THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-9-89 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Wounds of Jesus.
It says here in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side" [John 19:34]. There were five of those wounds. When He was nailed to the cross, there was a wound in His left hand and a wound in His right hand; there was a wound in His left foot, there was a wound in His right foot. And the fifth one: from the spear of thrust that entered His heart.
When He was raised from the dead, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, the Lord said to the unbelieving and overwhelmed disciples, "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself," [Luke 24:39], the wounds of our Lord. And then in the next chapter here in the Gospel of John, the Thomas who refused to believe He was raised from the dead, He said, "You come and behold My hands – the scars in My hands – and thrust your hand into My side" [John 20:27]. The wounds of our Lord, they are five.
The wounds of our Lord are visible today. And they are wrought by those that I sometimes wonder if they realize what they do. First: the wound brought wrought in the hand of our Lord by His theologians, by His own representatives, by those who are to proclaim His word and to teach His message.
Back yonder, in the last part of the last century, in the 1800s, the Baptists of the North thought to win the great heartland of America to Christ. And they took their Morgan Park Theological Seminary and placed it in the middle of a university. They called the university, The University of Chicago. And the school was built around the seminary. They took up collections in little Sunday school classes in order to build that bastion of faith for the evangelization of Middle America.
In one generation, in one generation, it turned into an infidel school. Professor G. B. Foster, the Baptist teacher and pastor of a Unitarian Church – I quote from him:
An intelligent man who now affirms faith in miracles can hardly know what intellectual honesty means. The hypothesis of God has become superfluous in every science and even in that of religion itself.
Jesus did not transcend the limits of the purely human. He never thought of ascribing a premundane existence to Himself. Nor did He claim to be the judge of the world. It is doubtful if He ever called Himself "The Son of God."
And now I quote from a Chicago newspaper and editorial:
We are struck with a hypocrisy and treachery of these attacks on Christianity. This is a free country and a free age. And men may say what they choose about religion. But this is not what we arraigned these divinity professors for.
Is there no place to assail Christianity but a divinity school? Is there no one to write infidel books except professors of Christian theology? Is a theological seminary an appropriate place for a general massacre of Christian doctrines? We are not championing either Christianity or infidelity. We’re only condemning infidels masquerading as men of God and Christian teachers.
The wounds of Christ: today pierced, hard nails driven into His hand by these who are supposed to be His champions and His teachers. And I have taken the University of Chicago and its divinity school is just typical of the whole world of theology. It is tragic. It is indescribably sad. That’s the wound of Jesus in this hand.
The wound of Jesus, this hand; if you listen, once in a while to Johnny Carson, on his television show, how many times – and he’s just typical of so many – how many times will he bring up Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker and the T.V. evangelists, parading there with their prostitutes? I don’t look at a pornographic magazine, I just read of them in the papers. And there paraded across the pornographic literature, sold in the newsstands of America, are these prostitutes and their vivid and livid stories of their cohabitation and exhibition with these preachers on television.
It has no effect on me at all if every television evangelist under God’s sky lived every day of his life with a prostitute or paid her to exhibit herself before him. It would have no effect upon me at all; absolutely none. But to the world out there, it’s a wound. It’s a hurt. It’s a blasphemous phenomenon.
I’ve been challenged many times when I avow here in the pulpit that AIDS and a venereal disease is a judgment of Almighty God. If you lived in a monogamous marriage, giving your life to someone you love, you’d never have to review gonorrhea or syphilis or AIDS. You’d never know what it was. It’d cease to exist. It’s because of the compromise of the man and the woman who refuse to give themselves in love and grace to one another that this judgment of God falls upon this earth.
And to think that leaders in that promiscuity and compromise are these men who stand before the world, preaching the Gospel of Christ is almost unthinkable and unimaginable and indescribable. It’s a wound in the body of our Lord.
