Listening to Jesus
March 24th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
LISTENING TO JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-24-91 10:50 a.m.
First Baptist Church in Dallas: this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Listening to Jesus. In our preaching through the Gospel of Mark we have come to chapter 9. And it begins with the recounting of the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus:
After six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves: and He was transfigured—the Greek word is metamorphēsis, metamorphēsis, He was metamorphized before them—He was gloriously changed. His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; as no fuller on earth can white them.
That is the only place in the Bible that word gnapheus, translated here “fuller,” it means a man who works with cloth, especially wool cloth. As no gnapheus, no man who works with cloth can ever whiten them.
And there appeared unto them Elijah and Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, one for Moses, one for Elijah.
For he did not know what to say, they were sore afraid.
Then there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son: hear Him.
Suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only.
And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus spoke to them . . . that the Son of Man must be killed, and raised from the dead . . .
And they questioned one with another what the raising from the dead should mean.
Here is a recounting of three amazing and marvelous and wonderful miracles. The first: the transfiguration, the metamorphosis of our glorious Lord. For a moment the veil was drawn aside that covered the glory of His deity, of His Godhead. And they saw a glimpse of the marvelous character of Jesus before His incarnation in the flesh of this world [Matthew 1:20-25]. So remarkable was that, that years later John referred to it in John 1:14, “we beheld His glory… as of the glory of the only begotten of the Father.” And years later Simon Peter wrote about it in 2 Peter 1:16-18. He describes the whole scene and the sound of the voice of God. James, of course, had no opportunity to write about it, because he was beheaded, he was martyred; the first apostle by Herod Agrippa I [Acts 12:1-2]. But those disciples never got beyond the glory of that marvelous transfiguration of our Lord.
The second amazing miracle: the appearance of Moses and of Elijah [Mark 9:4]. As the Lord called Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44], so the Lord calls Moses from the grave. And they appear there, Moses, a type of the resurrection of these who fall asleep in the Lord [Deuteronomy 34:5-6], and Enoch, a type of those who are raptured when the Lord, glorious, comes for His own [Genesis 5:24].
And a third marvelous miracle: the cloud, the drapery of God, that overshadowed the group, the shekinah of the Lord [Mark 9:7]. In the daytime it looked like a cloud, in the nighttime it looked like fire [Exodus 13:21]. Moses could not enter the tabernacle because of the glory of that luminous presence of God [Exodus 40:34-35]. And the priests could not enter the temple because of that marvelous drapery of the Almighty [1 Kings 8:11].
And those disciples there were overwhelmed by the presence of the glory of God. Not knowing what to say, Simon Peter, always with a word, Simon Peter said, “Oh, this pageantry of our Lord from heaven, let us build a pavilion here for You, Lord Jesus, from which place You can rule the world in Your kingdom” [Mark 9:5]. And as he was speaking, out of the cloud came the voice of God Almighty: “This is My beloved Son: listen to Him, hear Him” [Mark 9:7].
Out of that story there are three wonderful truths. Number one: we have an adumbration here, a glimpse here of the glory of the second coming of Christ. This is exactly as the last revelation in God’s Holy Book, the Apocalypse. It begins, apokalupsis, that’s the first word, the “Revelation” of Jesus Christ. And there follows that same glorious appearing of our living and incomparable Lord.
I, John, your brother, and companion in tribulation . . . was in the isle of Patmos, for the testimony of Jesus and the witness to the word of God.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches of Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
—the gamut of the whole spectrum of the Christian faith—
And having heard the voice, I turned to see who it was speaking unto me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands.
And in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt around the paps, the breast with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire;
His feet were as fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.
He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
That’s exactly this: this is an adumbration, a glimpse of the glory of the second coming of our Lord. When He returns, He will not be as our wonderful preacher so eloquently presented at the 8:15 hour. He will not come as a babe; He will not return humble and meek and lowly. But when He comes He will come in the power of God Almighty, the King and Creator of this great universe. What a prospect. What a hope!
A second great truth: we have a glimpse here what it shall be like when we are with our Lord in heaven. Isn’t it remarkable? Moses and Elijah, in their very own person [Mark 9:4]; and how is it that the disciples knew them? By heavenly intuition. And that’s the way it will be with us. We won’t be strangers in glory. We will know everybody and everybody will know us by intuition—sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-10]—and all of us will know each other; a conversant fellowship, one in the faith and in the Lord.
And a third remarkable miracle: this is the introduction of the Christian dispensation. What an amazing thing, the dispensations of our Lord, here, clasped hands together, there is no antagonism, no confrontation. One prepares for the other; if it is the dispensation of law under Moses, if it is the dispensation of the prophets or as Elijah, like Enoch, or the patriarchs, just preparing for the glorious coming of the Savior and this age of love and grace and of the open arms of God. When I read it, I think of the mount on which Moses stood at the beginning of the dispensation of the law. And the mount quaked, and the earth shook, and the cloud was dark and foreboding; and the people trembled in fear [Exodus 19:16-18]. Then here, that luminous cloud has in it the grace and love of God the Father, saying, “This is My beloved Son, look at Him, listen to Him, follow Him, love Him” [Mark 9:7].
The dispensation in which we live is one of grace and glory and salvation and forgiveness and heavenly home. And when the cloud passed away, Moses was gone, Elijah was gone! The old dispensations are gone, and there remains—what does it say?—Jesus only [Mark 9:8]. Just our Lord Jesus, our blessed Savior. And the voice of God saying, “Hear Him” [Mark 9:7].
