THE ATTRACTIVE CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-29-90 8:15 a.m.
And welcome, the uncounted 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; and I want you to turn the lights on these people so I can see them. I do not preach to an empty crowd. Now, that is a lot better. And leave more lights on, because I look at you when I preach, and when you look stupid and dumb, it bothers me. And when you are bright and intelligent, oh! I am encouraged.
The message this morning is an exposition of the first part of the Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark. It is entitled The Attractive Christ, The Dynamic Lord. The text is in Mark 1:37, pantes, then you have in italics “men”; pantes—All, everybody, men, women, and children, “seek after Thee.”
Now you look at the introduction of our Lord in this [Second] Gospel. Mark 1:33: “And all the city was gathered together at the door.” And 37: “And when they found Him, they said, All seek for Thee” [Mark 1:37]. In verse 45 of Mark 1: “He went out, this man who was healed, and published abroad how the Lord had touched him: and they came to Him from every quarter” [Mark 1:45]. Then in the second chapter, verse 2: “Straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them” [Mark 2:2]. And in that same second chapter, verse 15: “It came to pass, as Jesus sat with publicans and sinners at meat, that there also came many who followed Him” [Mark 2:15]. And in chapter 3, verse 7: “Jesus withdrew with His disciples: and a great multitude followed Him from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond Jordan in Perea, Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard the things that He had done” [Mark 3:7-8]. And in that same third chapter, verse 20: “And the multitude came together again, so much so they could not even eat” [Mark 3:20]. And the beginning verse in chapter 4: “He began to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so He entered a boat, sat in the sea, and the whole multitude sat by the sea on the land” [Mark 4:1]. When I read these verses, immediately, immediately you sense the tremendous appeal of our Lord. Wherever He was, He was thronged on every hand and on every side.
Now there is a reason for that. In that first chapter, verse 41: “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him” [Mark 1:41]. This little pericope here is a description of our Lord’s healing of a leprous man. “Jesus, moved with compassion” is ever His enduring name. Do you wonder, in those multitudes that pressed our Lord on every side, how did that leprous man just walk up to Him? How did he get to Him? Well, the answer is very obvious when you read the Mosaic law: a leper had, wherever he moved, by law, he had to cover his face with his hand and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. And as he walked anywhere, he had to cover his face with his hand and cry, “Unclean!” So wherever he walked there was a chilling circle around him: the people fell away. Therefore he just walked through the multitude, right up to the Lord Jesus [Mark 1:40].
Well, what did the Lord do? “Jesus, filled with compassion,” Jesus stood there and welcomed him. And while the crowd gasped, “He put forth His hand, and touched him” [Mark 1:41]. Instead of throwing healing to him as you would throw a bone to a dog, Jesus received him and put forth His hand and touched him [Mark 1:40-41]. I would say that was half of the cure. That leper had not felt the warm touch of a human hand in the years of his disease, and for Jesus thus to receive him, and to touch him, was like healing from heaven itself. That is our Lord: “Jesus, moved with compassion” [Mark 1:41].
You have the same presentation of our glorious Savior in this: “At even, when the sun was set”—wouldn’t you think after the work of a full day He would have sought recourse and rest and quiet? No. Even in the evening, after the sun was set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased and possessed with demons, and the whole city was gathered at the door, and He ministered to them [Mark 1:32-34]. What a wonderful, precious Lord our Savior is! Instead of seeking rest and asylum from the assignments of the heavy day, He welcomed them and blessed them and healed them [Mark 1:34].
I had a friend who was a missionary and, because of ill health, came back to our country of America and was pastoring a church in our midst. And as I talked to him, he said he was here because of a broken health situation in the circle of his family. But he said, “My heart is still there on that mission field, and I wish I could go back.” That’s the heart of our Savior: with those dear people, no matter how much His own weariness or tiredness of the work of the day, His heart was with those needy people.
Just the opposite of Sinclair Lewis: I lived in the day when he was in his strength, and the accolades of the world were laid at his feet. Those assiduous novels that he wrote about the ministry are unspeakable and unpardonable. Anyway, this is Sinclair Lewis. As he came to the end of his life, he had an interview with a reporter, and the reporter was asking him about the problems of the people of the day, and Sinclair Lewis replied, “I don’t know anything about anything, and I am no reformer. And actually, I don’t care.”
Jesus was the opposite of that. Our Lord, moved with compassion [Mark 1:41], His heart was open toward the needs of the poor, and the sick, and the downtrodden, and the forsaken, and the forgotten. He was the friend of humanity.
Now I want to follow that with this word in God’s Book, how He attracted people because of His gracious spirit and His compassionate heart—the attractive Christ. Number one: though it is unexpressed and unacknowledged and unspoken, the deep longing of all humanity and of all the world is for our blessed Lord.
Far and wide, though all unknowing,
Pants for Thee each mortal breast;
Human tears for Thee are flowing,
And human hearts in Thee would rest.
[“Savior, Sprinkle Many Nations,” Arthur C. Coxe]
Whether that is avowed, whether it is expressed or not, every human heart longs for God.
If you ever look at Augustine’s famous work, The Confessions of Augustine, the first paragraph and the second sentence is this: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” That is true of all humanity, and it is true even of those who seem to be the most glamorous, and the most successful, and the most brilliant, and the most charming, even those who are the most worldly: actually, they are hungry for God.
Do you remember this song?
After the ball is over,
After the break of dawn,
After the dance is ended,
After the stars are gone,
Many the hearts are aching,
If we but knew them all.
Many the hopes that have vanished,
After the ball.
