THE INCOMPARABLE JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-9-87 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message. It is from John 7:46. Most of the times the message of the pastor will be an exposition, it will be on a passage like a whole chapter, or half a chapter, or a part of a chapter. But the sermon this morning is on a text; it is a textual message. And the text is John 7:46: “The officers answered, Never, ever did a man speak like this Man.” And the title: The Incomparable Christ, the great dissimilar, unique Lord Jesus.
We speak first of this encomium of the constables. They were sent by the Sanhedrin, by the leaders of the temple to arrest the Lord Jesus, but they themselves were arrested by His lofty and earnest eloquence, by the mysticism of His message. These officers of the temple had listened for a generation to the rabbis, as they quoted Hillel and Shammai and Gamaliel and the Talmud. But their appraisal of the Lord Jesus was this: “Never man spake like this Man” [John 7:46].
These constables had been sent to bring in the Lord Jesus for trial. They were armed. They were the policemen of that great thronging area. They were men of law and order [John 7:32]. They were armed with spear and sword and trudgeon.
Our Lord had no ability to respond. He was unarmed. He was like a lamb brought there to the altar of sacrifice, helpless. Why didn’t they seize Him? Why didn’t they take Him? Why didn’t they arrest Him? What stayed their hand? They were mesmerized by His message. And their report to the Sanhedrin was simply this, “Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46].
These policemen, these officers, these constables were men whose background was one of brutal force. That was their assignment. They demanded of the populace, that thronged that great area, obedience to duty and coercion in law. They were the last men in this earth to have been affected by the tones and voice and message of the lowly Lord Jesus. Yet, in their report to the Sanhedrin that had sent them [John 7:32], they had simply this to say: “Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46].
Isn’t it a wonder of God how the stones cry out of the wall, how the beams speak from the very timbers, how God makes the wrath of man to praise Him? It has ever been such. How do you crush the voice of the testimony of God? Cain slays Abel, crushes him in the dust of the ground. But out of the very ground, his blood has been speaking to us through these unending centuries [Genesis 4:8-10]. The martyr is dragged out of his prison cell and is burned at the stake. But his very ashes cry out the testimony for which he died. And he rises from the grave. And the very tombstone is a pulpit from which he delivers the message of God. Our bow is never broken. And our sword is never blunted.
Let us look for just a moment at the Man Himself, Jesus, the great dissimilar, the great unlike, the great unique, the great alone. How unusual and how amazing the words that He speaks, the person of Christ Himself! Others adjure us to find rest and comfort and peace in this direction or in that direction or in yonder direction. But He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28].
The prophets came avowing, “Thus saith the Lord God,” but Jesus came saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you” [John 5:24]. Others have come avowing that they affirm and bear the message of God. He says, “I am the message of heaven”: in this seventh chapter: “I came down from the Father” [John 7:29], and “I and the Father are one” [John 10:30]. Others say, “You find truth here, or the way there, or life yonder.” But He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14: 6]. What an astonishing and an amazing affirmation that all hope, and life, and truth, and salvation are found in Him Himself!
A Plato, a Socrates, a Cicero, a Seneca, an Aurelius will write beautiful eloquent words about the life after death. But He will say, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me . . . shall never, ever die” [John 11:25-26].
How do you compare Him with any of the great of the earth? Could you imagine, in your wildest thoughts, could you imagine Socrates taking the cup of poison hemlock and saying, “This cup is the new promise in my blood, shed for the remission of sins?” [Matthew 26:28]. Could you ever in your wildest conjuration think of a disciple of Plato standing up and saying, “I am crucified with Plato; yet I live, but not I, but Plato liveth in me?” [Galatians 2:20]. My brother, I do not exaggerate it when I say to take Jesus and put Him in a category with any other mortal human being is not nearly so much an offense against orthodoxy as it is an offense against good judgment and common sense. He is unique and alone [Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5], the incomparable Lord Jesus.