What is He saying? “Hear Him.” What is Jesus saying? He talks to the disciples about His death, which He should accomplish in Jerusalem. If I read it out of the Gospel of Luke, he says “And behold, there talked with our Lord, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke to Him about His, and the Greek word is exodos, spoke to Him about His exodus, which He should accomplish in Jerusalem” [Luke 9:31]. Spoke to Him, translated here, about His decease, about His death, which He should accomplish in Jerusalem.
Our Lord came down from heaven “to die for our sins according to the Scriptures…” [1 Corinthians 15:3] and “ . . . to be raised for our justification according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:4, Romans 4:25]. However else our Lord may mean to us and bring to us and speak to us and teach us, He came into this world to die for our sins, to pay the penalty in atoning sacrifice for our transgressions and to open for us the gates of heaven [Hebrews 10:5-14, John 12:27].
Let me try to show that to you: there was a fashionable London preacher with his elitist congregation. And Sunday by Sunday, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, he preached to them about all of the things of current interest. I will give you an illustration of that in my own life. I went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London—one of the great monuments of architecture to our Savior to be found in the world—and the canon of the cathedral, the man who heads the cathedral, delivered the message that Sunday morning. And his sermon was the possibility of the extinction, the destruction of the whales in the North Atlantic. That was his sermon. This elitist London preacher, Sunday by Sunday, standing in that fashionable pulpit and speaking to the people of the current events of the day, political, social, governmental, sometimes a travelogue.
And a little girl, dirty, ragged, an urchin from the slums came to the church, came to the pastor, said to him, “My mother is dying and she sent me for you.”
“Where does your mother live?” When the little girl told him, “in a slum section down there next to the river,” he demurred, he hesitated. She was so insistent; her mother was dying and had sent for him. He finally acquiesced and the little girl took him by the hand and led him through the streets of the big city, down into a slum next to the river, up the flights of steps in a tall tenement building and through the door, and there on a dirty, strong mattress lay a dying woman. He pulled up a rickety, broken, old chair and sat down by her side and said, “You have sent for me. What can I do to help?” And the woman replied, “I have just a while to live. I’m dying, and I am not ready, and I don’t know how to meet God. And I want you to tell me how it is I can die and meet God.” He began to talk to her, and he talked to her in the language and nomenclature that he used in his pulpit for all of the years of his ministry. That poor woman was not only bewildered, she didn’t understand the very language or words that he used. He bowed his head. “O God,” he cried, “help me!”
And in the bowing of his head, there came back into his memory the days as a little boy he had stood at his mother’s knee and she had told him the simple story of the blessed Lord Jesus. How He came into this world as a babe like us. How He lived a life ministering to our needs, hurt and poor and lost. And how He died on the cross for our sins [Matthew 27:32-50, 1 Corinthians 15:3]. And how He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7] and ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], there to prepare a place for us [John 14:2-3]. And as he talked to that dying woman of the simple story of Jesus, “Yes,” she said, “I understand. Yes, yes! I can trust Him and give my heart and soul to Him” [Acts 16:30-31].
The following Sunday, that distinguished preacher stood in his pulpit and recounted to his people what had happened that week. And he closed his word with this sentence, “My brethren, I got that woman into the kingdom of heaven that day, but what is more, I got in myself.”
That’s the message. That’s the gospel. I am not decrying, nor am I bitterly critical of the ministers everywhere who stand in the pulpit and preach about the current events of the day and the social problems, and the ameliorating of society. I am just saying that when you listen to Jesus He will be talking to you about death, and His resurrection, and the atonement for our sins, and the opening of the door into heaven—that’s the gospel! And when we listen to the Lord, and when we hear the words of the Lord, they will be words of salvation, of hope, of heaven.
And I haven’t time to follow after the days of our Lord in the wonderful preaching of His apostles and disciples:
It was that God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him [2 Corinthians 5:21].
We beseech you, therefore, brethren that you receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He hath said, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation) [2 Corinthians 6:1-2].
There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved [Acts 4:12].
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto a righteousness in Him; and with the mouth, openly and publicly, confession is made unto salvation [Romans 10:9-10].
He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son . . . hath not life [1 John 5:12].
This is the purpose of our Lord’s coming into the world [Hebrews 10:9-13; 1 Timothy 1:15], and this is the gospel of hope and of salvation. And this is the appeal the apostles and the disciples made to the lost world, “Come, come to Jesus.”
Come unto Me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
A. Three distinct,
remarkable supernatural events (Mark 9:2-10)
1. The transfiguration
(John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16-18)
2. The appearance
of Moses and Elijah
3. The shekinah
and the voice of God (Exodus 40:33, 1 Kings
B. The response of the
II. Three tremendous truths
A. A glimpse of the
glory of the second coming of Christ (Revelation
B. A glimpse of our
life beyond death
C. The introduction of the
new Christian dispensation (Exodus 19:12, 16,
III. Listening to Jesus
A. He must die (Mark 8:9-10, Luke 9:30-31)
B. We must accept His
atoning grace (2 Corinthians 15:3-4)
preaching of the apostles (2 Corinthians 5:21,
6:1-2, Acts 4:12, Romans 10:9-10, 1 John 5:12)