The Unknown Friends of Christ
September 15th, 1991 @ 8:15 AM
THE UNKNOWN FRIENDS OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-15-91 8:15 a.m.
And this is the pastor, the senior pastor, bringing the message entitled Christ’s Unknown Friends. In the passage that we have just read: “The first day of Unleavened Bread, they killed the Passover, and the disciples said to Jesus, Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare that Thou mayest eat this sacred meal?” [Mark 14:12].
Do you notice they don’t ask, “Shall we observe this Passover?” They ask Him, “Where shall we break this bread and eat this Paschal lamb together?” For you see, Jesus observed the rites and rituals of the faith from the beginning of His life until His ascension into heaven. Not, “Shall we observe the Passover?” But, “Where shall we observe it?” They had watched Him all the days that they knew Him. And He was faithful in observing those rituals of the biblical religion. There is a lesson in that for us, and a vital one. There are some—very few—who make too much of rites and rituals. But the great mass of humanity do not observe them.
I remember holding a revival meeting in Allen, Texas, when I first came here to Dallas. And Hubert Drumwright was the pastor up there. We put the pulpit—remember this is about forty-seven years ago—we put the pulpit, the preacher’s stand right in the middle of the town where the two roads crossed. And I preached there in the middle of that town. Had a wonderful revival. People sat out there under the blue sky at night.
Well, Dr. Drumwright and I visited a farmer, inviting him to the services. And he replied, “We don’t go to church. I’m not going to be baptized. I’m not going to observe the Lord’s Supper, and I’m not going to assemble with those people. We don’t go to church.”
Well of course, that’s his freedom and his prerogative. But you are violating God when you do that. It is God Himself who writes in the sacred Book, we are not to fail to assemble ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. It is God who commands us to be baptized [Matthew 28:19]. It is the Lord Himself who commands us to break bread at the Lord’s Table, to partake of the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:23-26]. These rituals and rites are a part of the approach to God. And we please the Lord when we faithfully observe them. So you find that in the life of our Savior. He observed the Sabbath day. He went to the synagogue [Luke 4:16], which becomes the church. He observed all of the rites and rituals of the Hebrew faith [Matthew 3:15]. And we are invited and encouraged and commanded by the Lord to do the same [Matthew 28:19-20].
Now do you notice the plan that the Lord presents? He sendeth forth two of His disciples, in Luke 22:8. Their names are Peter and John. And He said unto them, “You go into the city”—He is up there in Bethany on the Mount of Olives—“you go into the city, and there will meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him” [Luke 22:10].
“And wherever he goes then into that house, you say to the goodman, the owner of the house, ‘The Master says, “Where is My guest chamber, and where shall I eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared” [Luke 22:11-12]. So, they plan. “You go into the city, Peter and John, and in a certain place in that city, you will see a man bearing a pitcher of water” [Luke 22:10].
Well, it would be very, very obvious because men did not carry pitchers of water. Women did that. No exception to it. Women carried the water on their shoulders, a pitcher on their shoulders. And for a man to be carrying a pitcher of water would be very noticeable. So, they go into the city and there in a certain place, they see, meet, this man bearing a pitcher of water. “And follow him,” the Lord said [Luke 22:10].
Well, why the secrecy? Why the mystery? It is very apparent. The Lord, that night, will be arrested. At nine o’clock the next morning, He will be crucified [Luke 23:44-46]. The rulers are planning to arrest Him and destroy Him [Matthew 12:14]. And even Judas is bargaining in order to betray Him [Matthew 26:14-16]. So the Lord desired to have one last night with His disciples before He is slain. And in order to be able to do that, with enemies of our Savior on every hand, down every street and every house, He had to do this secretly and furtively. And of course, the plan worked as our Lord had described. This man was aware of what the Lord was doing, the goodman of the house [Luke 22:11]. And everything is prepared just as the Lord had outlined [Luke 22:13].
So the two men, Peter and John, go into the city. And at a certain place, at a certain fountain or a certain cistern, there stands up a servant who was looking for them. Whether he knew them or not, I do not know, the Bible doesn’t say. But when those two men came, Peter and John, this servant stood up and took his pitcher of water and they began to follow him. And when they came to a certain house, there the man, the goodman of the house, the man who owned the house, met the two disciples of our Lord. And he shows them an upper room [Luke 22:10-12]. And there the Lord had prepared everything for the Passover, and these two disciples make the final arrangements for the group to break bread and to eat the Paschal lamb that night [Luke 22:12].
