The Harvest Fields at Home
March 1st, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
THE HARVEST FIELDS AT HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-1-92 8:15 a.m.
This is the senior pastor bringing the message, getting us ready for our week of prayer for home missions. It’s an exposition of the first part of the fifth chapter of the Book of [Mark], and the story is this: our Lord is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee [Mark 5:1]. The Romans made a district up there that sometimes they called it the land of the Gadarenes because of the town of Gadara. Then sometimes they referred to it as Decapolis; Decapolis is a Greek word for ten cities, so they referred to that district as Decapolis. And our Lord is over there on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee in the land of the Gadarenes, or in the district of Decapolis.
And when He arrives over there, there is a wild man who meets Him [Mark 5:2]. He says his name is Legion because of the vast number of unclean spirits that drive him into insanity [Mark 5:9]. And this man is almost indescribable in the vast strength that is given him by the inhabitance of those unclean spirits. He makes the night hideous by his cries and his cries [Mark 5:5]. And he makes the roads impassable by his violence, and he cannot be subdued [Mark 5:4]. The text says that even though they put fetters and chains of iron on him, he broke them apart [Mark 5:3-4].
Well, when our Lord met that unusually violent and insane man, the Lord healed him; made him anew [Mark 5:6-13]. And he is seated at the feet of our blessed Savior, whole and well, and restored, and sane, and beautifully made strong in the Lord [Mark 5:14-15]. It was a glorious miracle. I think, as I read in the passage, that the miracle of the healing of this violent man is even greater than the miracle that immediately went before it. It says here in the chapter that precedes, in chapter 4, it says that on the sea a great wind storm arose and the waves beat the boat [Mark 4:37]. And the Lord, asleep, was awakened, and the disciples cried saying, “Is it nothing to You that we perish?” [Mark 4:38].
They feared exceedingly, and the Lord arose and spoke to the sea and to the wind, “Be still.” And the wind ceased, and the sea was covered with a great calm [Mark 4:39]. And they remarked to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” [Mark 4:41]. Now, I say, as great a miracle as that was, calming the wind and the sea [Mark 4:37-41], to me a greater miracle was our Lord’s divine prerogative to be Master of all of our spiritual life; casting out those legions of demons and restoring the life to that afflicted man [Mark 5:2-13].
All right, I want you to look at this. I want to see what you think about it. Wouldn’t you think that when the throngs and the multitudes looked on that man, and it says they were there, the great throngs and multitudes of people looked on that man who had been healed, so violent before and now quiet and sane in the presence of the Lord, wouldn’t you think that those multitudes and those throngs would have glorified God? [Mark 5:15].
O Lord, what a wonderful miracle, what a glorious come-to-pass! And had they had a doxology in that day, don’t you think they would have sung it?
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
[Thomas Ken, 1674]
“Look at this man! Look at this man, so violent and so oppressed, and now he is healed!” Wouldn’t you think that? You know what they did? The Scriptures say that the multitudes came to the Lord Jesus and pled with Him to depart from their coasts [Mark 5:17]. “I want You to get out. I want You to get out.” Can you think of that? “I want You to get out [Mark 5:17]. I want You to leave us.” Well, the reason of course; there were some swine, there were some pigs, there were some hogs involved, and they lost their swine, their pigs, their hogs [Mark 5:16]. And just because of that, they wanted the Lord to leave, get out [Mark 5:17]. But did you know that when you look at that today, that is not very strange. You see it everywhere. There are, world without end, men and people who bow the Lord out, cast Him out, push Him out, because He interferes with their business everywhere.
Think of all of these drug dealers and how the Lord would interfere with them. Think of all of these pornographic peddlers, and these pimps that take care and run the lives of prostitutes. And think of the liquor stores and the whole liquor business. Jesus is to them a curse, and they bow Him out: “Please leave. Please leave.” Isn’t that tragic? Here, the Lord who brings life and hope and salvation and health to the people, and they push Him out, ask Him to leave. That’s exactly what they did [Mark 5:17]. That’s what we do today. O Lord, how sad and how tragic!
Well, when the Lord left, that man whom he had healed, that demon-possessed man, begged Him that he might be with Him [Mark 5:18]. But Jesus said, “No, but you go home to your friends and your people, and you tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had compassion on you” [Mark 5:19].
