The Wonder and Worship of Jesus
December 23rd, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
THE WONDER AND WORSHIP OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-23-87 7:30 p.m.
The title of the message tonight is The Wonder and Worship of Our Lord Jesus. And I have a passage in the first chapter of Matthew and then two verses in the second chapter. Matthew 1, verse 18:
Now the birth of Jesus the Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together as man and wife, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, do not hesitate to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name the Savior, Jesus, Savior: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet Isaiah, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel—with us is God—which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn Son: and he called His name the Savior, Jesus, Savior.
Now the two in Matthew chapter 2:
The wise men, the magi, came from the East . . . saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.
And the eleventh:
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The Wonder and Worship of Jesus Our Lord.
I love that little phrase that I hear so often in these Christmas days; “Jesus is the reason for the season.” There has to be some accounting for Christ. We are faced with a great fact; namely the Lord Jesus. There is no life, there are no words, there are no deeds, there is no character comparable to His.
Charles Lamb the tremendously gifted English writer with a company of the most illustrious of the literary men of his age were together. And they began talking about what they would do if these of the great of the past were to come into their presence. And one of them said, “If Shakespeare were to come into our group, we would rise to greet him.” And another one said, “If Jesus were to come into our presence, we would kneel before Him in worship.”
That is so true. There is none on all the pages of history that is comparable to our Lord Jesus, none. There’s no life like His. There are no words like His. There is no character like His. There are no miraculous works like His. Jesus is the great different. He is the great separate. He is the great apart. He is the great unique. He is the great incomparable.
In our biblical account, Matthew wrote from the standpoint of Joseph, but Doctor Luke wrote from the standpoint of Mary, and in their writing, both of them presented in a glorious way the virgin birth of our Lord [Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-16]. There is no thing in history, or in the Bible, or in human experience that has been assailed with the vehemence and the viciousness as the story, the revelation of the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus.
To us who are humble believers in the Lord, that seems so strange. But it’s a fact and a harsh one. There’s nothing in history that has been denounced with the vehemence and the viciousness as the virgin birth of our Lord. For example, in the Talmud—which is a lengthy, lengthy, lengthy recounting of all of the oral tradition of the Jewish people; a Babylonian Talmud and a Palestinian Talmud, two of them—in the Talmud there is the tradition written that Mary and a dissident Roman soldier are accountable for the birth of the Lord Jesus. And uncounted Jews through all the centuries have believed that, that Jesus is the illegitimate son of Mary of Nazareth and a dissident Roman soldier.
In modern liberal criticism, they say that the story of the birth of our Lord is just another one of those unbelievable, mythological tales that fill the Greek and Roman day with the stories of the birth of the gods and the goddesses. And this is just one more of those mythological tales. We live in a scientific age, so our pseudoscientists have come up with a skeptical and materialistic account of the virgin birth of our Lord. There’s no doubt but there is a great fact to face; the fact of Jesus Christ.
Such as the fact of the universe; it’s around us, we live in it, and we cannot escape it. It is here. Now matter is inert. It does not give birth to anything. So these pseudoscientists, in seeking to explain the marvelous entrance of our Lord into human life, have a theory that they call parthenogenesis.
There are certain plant lice; there’s certain fungi; there’s certain algae that propagate themselves from unfertilized spores and eggs. And these pseudoscientists seeking to explain the marvelous fact of Jesus say that Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus in the same way that an unfertilized lice, or a fungi, or an algae multiply themselves. They put Mary in the class of lice, and bugs, and insects. It is astonishing, the lengths to which men who are unbelieving go to try to explain the marvel of the Lord Jesus.
Now in our review, we cannot deny that something has been introduced into the human race unparalleled and unprecedented. There is nothing like Jesus in history. Human history breaks away into a new and a different form in Him. Christ is different.
Compare Him with anyone; anyone you can think of, anyone you can name, anybody in human story. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Gautama the Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Shakespeare, Milton, Washington, Lincoln; name anyone in human story and compare that someone to the Lord Jesus. It is not so much an insult to history as it is a piece of sheer inanity. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t compare.
The account of the birth of our Lord Jesus is of one piece with the rest of His wondrous and wonderful life. In the first chapter of Matthew out of which I read, in the twenty-second verse, “All of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord through the prophet, saying” [Matthew 1:22]; then that glorious prophecy of the virgin birth of our Lord [Matthew 1:23-25]<<<<<. The prophetic picture of our Savior in His life and in His birth are all one and the same.
In keeping with the work and the order of God, out of the dust was brought forth the man [Genesis 2:7], and out of the man was brought forth the woman [Genesis 2:21-23]. And out of the woman was brought forth the Son [Matthew 1:22-23], and out of the Son was brought forth the church [Ephesians 5:25], His body, the redeemed family of God [Ephesians 1:23]. I do not think that in all of the Bible there is more an amazing prophecy than the one in Genesis 3:15; the Seed of the woman, the Seed of the woman.
Now to begin with, a woman doesn’t have seed, it is the man that has seed. Yet the prophecy says the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15]. Most remarkable thing; it is the woman that is to bring forth the Savior of the world, to deliver us from our sins, to teach us the way of God, to open for us the doors of heaven. In the beginning, in the garden of Eden, God said, in prophecy, the Seed of the woman [Genesis 3:15]. So He is to be born of the woman, not of the man; the woman, the virgin birth of our Savior [Matthew 1:22-23].