Now who is that man? Who is that goodman? Who is this mysterious, furtive, secret friend of our Lord? They say to him, [The] “Master”—Jesus is his Master [Luke 22:11]. And the revised versions will say, “My bedchamber, My upper room.” Who is this man that calls Jesus Lord and Master? And who is this goodman of the house that has an upper room prepared for the Lord that night? [Luke 22:12].
We don’t know. He is an unknown friend of Jesus. And that brings to my mind, there are those who are very known as the disciples of Christ. There’s Simon Peter, Lord bless him. There’s the sainted apostle John. God be praised for him. And there are Andrew, James, and all of the rest of them. And there are the women who ministered to Him [Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:2-3]. But who is this man? And is he not typical of uncounted numbers of the friends of Jesus who love Him and worship Him and rejoice in Him? And we don’t even know them. They’re plain, humble people, out there, never elected, never exalted, never named, but love the Lord. And did you know, when you think about that, that’s been true through all of the ages?
When Elijah fled before Jezebel down to Beersheba, and then into the wilderness, and sat under a juniper tree, and asked to die [1 Kings 19:2-4]; then to the cave on Mount Horeb, the mount of God, and the Lord appeared to him, and spoke to him in a quiet voice and said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” [1 Kings 19:12-13].
And Elijah said, “I have been true to Thee and faithful to Thee. And I have been Thy prophet and Thy spokesman. But they have destroyed the people of God, and they have slain Your prophets, and I, I only, am left” [1 Kings 19:14]. Do you remember that? “And I, I am the only one left.”
And do you also remember what God said to Elijah? “Elijah, I have got seven thousand, I have seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal [1 Kings 19:18]. You think you are the only one? I have got thousands of them that are true to Me” [from 1 Kings 19:18].
The unknown friends of God. Do you remember in Corinth? Paul, discouraged in that great heathen city, having just come from Athens where they scoffed and laughed at him [Acts 17:32]. And now in that marvelous, merchandising, beautiful city of Corinth, commerce, affluence, the Lord said to Paul, “I have much people in this city. You do not know them. You have not seen them. You have never met them, but they are Mine. I have much people in this city” [Acts 18:10], the unknown friends of Christ.
You know, I see that all over this world. You were in India. Just came back from India. I remember being in India, standing in front of a Baptist church in one of the little cities of that teeming nation. The Baptists of Britain have lost the faith. And they sent men from England to go down to India to close the mission stations founded by William Carey. And this humble man, this humble Baptist preacher, this Indian, had been sent to that little city to close down that Baptist church. And when I was there and standing by his side, he’d been there a few years, and he said, “When I came to close down this church, I couldn’t do it. And I’ve been here working for Jesus and building up the house of God ever since.” Who is he? I have no idea, nor does anybody else; an unknown friend of Christ.
One of the most unusual things I ever looked upon in my life: driving through West Africa with a missionary in his little car, in the Yorubas, back there, God only knows where, on a dirt road, we came across a little pretty cottage, a little cottage with a beautiful fence around it and a garden. And I said to the missionary driving the car, “Stop.”
And he stopped the car and I went up to the house and knocked at the door. And there came to the door an older man, a humble man.
I introduced myself, and I said, “I want to know who you are and what are you doing here?”
And he said, “My wife and I, having retired, we came here to the Yorubas in Nigeria, West Africa. And we have built this home. And we just work among those people. And we tell them about Jesus and what He means to us.”
Who is that man? I have no idea. Sent out by a board? No. Sent out by an organized group? No. He’s just a humble friend of Jesus out there among those Yorubas, just telling them about our precious Savior; the unknown friends of Christ. They’re everywhere.
Down there in Victoria, Mexico, we bowed our heads to say a blessing, and a servant, a waiter, came over and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, “Me, me Christian.” Again, down there in Old Mexico—wait a minute—this was in Caracas. Down there in Caracas, Venezuela, we bowed our head and said a blessing, and a waiter came over and put his hand on me and he said, “Me, me Baptist. Me Baptist.” They’re everywhere; the unknown friends of Christ.
Lord, how I thank God for them! These who are elected and are prominent, and you see them, I praise God for them, everyone. But I also thank God and praise the Lord for those multitudes of sweet, humble, unassuming, unknown, unelected, unexalted friends of Jesus who love the Lord, and who pray to Him, and who witness to His grace. I thank God for them also.
Now I want to make an observation. And I don’t mean to be uncharitable in this. It’s just an observation. It’s a strange thing, and I mean strange! It is a strange thing that when you find repudiation and rejection of the Lord Jesus, you’ll find it among those who are prominently elected, but you won’t find it much among those humble people that nobody knows.
