Mark chapter 1, Mark writes: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places" - and this is the phrase that I want you to really note - "and they came to him from every quarter", and they came to Him from every quarter. And we end the reading at the end of the chapter.
As I usually do, I was seeking the Lord for a message to bring to you this morning, and I was reading - just in my own personal devotions - this chapter in Mark's gospel. Some of you will have had the experience of a certain word, or verse, or phrase, or line, just jumping out at you and latching onto your spirit, I believe, by the Holy Spirit. The statement that came to me was this last sentence, as it were, of verse 45: "and they came to him from every quarter" - and they came to Him from every quarter. I just had this vision in my mind of the Lord Jesus being thronged by all these people, and escaping into the desert, and people from every quarter, every type of person from all sorts of backgrounds, just following the Saviour into the wilderness. They came to Him from every quarter. And so I want to speak to you on the universal appeal of Christ.
I think you would agree with me that just a casual reading of the gospel writings would indicate to all of us that multitudes came to hear our Lord Jesus Christ and to witness His miracles. There were times that He felt that He couldn't hide from the great crowds that thronged Him, wherever He appeared a congregation soon sprang up and assembled to hear His words and to see His great deeds. In fact, we read that the crowds at times became so large and so dense that they trod one upon another. There was almost absolute chaos as they came out of their homes and their towns and the countryside and thronged to see the Lord Jesus. Few preachers suffer from that problem today, but there were times that the Lord Jesus Christ had to resort to emergency measures - like entering into a desert, or at times boarding a boat and crossing the sea to get away from the great crowds. The only conclusion that we can come to when we read this record is that there was something remarkable in the attractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ that caused all kinds of men and women and boys and girls to come to the Lord Jesus, to listen to His teaching, and to witness His miracles.
May I just pause for a moment, because I believe that there's a great lesson for us as believers, and indeed the Iron Hall as an assembly, to note in this. We don't need gimmicks to bring people to salvation, we don't need the mind games of the charismatic movement to bring people to Christ, we don't need to water down the miraculous and the supernatural for the liberals and to satisfy the sceptical reasonable mind of men and women in our society, we don't need to bring more ritual and formalism for the religious and for the legalistic to make Christ appealing to the masses. All we need is Christ Himself; to preach Christ, and Him crucified, Christ resurrected, Christ interceding, Christ coming again - but not only to preach Christ, but to live Christ, and to allow others around us to touch Christ in us - that is all that is necessary to bring people to the gospel.
A good experiment to do would be to get a group of people - just ordinary people - and three times a week bombard them and make them listen to one specific subject, nothing else, just one subject, and see how quickly the place would empty. They get bored, tired of hearing the one thing! Yet the Christian, and even other people in our world, are intrigued by the person of Christ when they really study Him, when they really see Him, they're just content to listen on Him forever! Can I say to the Iron Hall: if a church can present Jesus, it will get the people, and indeed it will get the people from every quarter - all types of people, from all backgrounds - if in our teaching and in our preaching, and intrinsically in our living, we can present Jesus, the prophecy of Jacob will still be true: 'unto Him shall the gathering of the people be'.
How they came to him, verse 45 says, from every quarter - the works He did bore witness of Him and where He had come from, from heaven and from God. The people began to ask these questions: 'What is this? What is this new doctrine? By what authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits and they obey Him?'. The news of the lame man, men leaping, lepers cleansed, all these sorts of infidels being forgiven, coming to Jesus and being made whole, was spreading around the whole countryside - and the same will happen today! You know it, I know it, wherever God is manifesting Himself in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and changing people - the people, the ordinary folk, will flock to that place!
When Jesus is in action, you can be sure of one thing: the people will gather. The best advertisement for Jesus is the personal testimony of every soul who has been blessed and made whole by Him. You don't need a newspaper church page - there's nothing wrong with it, but you'll not need it! Because the best advert will be those who tell out the things which they have made touching the King, whose tongues are as the pens of ready writers, because their hearts dictate the matter, they have experienced His power, His love, His compassion, His grace, His goodness. They have gone out to meet Him, and therefore they cannot but speak what they have seen and heard and felt!
I'm sure that, although the crowds came to the Lord Jesus Christ, that He didn't attach too much importance to them. We know this because He always sought to avoid such popularity, and this is no different, because He told the leper not to publish it abroad, and go to the priest and offer for his cleansing, and keep quiet about what had happened to him. Of course, the leper didn't do that - and I believe that his lack of silence meant that the Lord Jesus couldn't do all that He intended to do in some of the villages because of the crowds thronging Him, and there's a lesson in that on its own. But what I want you to see is not the leper, but the Lord Jesus: His modesty. He was retiring in character, He never laboured and worked to get a crowd. One author put it like this: 'Such was our Lord's example of meekness, that He preferred the silent deserts to the applause of multitudes. His meekness was as high above the capacity of a merely human being as were His miracles'. In other words, just as Christ's miracles are above our ability, so was His meekness!
