THE MAGNETIC CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-17-88 10:50 a.m.
We are in John, chapter 12. And in the midst, in the middle of chapter 12, are these words, beginning in verse 20:
There were certain Greeks . . . who came to the feast:
The same came to Philip… and desired Him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus.
Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
Then follows His answer to that appeal [John 12:23-31], and it closes with verse 32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32].
This is one of the significant passages in the Word of God. It introduces a new dispensation, a new covenant, a new era, when this was brought to the Lord; the coming of these Greeks to see Him [John 12:20-21]. It wrought deep perturbation in His soul. And as He answered, He spoke of death, the seed that must die to make possible the harvest [John 12:23-24]. And He spoke in verse 27 of the trouble in His soul, and of the hour that should come [John 12:27], and finally, this text: “If I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto Me. This spake He, signifying by what death”—by crucifixion—“by what death He should die.” [John 12:32, 33]
It is noticeable, most so, that John the apostle writes this between the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem on Sunday [John 12:1] and the Passover on Thursday night [John 13:1]. The other evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke write extensively of the things that happen. But the apostle John writes just one incident; it is this [John 12:23-33].
Do you notice that they come to the two disciples that are named Greeks? They have Greek names, Philip and Andrew [John 12:22]. And do you see the consternation, the puzzlement, that it precipitated in those two disciples? They did not know what to do, these Greeks coming to see Jesus. You see, the word here is hellenes, Greeks, pagan Greeks. They are not Hellenists. Hellenists are Greek-speaking Jews. But, hellenes are Greeks, pagan Greeks. They evidently had been attracted by the monotheism of the Jewish religion and by the high ethical standards of the faith. And having heard of the Lord Jesus, they wanted to see Him, wanted to talk to Him, wanted to visit [John 12:20-21]. But these two Greek-named disciples, Philip and Andrew, didn’t know what to do.
Now, I’m going to read you why the consternation. In the tenth chapter of Matthew, verses 5 and 6, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying: Go not into the way of the Gentiles . . . but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:5-6]. The gospel of the kingdom was not prepared for the Gentiles. It was for the Jew, the Old Covenant in your Bible, you call it the Old Testament. Now the Lord had said that to those disciples: “Do not you go to the Gentile. You go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:5-6]. Now that’s not unique or alone in the ministry of our Lord. If you turn to the fifteenth chapter of same Gospel of Matthew, verse 24: “Jesus answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 15:24].
Well, what should you do with these pagan Greeks who come to seek the Lord [John 12:21] when the Lord Himself said, “I am not sent but to the lost in the house of Jacob”? [Matthew 15:24]. It’s dispensational. You see, the way God deals with people, that’s a dispensation. In the Old Covenant—in my Bible, it’s called the Old Testament—the message was from Moses and to the children of Israel [John 1:17]. But there is to be a new covenant, a new testament, a new dispensation. The apostle Paul writes of that at great length in the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians. There was a middle wall of partition between that Gentile Greek, outside of the covenant of God, and that Jew, that Israelite, who was in the Old Testament covenant. And Paul, of course, speaks at great length of the taking away of that “middle wall of partition” by the blood of Christ [Ephesians 2:11-14].
So the gospel is of a new dispensation, of a new covenant, of a new testament. Our Lord said, “Go not but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24]. But when you come to the end of the gospel message, in Matthew 28:18-20:
All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and preach the gospel to all the nations, all of them, baptizing them in the name of the triune God, and I will be with you till the end of the age.
That’s this dispensation. “And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. If you look closely at your King James Version, that “men” is in italics, which means it’s not in the text. It’s not in the Greek. The word there is panta, “all,” panta, “all.” When the gospel is preached, when Christ is lifted up, when the atoning grace of our Lord is delivered to the people, not every individual will respond. Not all, panta; all kinds, out of every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and language, and speech, and color, red and yellow, black and white learned and unlearned, rich and poor. Out of every section and part and parcel of people they will come.
This last week, we had our Scholarshare banquet for our preacher college here. And one of the things they did that night—they have over there about forty-three students from all the nations of the world, and that night they had about fifteen of them lined up, and one by one they came and spoke of the nation from whence they come and quoted a favorite verse of Scripture in their native language. And as I sat there and looked at them: black from Africa, and yellow from Asia, and brown from South America, and Anglo from Europe—all over the world. Oh, what a gospel! “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw panta—from every class, and piece, and parcel of humanity—I will draw them unto Me” [John 12:32].
That was so when He was lifted up. God intended that His Son be exposed publicly. He was crucified beyond the Damascus Gate, on the great highway leading into Jerusalem [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12]. And the Gospels are careful to point out that there were multitudes who looked at Him [Luke 23:27, 35]. He was crucified naked [Matthew 27:35]. The artists are very kind; they always clothe Him with some kind of a loincloth. But He wasn’t crucified covered, ever. He was exposed, all of Him. God intended that His Son be seen in the whole world.