For example, for example, Judas is the treasurer of the disciples. He’s just not one of the disciples, he was the only Judean. He was the only man of culture. The rest of them were up there in ignorant Galilee. Judas is a Judean and from Judea. And he’s the treasurer [John 13:29], and he’s exalted among the group. That’s Judean Judas; at the very time that he was repudiating our Lord and destroying Him [John 18:2-5], this humble Nicodemus boldly coming out for the Lord [John 19:39]. Isn’t that strange?
Take again, Simon Peter is cursing and denying, “I never saw Him. I don’t know Him. Blankety, blank, blank, blank. What do I have to do with Him?” [Matthew 26:69-75]. At that very time Joseph of Arimathea was publicly, unashamedly: “I’d like to have His body.” And he laid Him in his own tomb, in his own grave [Matthew 27:57-60]; the unknown friends of Christ.
Or take again, Simon the Pharisee. When the Lord was popular and people were thronging Him on every side, Simon the Pharisee opened his home and had Jesus as a guest into his home [Matthew 26:6; Luke 7:36]. But now, the only one in the city who would open his home and take the risk was this unnamed goodman of the house; the unknown friend of Jesus [Luke 22:10-13].
You know, I read in a magazine two items and they were so strange to me. The first item described the man who headed the Council of Churches, they called it, in a third world country. And because of persecution, he had resigned his place as head of the Council of Churches and had repudiated the faith. That was one item.
I read another item: in that same country there was a humble Baptist preacher who, with his deacon, was in the river baptizing his converts. And while that humble, unnamed native Baptist pastor was baptizing his converts, with that deacon by his side, an ambush came. And the pastor said to the deacon, “You escape for your life.”
And the deacon, out of the water to run away, and while the deacon was escaping, he heard a shot. He heard a gun fired and he turned and looked. And there with his blood mingling with the water was that humble pastor, sinking in death. Isn’t that a sight for you? Here are these great elected leaders and here is this humble, unnamed pastor with his blood mingling with the waters; the unknown, unnamed friends of Jesus. They are like the stars. They tell me that the stars shine in the daytime as much as they shine at night, but you don’t see them. It is only when the sun goes down and darkness covers the earth that the stars begin to shine. These are the unknown and unnamed friends of Christ: they shine for Jesus in the dark.
My time is just about gone. I want to point you out one other thing. Do you notice this upper room; this goodman of the house and his upper room? [Luke 22:11-12]. That brings to me the continuing remembrance of our Lord in His rewards, fitted for those who love Jesus. That upper room, dear me in my soul, that upper room! Dear me, every time you observe that Lord’s Supper all over this earth through the centuries since, it is a tribute to that upper room, that upper room [Luke 22:11-12].
Do you remember that when Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], the disciples instinctively gathered in that upper room? [Acts 1:12-14]. Do you remember when our Lord appeared to His disciples, it was first in that upper room [John 20:19-25]—in the goodman’s house, that upper room? Do you remember the following Sunday night, Thomas being present, saying, “I do not believe He is raised from the dead, and except I put my finger in the wound in His hand and push my hand into His side, I will not believe” [John 20:24-25]. It was in that upper room when the Lord appeared, “Thomas, come hither” [John 20:26-27].
The upper room. And one other thing. Do you remember in the first chapter of the Book of Acts? The story begins, “And the disciples were gathered in that upper room and were praying [Acts 1:12-14], when the Holy Spirit of God came down and Pentecost baptized the world” [Acts 2:1-4].
O Lord, great God. And I would think that when the Lord prepares that mansion in heaven [John 14:2-3], He is going to have an upper room for that goodman. And I want to see him. I want to meet him. I’d like to shake his hand and maybe embrace him and tell him how thankful I am for him and those like him, who were humble and nameless, unelected, unexalted, but loved Jesus. And in devotion, prayed to Him and rejoicing all the days of their life.
Sweet people, you ask Jesus to sup with you [Revelation 3:20], and one day, He will ask you to sup with Him [Matthew 8:11]. You welcome Jesus to your heart and home, and one day, He will welcome you in glory.
THE UNKNOWN FRIENDS OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. “Where?” not “Shall we?”
1. Jesus had always observed it
B. Today a few make too much of rites and rituals
1. But also possible to make too little
a. Revival meeting in Allen, Texas
A. The plan (Luke 22:8)
B. Why the mystery?
C. The plan executed
A. Who was this “good man”?
B. We will not know until heaven
A. Public friends
B. He always has more friends than we are aware of (1 Kings 19:1-18, Acts 18:10)
God for the unknown friends
A. Thankful for the prominent, public, gifted disciples of Christ
B. Strange: times when public friends withdraw
C. Unknown friends like stars – shining for Jesus in the dark
A. Tribute to that upper room (Acts
B. Christ prepares an upper room for the good man in heaven