The wounds of Jesus: a third one, described in drugs and drinking. Any substance that affects the mind is a drug. Whether it be crack, or cocaine, or marijuana, or heroine, or alcohol; anything that affects the mind is a drug. And the leading of all of the drugs by far is alcohol. And who leads in drinking alcohol, the drug? Your preachers and your Christian church people. I sat down here in the Dallas area in this city of Dallas with thirty-five ministers, and there was a bottle of liquor at every table. The only ones that didn’t drink was a layman and I who were present – ministers of the gospel, liturgical ministers of the gospel.
And the reason we are helpless before the drug culture is because of the church and the people of God. They drink. And how are you going to teach a youngster that this drug is all right, but this drug is not all right. To them, it’s a culture. And to think it’s God’s people who drive that nail into the hands of our Lord.
I want to point out something to you in history. In the days of prohibition, and I lived through them, there was an incomparable optimism that we were going to win this battle against crime. America’s best known criminologist, Dr. George W. Kirchwey, president of the American Institute of Criminal Law, director of the National Society of Penal Information, the commissioner of Prison Reform in the state of New York and the warden of Sing Sing penitentiary; he said, "Let us take courage from the official record covering the years to 1927, which shows a mark decline of thirty-five to forty percent in the crime rate in the United States. And this is not withstanding the new crimes resulting from liquor, drugs, and traffic laws enacted since 1910. We are winning the battle against crime and it’s gone down in America thirty-five to forty percent in the days of prohibition."
Then the repeal of the eighteenth amendment; Sanford Bates, director of Federal Prisons, after that repeal said, "In the first year of repeal, prison population increased by twenty-five percent. And the increase in crime was beyond estimate." Federal Judge Hopkins said, "Repeal appears to have increased bootlegging to a scale heretofore unknown." And the chairman of the special senate committee to investigate crime said, "The corruption brought about by the racketeers of today in our larger cities makes the corruption of prohibition days look like kindergarten play." And Dr. George Thompson, the University of Southern California, in the School of Medicine, said, "Sixty-five percent, now, of all American women drink. Seventy percent of all teenagers drink, and eighty percent of all college students drink." And the FBI said, "Crime is increasing five times faster than our population."
And what they would say as of this moment, I do not know. Who leads in that? God’s people who drink! That’s a drug like any other drug. What we think to do is we’ll take the profits from the sale of alcohol, the drug, and we’ll use it to rehabilitate these drunkards, and we’ll use it to rehabilitate these teenagers who are introduced to liquor. I want to ask you which is better – not to or to try to find money in order to rehabilitate?
Do you look at television ever? Can you imagine the endlessness of the advertisement of liquor? Do you read a newspaper or a magazine? Can you believe the endlessness of the advertisement of liquor?
T’was a dangerous cliff, as they fully confessed,
Though to walk near the crest was so pleasant,
But over the terrible edge there had slipped,
A duke and full many a peasant.
So, the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally.
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,"
And some said, "Buy an ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry of the ambulance carried the day
For it spread through the neighboring city.
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brim full of pity,
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers of highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence – not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked, "It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing the results than to stopping the cause;
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source, all this hurting," cried he,
"Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally.
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
"To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling."
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than to deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
[from "The Ambulance in the Valley," by Joseph Malins, 1895]
Great God, what will happen to us? I do not know. The crime rate in our city; this town, the crime rate in our capital city of the United States; the crime rate among our people is accelerating at a vast and unbelievable increase. And it comes mostly from our drug culture; drinking and all that is attendant. And who leads it? Your liturgical preacher and the church of the Christian faith. God help us.
The wounds of Jesus – I have to be so brief and I am so distressed that I have to be – the Wounds of Jesus, these cults: in the Book of the Revelation;
To the church at Ephesus,
Thou has tried them which say they are apostles, and are not – found them liars.
To the church at Pergamos,
Thou has them that hold the doctrine of Balaam,
Thou hast them also that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
And to the church at Thyatira,
I have this against thee, thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants.
These far out cults, these sects, they knock at your door. When you walk through the airport, there you’ll see them. They’re represented by these stars in Hollywood and the literature they write. And the doctrine that they seek to proclaim is beyond description.
