Thee, until there is nothing of us and everything of Thee.  Bless our dear people.  Bless this appeal.  Bless this sweet harvest You give us this hour.  In Thy saving name and wonderful name, amen.  While we sing, come, and welcome.