May I speak of His simplicity? He stands before us like a towering white shaft. There, the Lord, humble, unadorned, a plain peasant man dressed in the provincial robes of a Galilean. He has no priestly garments. He has no accrediting degrees from a great university. He has no credentials from an official consul. He has no army to force His will. He stands there just alone—a humble, simple, plain peasant. “A bruised reed He would not break; a smoking flax He would not quench” [Matthew 12:20], standing there, just the humble, simple, Lord Jesus Himself. And His words and language are so plain that the humblest child can understand it.
When He speaks, His illustrations are out of common life, chickens and eggs [Luke 11:12], and fish [Luke 11:11], and seed and a farmer [Matthew 13:24], and sowing and reaping [Mark 4:1-20], and a lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], or a lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7]. These are His homely illustrations. I have read that the first foundational principle of greatness is simplicity. And when I think of that simplicity, plainness, humbleness, ordinariness, I think of the great architecture of the world. Have you ever seen the Parthenon, crowning the Acropolis in Athens? Every line in it is straight. Michelangelo said, “Perfection is the perdition of superfluities.”
I read one time where a traveler had come to Athens, having just one day to spend. And he wanted to learn the secret of symmetry and beauty and made his way to the great incomparable sculptor Phidias, that he might learn the principles of symmetry and beauty. And Phidias replied, “Not in a day could I present it, but I’ll show you.” And he unveiled his beautiful Minerva. And the traveler went away with a thousand wonderful principles of beauty and symmetry in his heart. The Lord Jesus is like that. Unveil Him, lift Him up, look upon Him, hear His words, follow His life. My friend, in comparison with other religious systems and philosophers, Jesus is as simple and as plain as a sunbeam.
Pantheism; these academicians would expound and expatiate upon existence and all creation and all life and purpose and how someday it will fall back again into the ‘all in all’ or the ‘world soul.’ That is pantheism. Or another group of academicians will expatiate upon all of the wonderful intricacies of the universe and say that it came from a cloudburst of atoms that, falling through space, gathered together and made the earth and the systems and human life. That is atheistic materialism.
Or agnosticism: an academician will look at a seed turned into the harvest, or the eye adjust to the light, or the creation of a babe in the womb, and he will say, “I cannot know whether there be creation or intelligence in the universe.” That is agnosticism. Or a philosopher will look at human life and avow that all of us are in the iron grip of heredity, our nature and circumstance. That is fatalism.
But if someone brings to your heart this message, “God is our Father in heaven, and He loves and cares for us. And He sent Me to be your Savior and to open for you a door into heaven,” that is the simplicity in Christ. That doctrine and that message has freed the slave, has brought beauty out of ashes, light out of darkness, has turned the course of civilization, has brought hope to a new culture and comfort to the dying saint. “Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]—unique, separate, in its simplicity.
May I make one other avowal? The words that He spoke—“Never man spake like that Man.” The words that He spoke; so kind and gentle and tender and loving and caring; not babyish, not sugarish, not cooing, not malicious, not saccharin, not effeminate, but sympathetic, understanding, many times spoken with many tears, “Never did man speak like that Man.” His insight into the truth of life is a wonder in itself.
How could the Herodians ever forget? When seeking to entrap Him in His speech, they brought Him a denarius, and asked Him whether it was right for a Jew to pay tribute to heathen Caesar [Matthew 22:17], and His reply, “Whose image and whose superscription?” [Matthew 22:20].
“Then, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and render to God the things that are God’s” [Matthew 22:20-21].
Who could ever forget the Sadducees who denied the resurrection? In the conundrum, they had brought before those who believed God was able to raise the dead—that old story of seven brothers who, by the levirate law, had to marry the same woman [Deuteronomy 25:5], and in the resurrection whose wife should she be, because all seven had her [Mark 12:20-23]. And the Lord’s reply concerning the resurrection of the dead: “Did you ever read in God’s Holy Word, I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” [Mark 12:26-27].
“Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]; His insight into the truth that undergirds the foundation of all true light. The lawyer, when asked the great commandment, “Love God and love your neighbor.” And the lawyer asked, “But, who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:25-29]. And the story the Lord told in reply, of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-35], then asks, “Who was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” [Luke 10:36].
“Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]—His words of humility: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]. His words of persuasion: “I am come to seek and to save that which is lost” [Luke 19:10]. “Believe and be saved” [John 11:25-26]. “Follow Me” [Matthew 8:22]. His words of pardon, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more” [John 8:11]. Your sins are forgiven you” [Matthew 9:1, 5]. His words of encouragement and comfort, “Be not afraid. In the world, ye shall have tribulation: be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. His words of promise in our ultimate and final hour, “In My Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will come again” [John 14:2-3].
The second time you see Him, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself that, where I am, there you may be also” [John 14:3]. “Be not afraid; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore… and I, I have the keys of Death and of the Grave” [Revelation 1:17-18]. Or His wonderful invitation in glory, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world” [Matthew 25:34].
Did ever man speak like that Man? [John 7:46]. Do you seek a word of pity? Did anyone ever speak it so tenderly? Do you seek a word of comfort? Did anyone ever say it with such assurance? Do you seek a word of hope? Did anyone ever speak it with such lovely persuasion? Do you seek a word of truth? He never said, “It’s a possibility” or “maybe” or “probably.” Always His words are “Verily, verily I say unto you” [John 3:11, 5:24, 25, 6:47, 8:51, 10:1, 7, 12:24, 13:20, 14:12, 16:20, 23, 21:18] He never speculated or philosophized. He declared the truth of God.
O Lord, how the Spirit of anointing in grace and wisdom rested upon Him! Lord, Lord, who brought life and immortality to light [2 Timothy 1:10], who brings to us words of salvation and grace and presents to us the glory of God [John 10:10, 17:1-3]—how beautiful! How precious to follow Him, to meet Him, to listen to Him, to sit at His feet, to learn of Him [Matthew 11:28-30], to be touched and saved and regenerated and changed by Him! [2 Corinthians 5:17].
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where pleasures and comforts led,
Until one day in a quiet place
I met the Master face to face.
With station and wealth and rank for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race,
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high,
Until they pierced the blue of the sky.
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him, and blushed to see
That His eyes, filled with sorrow, were fixed on me.
I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished, and nought their place,
Naught could I see but the Master’s face.
I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meet
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”
My thought is now for the souls of men.
I lost my life, to find it again.
E’er since, one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
[“Rabboni,” S. T. Carter, Jr., 1899]
There’s no one like Him. He is the great dissimilar and unlike. He is anointed of God. “Never man spake like this Man” [John 7:46]. He is our Lord and our Savior [2 Peter 3:18]. Oh, blessed be His precious name! And that is our appeal to you to love the Lord Jesus, to follow the Lord Jesus, to learn of the Lord Jesus, to give your heart and life in trust to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]; that He be your Friend in the pilgrim way; that He open for you the doors of heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. He is knocking at the door of your heart [Revelation 3:20]. Let Him in. Welcome Savior, welcome. May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, could anything be more precious than to say words of love and gratitude and thanksgiving about Thee? Lord, how grateful I am that as a small boy I opened my heart to that invitation to accept Thee. How grateful I am that through the years of this pilgrimage You have been my Friend. And Lord, one day, either when You come again or when I go to be with You, what a comfort and a consolation that Jesus is my Friend and my Savior [Hebrews 13:5]. And our Lord may that same wonderful kindness, that I learned as a lad, that I trust in today, that I look forward to in the eternity to come be shared by all in divine presence, please, Lord, without loss of one may all of us find our home with Thee, in Thy saving name amen.
In this moment when we sing our appeal, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you to build your home upon our love; a one somebody you to accept the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13], as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. Maybe God is calling you into a consecration, or a special assignment. As the Spirit shall make the appeal, not I but God, say, “Lord yes. This is my day and here I stand.” Out of the balcony down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor today I have decided for Christ and here I come” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Do it, and may angels attend you and God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.