When He was taken down from the cross, it was just the beginning. When those two disciples walked to Emmaus, suddenly a third walked by their side; it was the Lord Jesus [Luke 24:13-16]. And as they walked along and were sad, the stranger says: “Why the fallen countenance and the broken heart?” [Luke 24:17].
And they replied, “You, are You only the stranger in Jerusalem, and You do not know what has happened in these last days?” [Luke 24:18]. And from that hour until this, the depth of the magnetic meaning and message of the cross has been deepening with every passing day. And I today am a part of it, preaching, after 1,988 years, preaching the gospel of the blood atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord.
How to reach the masses, men of every birth? For an answer, Jesus gave the key: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. This is the great commandment and commitment of the true pastor and preacher: preaching the blood atonement, the forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus [1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 4:10-11].
When you turn to the 1 Corinthians letter, chapter 2, verse 2, Paul writes there: “My brethren, I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2]. “I determined”: why that avowal in such affirmation? The answer’s very plain: wherever Paul preached they persecuted him, they beat him, they stoned him, they imprisoned him [2 Corinthians 11:23-25], except when he came to the intellectual university city of Athens. And when Paul stood before the Areopagus and delivered to them the message of the crucified Lord and His resurrection, the Stoic philosophers just graciously bowed: “Yes. Yes. We will hear thee again of this matter [Acts 17:22-32]. Yes. Yes. Yes” and they walked away. And the Epicurean philosophers were more crude. They laughed: “Ha, ha, ha! Such inanity, such a ridiculous thing” [Acts 17:32], and they walked away.
You know there’s something about psychology. You can be beat, and opposed, and stormed. It may not bother you. It may just affirm your commitment. But if you’re laughed at, I don’t care who you are—if you’re laughed at, it does something to the disintegration of your very soul, to be scoffed and scorned. That’s what happened to Paul. And as he walked from the university city of Athens across the isthmus to the city of Corinth [Acts 18:1], he struggled in his soul, as every preacher will struggle in his soul, sometime, somewhere, “Shall I stay by the old faith? Shall I preach the gospel of the blood? Or shall I exchange it for the latest sophistry, the latest fad?” Paul came to the conclusion: “My brethren, I have determined, whether I am preaching to a mob, or to a mass, or to a king, I am determined I am going to stay by the old cross, preaching the blood of the Son of God” [1 Corinthians 2:2].
I one time heard of an engineer who drove his train to a wreck. And they called him before the board of inquiry. And the engineer said, “Sir, I saw the flag, and it was white.” And the railroad employee said, “It was red.” The flag was called for. It had been red, but the color had washed out of it, it was white. That’s the way with so much of the preaching of the gospel: the color, the blood, has been washed out of it. Think of the marvelous opportunity of the teacher of God’s Word: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]; lifting up the Lord before the class, before the listeners, before the pupils.
I one time heard of a wee, timorous little woman who, because no one else would volunteer, offered to teach a dozen boys in an intermediate class. It frightened her to death at the prospect. And when she came, that little timorous woman, before that dozen boys, those young intermediates, they just thought, “What a joke!” And the next Sunday that she was there, they brought with them a snake and handed it around. It nearly paralyzed that little timid soul, those boys there with that snake. But in the power of the Spirit of God, she reached forth her hand and asked for it. And she took it right back of the neck. And that snake coiled itself around her arm.
And she held it up and quoted John 3:14:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And in no time at all, she had all twelve of those rough, uncouth intermediate boys in the kingdom of Christ.
It’s a glorious thing. No matter where in the Bible your text, you can preach Jesus. If, as I am doing now on Wednesday night, preaching the creation in Genesis, He is the great Creator [Genesis 1:1-31; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16]. If it’s the Flood, He is the ark of hope [Genesis 6:17-18, 7:1, 7, 13, 16, 23]. If it’s the wilderness wanderings, He is the Rock from whence flows the water of life [Exodus 17:6] and the manna of bread from heaven [Exodus 16:12-15; John 6:35, 41, 48, 51].
Somebody said to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great London preacher, “You sound alike in every one of your sermons. They all sound alike.” And Spurgeon said, “That’s right. No matter where I take my text, I make a beeline to the cross.”
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. To the architect, He is the chief cornerstone [Acts 4:11]. To the astronomer, He is the Bright and the Morning Star [Revelation 22:16]. To the farmer, He is the Lord of the harvest [Matthew 9:38]. To the florist, He is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley [Song of Solomon 2:1]. To the baker, He is the bread of life [John 6:35, 41, 48]. To the banker, He is the pearl of price [Matthew 13:46]. To the judge, He is the supreme justice of the Supreme Court [2 Corinthians 5:10]. To the jury, He is the faithful and true witness [Revelation 1:5]. To the lawyer, He is the Advocate [1 John 2:1] and Counselor [Isaiah 9:6]. To the doctor, He is the great Physician [Matthew 12:15]. To the educator, He is the incomparable Teacher [John 3:2]. To the professor, He is the way, and the truth [John 14:6]. To the theologian, He is the author and the finisher of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. To the lost, He is the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29]. And to us who are saved, He is our Lord and our God [John 20:28].
