Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:24
5-6-84 7:30 p.m.
And we no less pray God’s wonderful blessings upon you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and being the first Sunday of the month, we have before us the elements of the Lord’s Supper. And the message tonight by the pastor concerns the breaking of bread. It is entitled God Is Glorified by Broken Things.
In Paul’s account of the institution of this holy and beautiful memorial in 1 Corinthians 11:24, Paul says:
That our Lord took bread and gave thanks, and brake it,
And said: Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you:
this do in remembrance of Me.
[1 Corinthians 11:23-24]
Broken things: broken bread, broken lives, broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken visions – God is glorified in broken things.
It was the striking of the rock at Horeb that brought forth refreshing water for the people of Israel [Exodus 17:6]. It was the breaking of the pitchers in the Gideon camp that let the light shine forth that brought victory to the people of God [Judges 8:16-25]. It was the breaking of the five loaves that fed the multitudes on the other side of the Sea of Galilee [John 6:1-13]. It was the breaking of the alabaster box in the home of Mary of Bethany that anointed our Lord and filled the house with the beautiful aroma of the perfume [Luke 7:37-38]. Broken things; God is glorified in broken things.
No less so is the Lord glorified in broken people: people whose will and whose way has been crushed, and they bow before the Lord in deepest humility and intercession and humble appeal – broken people.
Jacob was named that because he held on to the heel of his older brother, Esau [Genesis 25:25-26]. And his name Jacob, supplanter, came to be elaborated into the connotations and overtones of the name: Jacob, supplanter, deceiver, cheater. And his life was one constant deception after another. He deceived his brother, and, taking advantage of a weakness in Esau, he stole his birthright [Genesis 25:29-34]. He deceived his blind father, Isaac, and stole the blessing [Genesis 27:1-29]. His whole life was one of deception.
And when he went to Haran in Mesopotamia, he followed after that same pattern of a life of subtlety and deception [Genesis 30:31-43]. And the day came when, under the aegis of God, he took his family and his possessions and returned back to the land of Canaan [Genesis 31:3-18]. And on the way back, he was told that Esau who had sworn to take his life [Genesis 27:41], that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred armed horsemen [Genesis 32:6].
It struck panic into the heart of Jacob, and in his subtle ways – and always scheming and always planning – in his innovative ways, Jacob divided his flocks and his herds into groups and sent them ahead of him to meet the four hundred armed horsemen of Esau [Genesis 32:7-8]. Then he took his family and divided them into children according to their mothers, to meet Esau, family at a time [Genesis 32:13-23]. And last of all, he planned to meet his bitter and sworn enemy-brother [Genesis 32:18].
And as the flocks and the herds preceded him, and as the families with their children preceded him, Jacob was left alone at the River Jabbok [Genesis 32:24]. And that night, an Angel wrestled with him – stubborn, willful, and the Angel prevailed not. All night long, Jacob stubbornly, willfully wrestled with the Angel of God. And as it began to dawn toward the day, the Angel touched his thigh, and Israel became a cripple. And Jacob clung to the Angel, saying, "Do not leave me like this. Please God, bless me. Help me. Have pity upon me" [Genesis 32:25-26].
And the Angel replied to him, "What is your name?"
And Jacob said, "My name is Jacob"; supplanter, deceiver, cheater [Genesis 32:27].
And the Angel replied, "No longer will you be known as Jacob. But your new name bestowed from God in heaven is Israel, a prince of God" [Genesis 32:28].
And the Angel left him. And when the sun rose in the morning, and Jacob followed after the flocks and the herds and the families, he halted upon his thigh. He was a cripple. And he walked with a limp and a halt [Genesis 32:31].
And when Esau and his four hundred horsemen met his brother, Jacob – Israel – Jacob went forth to meet him, halting upon his thigh, hurt, broken, crippled. In the thirty-[third] chapter of Genesis, it says: "When Esau saw him, he ran and met him, and kissed him, and they wept together" [Genesis 33:4], broken people, broken!
We have a like story in David. You know, what we don’t realize in the life of David is: an Oriental king could do as he pleased. It was nothing for an Oriental king to build a harem, to add to it another. It was nothing for an Oriental king to pronounce judgment and execution upon any subject in his land.
David, in the sight of the whole world in the day when he lived, had perfect right to do as he pleased. He was the king. But not in God’s sight. And Nathan accused him and confronted him with a message from God: "You are the man who has," and then pronounced a judgment upon David’s life [2 Samuel 12:1-12].
And it broke the great monarch’s heart. And he cried into the ear and heart of the Almighty in Psalm 51: "If it was sacrifice that You desired, I would give it. If it was offerings, I would bring them. But the sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart – a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise" [Psalm 51:16-17] – brokenness, broken hearts, broken people.
It amazes me when I read in 1 Peter 5:6 – he says: "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due season." This is Simon Peter, who was so ebullient and so brazen and so vocal when the Lord was accosted in Gethsemane, in arrest. It was Simon Peter who took out his sword to cut off the heads of those who approached our Master [John 18:10].
How did he get that way? Thrice did he deny that he even knew the Lord. And in the third denial, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and the cock crew [Luke 22:61].
And he remembered the word of our Lord: "That you will deny Me thrice" [Luke 22:34].
And the Book says: "Simon Peter went out and wept bitterly" [Luke 22: 62], a broken man, a broken heart.
I read in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, Paul speaking of himself, and he avows: "I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, touching the law, a Pharisee" – he observed every syllable of it in the strictest manner – "concerning zeal for the people of God, persecuting the church" [Philippians 3:5-6]. Then he adds: "But what was gain for me, I count it loss for Christ; yea, and I count all things but loss, and count them as dung that I might know Him" [Philippians 3:7-8]. What a marvelous avowal!
