The Marvel of Jesus
December 16th, 1990 @ 8:15 AM
THE MARVEL OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-16-90 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Marvel of Jesus. In the preaching, the exposition, of the Gospel of Mark, we are in chapter 5, and it closes with a Greek sentence that you will recognize when you spell it out in English. Verse 42: the English translation is, “And they were astonished with a great astonishment” [Mark 5:42]. The Greek is “exestēsan ekstasei megalē.” They have taken that word and spelled it out in English: ecstasy, ekstasei. In Greek it means “placing something outside of yourself.” They were outside of themselves; and of course, megalē, mega, “great.” They were amazed, they were outside of themselves, “beyond themselves,” in astonishment at the Lord Jesus [Mark 5:42].
You have that feeling of the response of our Savior throughout this Gospel of Mark. For example, in Mark 1:22: “They were astonished at His doctrine.” In verse 27: “And they were all amazed” [Mark 1:27]. In verse 28: “Immediately His fame spread throughout all Galilee [Mark 1:28]. In the second chapter, verse 12: “They were amazed, and glorified God” [Mark 2:12]. In the third chapter: “They pressed upon Him for to touch Him” [Mark 3:10]. In this fourth chapter: “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” [Mark 4:41]. And in this fifth chapter: “And all men did marvel” [Mark 5:20]. And then closing that fifth chapter, my text: “They were astonished with a great astonishment” [Mark 5:42]—the unbelievable effect that Jesus had upon those who saw Him.
So our sermon: first, the marvel of Jesus, the wonder of His works. In Matthew 9:33: “And the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.” What Israel had seen, the marvelous things their eyes had [beheld]. Moses in the land of Egypt and those ten plagues [Exodus 7:14-12:30]: think of the marvel of that. Think of the stories in the Book of Judges: Gideon [Judges 6:11-8:32], Samson [Judges 13:1-16:31]. Think what Israel had seen: Elijah praying fire down from God in heaven [1 Kings 18:24, 36-39], or Elisha raising from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman [2 Kings 4:8-37]. Yet “It was never so seen in Israel” [Matthew 9:33]. The mighty works of our Lord, the wondrous works of Jesus were beyond anything that even Israel had ever looked upon.
For example, the centurion, a Gentile, a Roman centurion, sent word to Him, saying, “My servant is nigh unto death. If You will just speak the word, he will be healed” [Matthew 8:5-8]. The Lord said, “I have never seen such faith in Israel” [Matthew 8:10], and He said to the emissary, “You go” [Matthew 8:13]. What a marvel Jesus is here [Matthew 8:5]: the servant dying is there [Matthew 8:6], and he’s healed, just by the word of our Lord Jesus [Matthew 8:13].
Or again, in the storm on the Sea of Galilee: just a word from our Lord and the wind ceased to blow and the waves ceased to mount [Matthew 8:23-27]. Not an atom of matter dare move except in His permissive will—the marvel of Jesus: the wonder of His works [Matthew 9:33].
The marvel of Jesus: the wisdom of His words. In the seventh chapter of John, you have a story of the leaders of the temple sending the officers to arrest Jesus, and they came back without Him, and the Pharisees say, “Why have you not brought Him?” and the officers answered, “Never a man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. Think of what Israel had heard. They’d heard Moses on the plains of Moab, giving those addresses in the Book of Deuteronomy. They’d heard Moses. They had heard David sing his psalms. They had heard Solomon speak his proverbs. They had heard the eloquent, incomparable Isaiah deliver his marvelous prophecies. But “never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. The words of the Lord Jesus were beyond anything Israel had ever heard.
I think how the Lord must have brought amazement to those people when He would quote the law—like this:
You have heard it been said, Thou shalt not kill.
But I say unto you, Whoever is angry with his brother . . . is in danger of the judgment.
You have heard it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, Resist not evil: and if one smite you on the right cheek, turn the left.
And you have heard it said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and do good to them that despitefully use you.
“Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46].
And the words that He used to describe Himself and His ministry were beyond anything human ears had ever heard. In the tenth chapter of John, “My sheep hear My voice . . . and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, nor shall any one be able to pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” [John 10:27-30]. Or in the next chapter, the eleventh chapter: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” [John 11:25-26]. Or the next chapter, chapter 14: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. The Greek of that is so impressive, “ego eimi hē hodos kai hē alētheia kai hē zoē”: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6], the amazing marvel of Jesus in His words.
Let me show you that. You put those words on the lips of the greatest figures in the world: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Wellington, anybody in this earth, put those words in their lips, and it sounds ridiculous. But somehow when Jesus says them, they seem so apropos, so true.
You know, it’s an amazing thing, I say. It’s a marvelous thing, I say; Jesus will move in our midst just like a man, like an ordinary man, a good man—kind and generous and sympathetic and compassionate. Then, all of a sudden, He leaves all parameters, all paradigms, and He stands before us in such a marvelous manner that if one exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28], you feel nothing aberrated or out of reason or acceptability. The marvel of Jesus: not many like Him, none like Him, the great alone, the great One, the marvel of our Lord.