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. Think what that can mean in a household, in a home. I tried to find it, and I couldn’t put my hands on it; I read one time a poem that moved my soul. It was entitled, “Since Jesus Came to Our House.” It was a poem of a little child, how God had changed the home—father, mother—how God had changed the home. “Since Jesus Came to Our House.”
Yesterday, I was so complimented. There was a couple who came down here from Muskogee, Oklahoma for me to marry them. I had no idea who they were. I’d been gone forty-four years. But they were from Muskogee, where I was pastor, and we had their marriage ceremony in our chapel.
As I looked at them, and as I thought, and because of this sermon I was preparing, my mind went back a long time ago to the Kiamichi Valley, where were such desperados and outlaws. And one of those men, a murderer and a robber, was sentenced to be executed in the penitentiary at McAlister, Oklahoma. And he made a last request before he died. He asked that he might see his little girl. What had happened was, when they captured him and sentenced him to die, the law took the little child from the shanty in the Kiamichi Valley, and the little girl was adopted by a sweet Christian home. And in that beautiful, precious Christian home, the little girl was taught about the Lord Jesus. When the state acquiesced in the last request of that condemned criminal, they brought the little girl to the penitentiary in McAlister to see her father before he was executed. And she told him about the Lord, about Jesus, and the things that she was being taught in that Christian home.
What happened was, when the state papers published the story of the execution of that criminal in the penitentiary at McAlester, Oklahoma; they quoted a sentence from what he said before he died. And the sentence was this, “If we could have known Jesus in the Kiamichi Valley, everything would have been so different.” He does make a difference. He will make a difference in any heart, in any house, in home, in any life, in any business. He changes things.
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. Let me hasten to close. That’s our incomparable privilege; to speak a good word for Jesus—not to argue, not to debate, not to be coercive, least of all not to be offensive—but, just in the daily rounds of life, saying a good word for our Lord.
I one time heard of a commuter on the Long Island train that comes from the subway out of New York City. And what I read was that, for years, for years, there was a beautifully dressed young man—soft-spoken, kind, who at the five o’clock commuter train every evening would go to the head of the cars. And he would walk through the train and say this, “Excuse me, sir,” or “Excuse me, miss, if there is a member of your family who is blind, or if you know of a friend who is blind, tell them to see Dr. Carl. He restored my sight.” No argument, no debate, just “I was blind, but now I can see.”
When I read that, I thought of the ninth chapter of this Gospel of John. And the Lord opened the eyes of that blind man [John 9:1-7]. It was an insult to the Sanhedrin, and they called him before the high court and said, “This man Jesus is an insurrectionist. He is a seditionist. He is a sinner.” And his reply was, “Whether He is a seditionist or an insurrectionist or a sinner, I do not know. All I know is that, whereas I was blind, now I can see” [John 9:13-25].
That’s the way with us. There are ten thousand theological questions—and I’ve given my life to the study of them—there are ten thousand that I can’t answer. There are so many providences that are inexplicable to me, they are beyond number. All I know is this: that Jesus is the best Friend any soul ever had. He is a yokefellow. He is a companion without peer. And He will stand by us in the hour of our trial, in the hour of our death, and He has promised to open for us the gates of heaven [John 14:1-3]. That’s enough for me.
You who are listening on television, all you have to do is to realize your need of the Lord. That’s all. Whether you’re good or bad, whether you’re taught or untaught, whether you’re rich or poor, whether you’re black or white, these things are nothing in the sight of God. It’s just your need of the Lord. And if you’ll ask Him to come into your heart, He will. If you’ll ask Him to walk by your side, He will [Romans 10:8-13]. If you’ll ask Him to stand by you in the hour of need, He will [John 14:13].
And someday, when we die, He has promised to receive us to Himself in heaven [John 14:2-3]; a blessing to your own heart, to the house and home in which you live, to the work to which you give your heart and hand as long as life shall last, now and forever. He is our Savior [1 John 4:14]. He is our Lord, He is our God [John 20:28; Titus 2:13]. Open your heart to Him today; now.
A. This passage
introduces a new dispensation (John 12:20-23, 27, 32-33)
B. Philip and Andrew
did not know what to do (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24)
C. Gospel is of a new
dispensation (Ephesians 2, Matthew 28:18-20)
1. He will draw
D. God intended that
His Son be seen in the whole world
II. The glorious privilege of the pastor,
A. Preaching the blood
atonement, forgiveness of our sins in Christ Jesus
of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:2)
III. The glorious opportunity of the Sunday
A. Timid woman teaching
intermediate boys’ class (John 3:14)
B. No matter where the
text, you can preach Jesus
IV. The glorious calling of parents
A. Poem, “Since Jesus
Came to Our House”
B. Kiamichi Valley home
V. The glorious open door for every
A. To speak a good word