I have just said that the whole story of the birth of our Lord is of a piece with all of His wondrous life. It is just the same; the marvelous birth [Matthew 1:18-25], the marvelous life, the marvelous words, and the marvelous deeds, and the marvelous miracles, and the marvelous resurrection [Matthew 28:1-6].
One of the interesting things to me is a quotation of a song, a hymn that they sang in the days of the apostle Paul. And Paul quotes it is 1 Timothy 3:16 Here it is: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory.” That’s a first Christian century hymn, and it’s all of a piece. It’s all the same texture; the mystery of godliness, the Lord’s intervention of grace and love in our human race.
It’s a wonder. What is it? It’s all of a piece. God was manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16], His virgin birth [Matthew 1:23-25]; justified in the Spirit [1 Timothy 3:16], witnessed to by the Holy Ghost; praised by the angels, singing, glorifying [Luke 2:13-14], preached unto the nations! [1 Timothy 3:16] I’ve heard it. We’ve listened to it, believed in the world a miracle [1 Timothy 3:16]; Jesus accepted in our hearts and lives and received up into glory [1 Timothy 3:16]. It’s all of a piece; born of a virgin [Matthew 1:23-25], resurrected from the dead [Matthew 28:1-6], ascended into heaven.
We, with these who were present at the birth of our Lord, look upon the miracle with wonder and adoration. Joseph, Joseph; somehow all of us seem born to misunderstand the great and the noble and the heavenly things of life. But God helped him when he turned over in his mind what should he do with Mary, with whom he had not yet lived as a wife, and yet she is there before him with child [Matthew 1:18-20].
What should he do? All of us have that weakness to misunderstand. We don’t comprehend. We are faulty in our faculties. So God helped him, and he responded nobly and beautifully [Matthew 1:20-25]. Praise God that he did.
And Mary, in the Scriptures she is no imaginary woman. Her story is literal and human. She lived a common, human life. Enough is said to present the beauty and purity of her days, but little enough is said not to magnify her into a feminine goddess of fanatical theology.
She is here long enough to be seen, to be understood, to be attested, affirmed, and then she is gone. She is not a theatrical woman. She is not a paper goddess. She is a woman with other children.
Did you remember the Word? Joseph took unto him his wife and knew her not [Matthew 1:25], did not live with here until she brought forth her firstborn, her firstborn Son [Matthew 1:25]. He was not with her as a husband until that first Baby was born, then he lived with her. And she brought forth her firstborn Son [Matthew 1:25]. She had another, and another, and another [Matthew 13:55].
Then she is buried. Mary is buried without a funeral, without a grave marker, without an epitaph. The eye cannot follow the swift movement of her passing. Here in the purpose of God a virgin mother, then having accomplished the purpose of the Lord in the earth, she is taken away, and we cannot follow the swiftness of the flight of her passing.
So the interest and the involvement of heaven in the birth of this wonderful Child; the angel Gabriel speaking to Zechariah the priest [Luke 1:5-20], and the same angel Gabriel announcing the coming of the Child to Mary [Luke 1:26-38], then this speaking of the Lord God to Joseph [Matthew 1:20-21], then the angels announcing to the startled shepherds [Luke 2:8-12], and finally the guiding star to the magi who kneel and worship before the Lord [Matthew 2:1-11]. And that reaches down to us. I am so overwhelmed by the unconscious, unplanned tribute of the whole world to the blessed Jesus.
I go into these stores. The man that owns it may be a rank infidel. And these who run it may be as far away from the Christian faith as heaven is from earth. When I walk through the store, I hear them singing on the PA system; “Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her King,” or, “O Come Let Us Adore Him.”
It is marvelous. It is wonderful. It’s of heaven, and the lights, and the color, and the season of rejoicing, and the giving of gifts in His name, and the love that pulls the family together; all of it is just a part of the wonder of the worship of the blessed Lord Jesus. God be praised, and the Lord be honored.
Now may we bow our heads? In this moment when we pray, is there someone here tonight to give himself to the Lord Jesus, or to come into the fellowship of our church, or to answer a call of the Lord in your heart? Would you hold up your hand? “Pastor, I’m here tonight, and I want to take the Lord as my Savior.” Or, “I want to give my life to Him in a special way”; or answer the call of the Holy Spirit of God, or to come into the fellowship of His church; anywhere? Wonderful Savior, just thank Thee for the privilege of naming Thy name, of standing in this sacred place, adoring and worshiping Thee, O Thou Son of heaven, our Savior, our hope forever, amen.
THE WONDER AND WORSHIP OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. An accounting for Christ
A. Biblical account – no truth assailed with greater vehemence, viciousness
1. Talmud tradition that Mary and a dissident Roman soldier are accountable for the birth of Jesus
2. Modern liberal criticism – Jesus is just a myth like any other myth
3. Skeptical pseudo-science materialistic account
B. Our review
1. Undeniably something has been introduced into the human race, unparalleled, unprecedented
2. Account of His birth is of one piece with the rest of His life
II. We look on with adoration, wonder
A. Joseph – God helped Joseph understand what we are born to misunderstand. Joseph responded nobly
B. Mary – no imaginary woman, living a common human life
C. Interest, involvement of heaven
D. God reaching down to us today