Not only in His works and in His words, but the marvel of Jesus, in His heart of compassion and His loving sympathies; in John 11, “Jesus wept,” then said the Jews, “Behold how He loved him!” [John 11:35-36]. Think of what Israel had seen in loving compassion. The story of Moses and the golden calf, and God saying, “You step aside, you stand aside and I will destroy this nation, the whole people” [Exodus 32:9-10], and Moses stood before the Lord and said, “O Lord God, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; but if not”—and in the Bible there’s a long dark black dash. He never finishes the sentence. “And if not—then blot my name out of the book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32:32-33]. “If they can’t live, I don’t want to live. And if they can’t be saved, I don’t want to be saved.”
Think of what Israel had seen and heard: Ruth, speaking to Naomi:
Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: and where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: God do so, and more also unto me, if aught but death separate between me and thee.
Did human ears ever hear anything so loving and compassionate as that?
Or the love of David and Jonathan [1 Samuel 18:1, 20:41-42] and the elegy of David spoken over the death of Jonathan [2 Samuel 1:25-27]; or the weeping cry of Jeremiah over His people:
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
For the hurt of my people am I hurt; grief hath overwhelmed me…
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.
But there was no loving, tender compassion like that of our Savior. Here in this chapter, Jairus says, “Come and put Your hands upon my daughter, my twelve year old daughter, put Your hands upon my little girl; and she will live” [Mark 5:23]. Why His hands? Could not anyone’s hands do? Why just His hands? “Lay Your hands upon my little girl.” I stood by a dying man one time. I don’t know whether he was delirious or not, but there he lay, and he cried, saying, “Oh, Mother, Mother! Oh, Mother, Mother! If you could just come and lay your comforting healing hands upon me,” mother’s hands. “You come and lay Your hands upon my little girl; and she will live.” And in the story in this chapter, Jesus is following after, like a servant, to the house of Jairus [Mark 5:24]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Wherever there is a broken heart and wherever there is deep need, there you will find our Lord Jesus, there.
I can well imagine someone saying, “Well, I don’t see Him, and He hasn’t been at my house in my brokenheartedness,” and I’d like to ask, “How have you sought Him?” and “How have you invited Him?” Has it been with a mind of askance, of doubt? Has it been with intellectual superiority? “How have you invited Him? In your hour of brokenheartedness and need, how did you do it?” If you have done it with your eyes on the dust of the ground, and if you have done it with a heart of despair, and if you have prayed with a sob rather than with words, I can tell you Jesus will be there. I have never yet seen Jesus place a crown upon superiority and arrogance and unbelief, but I have been present in a thousand congregations, at a thousand instances where Jesus has circled the brow of humility and sobs and appeal, with the choicest crowns of heaven. He is a great, compassionate Friend, and in your hour of trial and brokenheartedness and need, you seek His face and you’ll find Him, you’ll see Him, you’ll feel Him, and He will be there with loving compassion: your sweetest, dearest, nearest Friend.
May I speak one other? The marvel of Jesus in His work, in His words, in His compassionate heart—may I speak now, triumphantly, the marvel of Jesus in His glorious redemptive victory for us over the world? Reading now in Revelation 5:
And when He had taken the book, the four cherubim and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, each one with harps…
And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the cherubim and the elders: the number of them was myriades myriadōn, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature that is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four cherubim said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.
The marvel, the wonder of Jesus: think of it. In His redemptive purpose, coming in glory, and all creation bowing down in worship before Him: the marvel and the wonder of our Lord Jesus.
And the glory and the promise of that in its meaning for us: “And I saw One like unto the Son of Man, standing in the midst of the seven lampstands [Revelation 1:13]; His face was like the sun in its strength [Revelation 1:16]. And I fell down as one dead before Him”—the marvel of Jesus—“And He placed His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not, fear not; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore; and I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death” [Revelation 1:17-18]. Think what that means for us in this life: Jesus, the Master and the Victor over sin and Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57].
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Could my zeal no languor know,
Could my tears forever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
[From “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” Augustus M. Toplady]
“I have the keys of sin and of Death and of the Grave” [Revelation 1:18]. The marvel and wonder of Jesus—and not only that in the experience we have in this life, but also the glory of the triumph that is yet to come As every syllable of history in years past moved toward His incarnation [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14] and His cross [Matthew 27:32-50]; so now every syllable of history moves toward His coronation and His crown [Matthew 25:31].
I was amazed when I came across a hymn poem written two hundred fifty years ago by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, and it put together the birth of our Lord, Christmas, and the great ultimate triumph we have in Jesus in that ultimate and final day. Listen to it:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our sins and fears release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy glorious kingdom bring.
Be Thou our eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
[“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” Charles Wesley, 1745]
The coming of our Lord into the world for the purpose of lifting us up to be kings and priests with Jesus our Savior forever and ever [Revelation 5:9-10]: the marvel of our Lord, and the marvel of our salvation, and the wonder and the glory of our ultimate triumph in Him. It’s a great gospel, isn’t it? And an incomparably precious hope.
Now Fred, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church; a one somebody you, opening your heart to the blessed Lord [Romans 10:9-10, 13]; anybody you, answering the call of the Spirit in your life, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome. God bless and angels attend as you respond with your heart and life, while we stand and while we sing.