Do you remember that phrase in 2 Corinthians 11:3, "The simplicity that is in Christ"? Remember the definition of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15? It is a simple, always a simple message. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day He was raised according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. That’s the gospel.
And the simple acceptance of the atoning grace and love of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8], and a commitment of heart and life to Him [Matthew 16:24] is the whole sum and substance of the Christian faith. But these far-out sects, these cults, and they proliferate – it is an amazing thing to me; the wounds of Jesus, hurting the body of our Lord.
And the fifth wound; and this is the most tragic of all. The fifth wound: one of the soldiers, with his spear, thrust it into His heart [John 19:34] – the fifth wound.
When Jesus came to Golgotha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet
And made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
But when Jesus came to Dallas town
They simply passed Him by.
They hurt not a hair of His head,
They only let Him die;
The crowds went home and left the street
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against the wall,
And cried for Calvary.
[from "When Jesus Came to Birmingham"; by G. A. Studdert-Kennedy]
Anything but to pass Him by; anything but to be indifferent.
In a meeting one of the men said, "Our churches are voting against Christ with their feet." Well, I never had heard that phrase before. "We vote against the Lord with our feet." And I asked him, "What do you mean, ‘We vote against the Lord with our feet?’"And he said, "An instance is Sunday night. How many of your people will be at church Sunday night? Their feet take them to other places. But their feet don’t take them to church." How many of you are going to be here Sunday night – this Sunday night? This is God’s day. This is the Lord’s day. This is the day that Jesus was raised from the dead. And our people are invited out of the love of God to dedicate today to Him.
We use the day for every kind of a recreation that mind can imagine. Would you believe that when I was a boy you could not play baseball on Sunday? It’s another culture; it’s another day.
And the tragedy of the indifference; Lord Hugh Cecil, son of the famous Lord Salisbury, premier of Great Britain, declared that the great danger that threatens us is not that people will regard Christ as untrue. But that they will come to regard Him as unnecessary. The conquests of medical science, social reform are helping lessen belief in sin and consequently belief in the need of a divine Redeemer. "We just don’t need Him." With all of the achievements of science and medicine and the progress of these marvelous, mechanical instruments in our hands, what do we need Jesus for? What do we need God for? Forget Him. Typical; in the London, England paper, there is a quotation from Beatle John Lennon – who by the way was murdered and is in the fires of judgment this minute – I’m quoting John Lennon before he was murdered:
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We the Beatles are more popular than Jesus. I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus’ disciples were thick headed and ordinary.
["How Does a Beatle Live"; Maureen Cleave, London Evening Standard, March 1966]
That is the modern assessment of the faith of our Lord; the wounds of Jesus, to pass Him by.
I think of a heart cry of Jeremiah. "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow" [Lamentations 1:12]. And as I read that lamentation from the prophet Jeremiah, I think of our Lord as He looks upon this fallen world today. And He invites us to look at the wounds in His hands, and in His feet, and in His side [Luke 24:39; John 20:27]. And I think He is hurt more and wounded more in this modern generation in which God has cast our life and lot than when He was nailed to the cross.
O God, how we need a great turning, a great visitation from heaven, a great revival, a great outpouring of the saving Spirit of God. Lord remember us.
May we pray for the moment? Our Savior, it is been no happiness and gladness on the part of anyone in divine presence to look upon the wounds of our Savior and to see our divine Lord so hurt. O God, whatever others may say, or do, or choose, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And we pray that there’ll be a like dedication on the part of these thousands of people who are in Thy dear church called the First Baptist Church of Dallas. We don’t drink. We don’t use drugs. We don’t compromise the faith. We give ourselves in humble submissiveness and deepest grateful gratitude to the love of God. Master, may the Spirit of our Savior be evident in the beautiful life we live and the purity and virginity of our testimony. And our Lord, sanctify and hallow our gathering together in this sacred place, and the appeal we make for Thee, in Thy dear and saving name, amen.
In this moment in which we sing our hymn of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, to listen to the voice of our Savior; while we sing the song, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And God bless and angels attend in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.