“And he departed, and began to proclaim in all Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all men did marvel” [Mark 5:20]. So He sent him to his people, to his home, to his folks, to his friends, to his acquaintances, that he might witness to them the glorious goodness of the Lord. And how desperately we need, we need, in our homeland, how desperately we need the Word and the comfort and the salvation of our dear Lord.
Friday night, this last Friday night, night before last, I brought the closing address of an evangelistic conference in St. Louis, Missouri. And as you would expect, as always, when I got through preaching there was a long group there asking me to sign the program, sign their Bibles, speak to me. And did you know, in the midst of that long line, waiting there to shake hands with me was a pastor and his wife. And while they stood there, just in front of me, a messenger came saying, “Your son has just been killed in an automobile accident.” Great God in heaven! And when they came up to me, the cries of that mother and the lament of that father—just broken; O God, how we all need the Lord, all of us! And of course, I did my best to comfort, and to strength, and to put my arms around them, and to pray for them.
I am avowing that it isn’t just over there that they need the Lord; we need Him here. And our frontiers are not beyond the seas; our frontiers are down every street, and they enter every village and every heart and every home. We all need the Lord. And not to deprecate our foreign mission appeal, I am just avowing that while we face the foreign fields and these nations across the seas, right back of us, our own land and our own country is infiltrated with the devastation of darkness itself.
Theological liberalism: men of God, in pulpits and in schools avowing that this Book is just like any other book, full of error and fable and mistake and contradiction. Theological liberalism: afflicted with rationalism, that human reason can take the place of the revelation of God. Humanism: deifying man, and not the Lord. Materialism: living in this world of fact and pouring your whole life and hope into things of materialities. And secularism: turning aside from God and from the faith and hope we have in the Lord Jesus, and substituting for it this secular life and this secular world. It is universal.
And while we stand here where we are, and look abroad at the heathenism in Africa, turn around and you will see it here at home. And while we look abroad and see paganism in Rangoon, and Calcutta, and Hong Kong, turn around and you will see it in New York, and Los Angeles, and Dallas. And while we are bemoaning atheism in Moscow and in those other countries of materialistic regimes, turn around and look at the secularism and the atheism of America. Great God, how we need the witness of the Lord here at home!
Well, let’s look at the text. So, he is seated at the feet of Jesus, calm and healed and quiet [Mark 5:15]. And the Lord says to him, “You go and you tell your people and your family and your friends all about what Jesus has done for you” [Mark 5:19].
Now that is the method. How do I do God’s work? To sit here in this sanctuary in quiet meditation, and to bow at home in prayer, and to read God’s Holy Word, to be quiet before the Lord, that is a beautiful way to serve Jesus. But there is something else. And that is, God sends us out, up from our knees, outside these doors, speaking a precious word for the Lord Jesus.
I think of that seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew when Simon Peter is up there on the Mount of Transfiguration, and there is Elijah, and there is Moses, and there in the center is the exalted and transfigured Lord Jesus. And Simon Peter says, “Let us stay here. Let’s build a tabernacle. Let’s build a dwelling place for the three of you and let us just stay here” [Matthew 17:1-4]. And the Lord says, “Down there in the valley is an epileptic boy, there is a crazed boy, and we must go down and minister to those precious people” [Matthew 17:14-18].
That is God! For us to be still and to be quiet before the Lord is such a sweetness and preciousness. But there are those who need the witness of our Savior. And that is God’s method of a kingdom: bringing to the Lord Jesus, these who so desperately need Him.
You know, it is a remarkable thing how sometimes a quiet word about the Lord, a little testimony will change the whole configuration of life. Do you remember that story in the Second Book of Kings? There’s a little slave girl, captured in Israel, just a child, and she waits upon Naaman’s wife. And Naaman is a leper, great military figure, but he is a leper. And the little girl says, “I would to God that the great Naaman were in Israel. There is a prophet there named Elisha, and he would heal him of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:1-3]. And that quiet testimony made possible that glorious story of the healing of Naaman as he baptized himself seven times in the Jordan River [2 Kings 5:9-14]. All of that from a little quiet testimony of that precious little slave girl.
Dear Lord, how God uses the testimony of His people! Just a humble, precious word for Jesus, and to do it with gratitude in our hearts and glory to God for what He has done for us. When people look at you, do you suppose they say, “You know, I would love to be like him. I would love to be like her. Just so happy in the Lord. Just loving Jesus.”