How did he get that way? In the twelfth chapter of the [second] Corinthians letter, we learn how. The apostle writes:
, Because of the abundance of the revelations given unto me, there was placed in my flesh a thorn, a messenger from Satan to buffet me, to humble me.
And for this I besought the Lord thrice, that He would remove it from me.
But the Lord answered, My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-9]
Therefore said the apostle: "I glory – I take pleasure – I rejoice, in necessities and in persecutions and in trials and in sorrows; for when I am weak, then am I strong" [2 Corinthians 12:10], a broken man. And is this not the paragon we find in our Lord: His sacrifice on the cross, signifying, dramatized in broken bread [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], His torn flesh, and His life poured out for us – a broken heart.
Have you ever read, in your studying; a scientific response to that phenomenon that the apostle John said that he saw when the Lord was dying on the cross? A Roman soldier took an iron spear and thrust it in His heart, and there came out, there poured out, says John, blood and water [John 19:34-35].
Have you ever read a scientific explanation of that? It’s very simple. It’s this: that all of our hearts, every heart, is beating in a sac. It’s called a pericardium. It beats in a sac. There’s a membrane around your heart, all the way around it. And Jesus died of a broken heart. And the blood poured out in that pericardium. And the lipid serum, the white part, separated from the coagulation of the red part. And when that Roman spear thrust into the heart of Jesus, the water flowed out clear: the lipid serum. And the coagulation poured out, the red blood corpuscles.
So the scientist says that literally our Lord died of a broken heart. Broken things, their rebuke has broken His heart.
And our Lord is our paragon. He is our image of love and perfection. And to be like Him is our prayer in every area of our life: more to be like Jesus. And if we pray that, it means we learn of the brokenness of our lives in meaning described, presented, defined by Him.
Broken in illness: I see it all the time. Every day of my life I live in that kind of a world, broken in illness. In one of the services this morning, two different people, just in one service, came to me as I stood there and said, "Pastor, would you pray for me? And would you pray for my family? We’re broken in illness. Broken in sickness."
I one time heard of a teenage girl, sick all of her life, and she heard the hymn sung:
I heard the voice of Jesus say
"Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place
And He hath made me glad.
[from "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say," by Horatius Bonar, 1846]
She turned to her nurse and said, "Nurse, do you know Jesus? Have you found a resting place in Him?" And that Christian nurse brought that broken teenage girl to a rest in Jesus.
I don’t know – literally, I don’t – I don’t know how people do in the presence of tragic illness and there’s nobody to pray to, there’s nobody to go to, there’s no help from heaven. I don’t see how they bear it, broken in illness, sometimes broken in sorrow.
I have come to believe that the greatest burdens of life are not dead burdens or sick burdens. The greatest burdens in life are broken-hearted burdens: these that crush you, seemingly from which you can’t find strength to arise.
I one time heard of a preacher who was a great wonderful pulpiteer, and, upon a day, there were two men talking about him. And one of them said, "What a wonderful and marvelous preacher he is."
And the other said, "When’s the last time you heard him?"
And he said, "Oh, something like five years ago."
And the other one replied, "My brother, you ought to hear him now. You ought to hear him now!" He was a broken man, a crushed man. Brokenness, that’s like our Lord.
And finally: brokenness brings us to Jesus in our need of forgiveness. There’s no one of us but that knows what it is to fall short of the holiness and glory and expectation of God. All of us are alike. The one common denominator that I know in human life is this: "That all of us have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" [Romans 3:23]. I not only know that from the Bible, though the Bible says it, I know it from human experience – all of us, all of us.
We’re not all murderers, maybe. We’re not all bank robbers, maybe. We’re not all terrorists, maybe. But we’re all sinners in the sight of God. All of us have inherited this fallen nature. And in our need of forgiveness, we come to our blessed Lord [Ephesians 1:7]. That’s why He died on the cross: that we might find atoning grace in Him.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
[from "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," William Cowper, 1772]
"Pastor, this broken bread, let me share it with you. I also come to Jesus for forgiveness." "Pastor, this crimson cup, let me share it with you. I need the loving grace of my wonderful Savior." That’s why the memorial Supper.
In one of my little village churches, I had a fine men’s Bible teacher who never shared in the Lord’s Supper. And when I talked to him, he said, "I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy."
That is just the opposite of what the Supper means. It’s because I’m a lost sinner, and it’s because Jesus died for me that He invites me to share that broken bread and that crushed fruit of the vine. If I were perfect and sinless, it would have no meaning for me whatsoever. It’s because I’m a lost sinner, facing the judgment of death, that I come to the wonderful Savior and, under the emblem and in the dramatic form of bread broken and the fruit of the vine crushed red, that I eat and I drink from His gracious and forgiving hands [1 Corinthians 11:23-24].
Dear Lord, how the issue of my life ought to flow in wonder, and love, and thanksgiving, and adoration, and service, and hope in Thee; Jesus our all in all!
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, as the Spirit of God shall lead you in the way, answer with your life. In the balcony round, there’s time and to spare, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have opened my heart God-ward and heavenward and Christ-ward. I have invited Jesus my Savior into my life, and I am coming." Somebody you, "Pastor, I want to be baptized just as my Lord was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, I want to be baptized, and I’m coming." A family you, "Pastor, the Lord hath led us to this dear church, and we’re coming to work, and to pray, and to serve God with you." It’s the Spirit of the Lord that must make the appeal. I am a human voice. It’s God’s voice we must follow after. Come, and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.