[from “After the Ball,” Charles K. Harris, 1891]
Who wrote that? An evangelist? A preacher? No, one of their own. There’s not anything so vain and so empty as worldly pleasure. The reward of it is so devastating; it leaves the heart and the soul hungry.
Bobby Burns, who led such a dissolute life, wrote:
Pleasures are like poppies spread
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed;
Or as the snow falls on the river,
A moment white—then gone forever;
Or like the borealis rays
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
[from “Tam o’Shanter,” Robert Burns]
Do you remember this poem?
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!
[From “On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year,” Lord Byron, 1824]
How old was Lord Byron when he wrote that? What is the name of the poem? “On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday,” and he died empty-hearted soon after. Haven’t you heard it remarked, “For every light on Broadway there is a broken heart”? Dear me! I one time read of a drunkard, and they asked him, “Why do you drink?” and he replied, “It is the shortest way out of Hollywood.” Oh! the emptiness of the human heart in this world, seeking to feed it and to minister to it with the rewards that we know in this life.
I am saying that there is an attraction in Christ. There is a wonderful fullness and reward in Him beyond any other thing or experience in this earth. For the prodigal, and for the fallen, for the defeated, O Lord, what a beautiful gospel in Christ, one of beginning again! I think the most beautiful story in human speech, in literature, is the story of our Lord about the prodigal son, when he comes back, and the father cries, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke15:24]. Did you know this week, I read a book, and it concerns how the church needs to change—title of the book—and in that book the author writes that if the preacher wants to date himself, let him give an invitation. That’s the way they did a hundred years ago, and the preacher needs to change. And he needs to be alive to the present situation; he needs to “get with it” in this present circumstance and circumference, and to give an old time invitation is a sign that the preacher belongs to another era.
When I read that, I thought of two things: one, of a salesman who is describing a beautiful new car. And he says all kinds of glorious things about that new car. On the showroom, there it is—its color, all of the accouterments, and all of the new things that are added to it—but he doesn’t invite the man to buy it, he just speaks of how fine and beautiful the car is. I could not imagine a salesman like that.
And another thing that I thought of: I one time heard of that wonderful pastor in one of our great Southern Baptist churches, and he had an evangelistic heart, and he gave an invitation when he preached, just as your pastor always does. He was invited to preach in a northeastern city, in one of those high ritualistic churches, and when he got through his message of appeal, he pressed an invitation. He gave an invitation. When he did so, the paid quartet in the loft back of him stood up and stalked out. “Oh,” he thought, “I have offended them. I have done something that is not acceptable in this high church,” as that paid quartet walked out. What happened was, there was a member of that quartet, a woman, in days past, who had fallen and become a street woman, a prostitute; and that Sunday, somehow, in her heart, she wanted to go back where she once sang, and praised God, and had a beautiful life. And she came to the service and sat on the back row, unknown to anyone, and when the invitation was given, the Spirit of God wooed her in such a precious way that she responded, and came down to the front. And when that quartet saw her, they didn’t stalk out; they left the choir loft and gathered round her, and wept and prayed for joy and for gladness. That’s the gospel of our Lord in the land of beginning again: to come back home to God where you belong—the attractive Christ.
And thus it is for the burdened and the brokenhearted, and those in tears and in sorrow. The first president I ever saw was Calvin Coolidge, when I was a youth. They called him “Silent Cal.” He was in the parlor car, the last one on the train when it stopped, and when the door was opened, Silent Cal came out with men on either side of him. And he stood there, never said a word, just stood there and stood there, then after a while went back into the parlor car. It was so strange to me—never say a word; that was Silent Cal, Calvin Coolidge.
When he went back to his home in Vermont, after the presidency was over—while he was in the White House his boy died, his son died—and Silent Cal had an interview with the Saturday Evening Post, and he said, “When my boy died, when my son died, the glory of the presidency faded away.” There is an emptiness about this world in its highest accolades, and professions, and elections, and exaltations that is as nothing when we face the realities of human life.
I think of that rich man who had one little boy, his wife very devout, but he no interest in God or church at all. And the little lad died, the little boy died. And the wife saw her husband pick up that Bible, and read every evening, read, and read, and mark, and underline. And while he was away at work, upon a day, she picked up his Bible just to see what he was doing. And what that man had done, wherever in God’s Holy Word it told about heaven, he underlined it and underscored it. That’s human life, and that’s the blessedness of our precious Lord. He opens the door of hope and heaven to us [John 14:3].
Do you remember in the twelfth chapter of the Book of John, there came Greeks to see our Savior from afar [John 12:20], and in His response, our Lord said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32]. And what is my text? “Pantes, all seek Thee” [Mark 1:37]. Ultimately and finally, the hearts hunger of humanity finds its rest, and its peace, and its hope, and its heaven in our blessed Savior [Matthew 11:28].
For the thirsty, He is the water of life [John 4:14]. For the hungry, He is the bread of heaven [John 6:41, 51]. For those who are drowning, He is the lifeboat. For those who are hurting, He is the Great Physician [Matthew 8:16, 15:30]. And for those who are dying, He is the Savior of our souls [1 Peter 1:8-9]—the blessed Jesus, the attractive Christ, my hope and my Savior [Titus 2:13].
And that is our appeal to you this precious morning hour. To give your heart to the Lord, to receive Him as your personal Savior [Romans 10:9-10]; or a family, to join with us in the love and worship and service of our living Lord; or to answer the call of the Spirit of Jesus in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza that we sing, you come. You stand by me: “Pastor, here’s my hand. I give my heart to the Lord Jesus” [Ephesians 2:8]. And may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.