And how I pray that the services here in the church might be up and vibrant and glorious and triumphant. Oh dear, I would rather go to church than any theater, or any symphony, or any dramatic presentation, or any athletic contest! I just am so uplifted and blessed when I come into the house of the Lord. Isn’t that great? O God, grant that there might be a like upness, and glory, and praise in our congregations when we gather together in His blessed name.
Now I want to show you something. Remember I said when the Lord went over there to this country of Decapolis, to the land of the Gadarenes, and the multitudes saw this man healed, but because of the loss of some swine, they begged Him to leave their coasts [Mark 5:15-17]. And the Lord left and gave this man the commission: “You go home and tell your friends all of the great things God has done for you” [Mark 5:18-20]. Remember we read that? And I am going to turn the page. I am going to turn the page. And when I come to this eighth chapter of the Book of Mark: “In those days the multitude being very great, having nothing to eat”… staying with the Lord all day long, for three days, for three days [Mark 8:1-2]. Then you have the story of the feeding of the four thousand [Mark 8:3-9]. Now that is in the same place. That is in Decapolis. That is in the land of the Gadarenes. When that saved man, when that healed man got through testifying throughout that district [Mark 5:19-20], when the Lord came back, they thronged Him and stayed with Him three days and three nights [Mark 8:1-2], listening to His message of grace and salvation [Mark 1:14-15, 22], when that man got through witnessing, got through testifying [Mark 5:19-20]. It’s just glorious. It’s just wonderful.
Now that isn’t unusual. When I come over here to the Book of Acts, I read here that Peter and John saw a lame man as they went up into the temple to worship, and they healed that lame man in the name of the Lord [Acts 3:1-7]. “And he”—and this is the beatenness verse you could ever read—“And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God” [Acts 3:8-9]. And the lame man who was healed held onto Peter and John [Acts 3:11]. Dear me, can you just imagine that? That lame man, walking and leaping and praising God and holding onto Peter and John. No wonder that throng came together [Acts 3:8-11].
Now, I turn the page, and look at this: “Many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the anthrōpoi, men,” beside the women, these are anthrōpoi, “and the number of the men who believed was about five thousand” [Acts 4:4]. Dear me, oh, what a glory! A man praising God for all He has done for him [Acts 3:8-9]. It is infectious, I say. You can’t help but notice it, and it moves your heart. When that man got through praising God [Acts 3:8-9], the believers were five thousand anthrōpoi, men [Acts 4:4]. Dear me, how God can use us to bless His name and to win others to the Lord Jesus!
I have to stop. Let me tell you, there was a critic, you know these exalted, educated scholars, and this one was talking to an uneducated man, a man—you know, a laboring man, a blue-collar man, he hadn’t been to school. And the man, this blue-collar man, this uneducated man, was a devout, humble Christian, loved the Lord Jesus. And this exalted scholar—you know, superior, said to that blue-collar worker, “Do you mean to tell me you believe that silly stuff about Jesus turning water into wine [John 2:1-11], and all of those miracles? You believe that silly stuff?”
And that man replied, he said, “Sir, I don’t know how to answer, I am not educated and I am not able to answer. All I know is that Jesus has turned beer and wine and liquor and alcohol into food for my children, and furniture for my home, and happiness for my family.” And then he added, “And that is good enough for me.”
Sweet people, that is God’s truth. There is nothing so powerful in human life as the presence of Jesus in your heart, and in your house, and in your home. He will change everything. And for us to witness to the love and grace of our Savior is one of the dear and precious privileges of human life. God love us, and the Lord bless you in the pilgrim way.
Now Fred, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, you come. As God shall make the appeal to your heart, answer with your life, while we sing [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9].
HARVEST FIELDS AT HOME
A. The story of the
1. The healing of
the violent, insane man
following the calming of the seas (Mark 4)
B. Expect the observer
to glorify God
1. But here, they
asked Jesus to leave (Mark 5:17)
C. The request of the
healed man and the answer of Jesus (Mark
II. His calling, mission
A. Jesus sent him to
his people, his home (Mark 5:19-20)
B. Our frontiers are no
longer geographical, but spiritual
C. Our own country
infiltrated with the devastation of darkness
III. His method
A. Christian life not
only communion, worship; but also duty, service
1. Simon Peter at
the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9)
B. Personal testimony
1. Healing of
Naaman (2 Kings 5:2-4)
IV. The results
A. After he went home
testifying, throngs came to hear Jesus (Mark 8:1-9)
1. Peter and John
healing the lame man (Acts 3:8, 11, 4:4)