Moses is described as the meekest man, but he could not be meeker than our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Saviour never considered success by numbers, because if He had He just would have stayed where the crowds were, and gathered a crowd. But the Lord knew that in that crowd there was a mixed multitude, and crowds have little value because if men only come to gatherings to hear about Jesus, or to see great things that Jesus does, our work as the church of the living God is a waste of time! But, if they come from every quarter to see Christ, to follow Christ, and to know Christ, our job will be a job well done. As chapter 2 and verse 1 says: 'And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised abroad that he was in the house'. I believe with all my heart that when the masses, whoever they may be, wherever they are from, when they see this One, they will come from every quarter to His feet.
Not all people see Jesus, not all people come to Jesus, and I believe the reason is that they don't truly see Him. We look at certain individuals and we say to ourselves: 'That person', or, 'This person will never come to Christ. They're not a candidate for salvation. In a million years I could never see that person becoming a Christian' - but they may never have seen Christ! No matter who a person is, when they see Christ, I believe they will come to Christ. I heard a man say recently, and I believe he's right, that the first time you hear the gospel you will be saved - the first time you hear it, in your spirit that is, not by your ears. The first time you see Christ, not just with the eye, not hear about Him with the ear, but see Him as He is - helped, of course, by the Spirit of God - you will come to Him.
My friends today, this isn't a gospel message, it's mainly to believers, but I want all of us in this place to get a glimpse of the universal appeal of the Lord Jesus Christ - and, indeed, all of us, every one of us, to come to Him this very morning. The first thing I want you to see is an astonishing and attractive Saviour. Look at verse 22: 'And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes'. They were astonished at His power in the Scriptures, how He broke the bread of life. Look at verse 27: 'And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him'. Not only were they astonished at His power in the Scriptures, but they were amazed at His power over spirits - evil spirits at that. We read on in verse 34: 'He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him' - they knew He had power over them! In verse 31 we read: 'He came and took her', Peter's wife's mother, 'by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them' - they were astonished at His power in the Scriptures, amazed at His power over spirits, and aghast at His power over sickness.
Look at verse 40: 'There came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean' - and He healed that leper, not only did He heal Him; but that one who was untouchable, He touched him! The people were awestruck at His compassion toward a sinful separated individual! Believer, now this is an honest question to your heart, and I have been asking it of myself this week: are you astonished, still astonished, at the Lord Jesus? Do the hairs still go up on the back of your neck? Do you still get that tingling feeling at the power of the Master, that He had in the Scriptures? Maybe you have little knowledge of them, and little power in them, but our Saviour has that power! Does it not amaze you, the power that He had on the earth over the spiritual realm, that they had to shut their mouths, they couldn't speak because they knew who He was? Maybe there could be someone oppressed by the spiritual realm even here today: well, you need to know the amazing power that Jesus has over the evil realm!
Are you aghast at the power that He has over sickness? There's many people running around saying you're healed of this, that and the other - and they have no power to heal whatsoever - but praise God, we still believe God in Jesus has the power to heal any disease! Does that still leave you aghast? Are you still awestruck at the wonderful compassion that the Saviour has toward the sinful, those separated from God? I believe, even as Christians, when we begin to see the Lord Jesus Christ afresh again we will be astonished, amazed, awestruck, aghast - we'd be like John in the book of Revelation, you remember he saw that wonderful vision of the resurrected and indeed soon-coming judgmental Saviour, and the Bible says, when he saw Him: 'I feel at His feet as dead'! Imagine, for a second, if He appeared to us just now...would we not be astonished? Would we not be amazed?
What I want to bring you on to is how this attracted the people. In verse 32, when they saw these things: 'At even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door of the house where He was'. They had heard and they had seen Him, and the astonishing amazement that they had within their souls led them to go to this attractive Saviour. The needy people who needed Christ came out to meet Him! His fame grew, verse 28, look at it: 'Immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee', verse 37, 'And when they had found [the Lord Jesus]', trying to avoid the crowds, 'they said unto him, All men seek for thee'!
I don't know who you are, I might know you by face but to be honest we really don't know each other deep down, sure we don't? I don't know what your need is, but I know this: there is an astonishing Saviour who is attractive to those who know their need and want their need met. In John chapter 6 we read that when the crowds started to subside around the Lord Jesus: 'From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life'. You see, when you get a glimpse of the wonder of Jesus, and you are astonished by Him, amazed, aghast, awestruck at Him, there is such an attractiveness toward Him that comes from your heart to Him that you know there's nobody else can do it for you! There's no other place that you, let alone can find eternal life, but that you can find help, and refuge, and comfort, and strength - He is the only one. That was the spirit of the Psalmist when he said in Psalm 73: 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and who is there on earth that I desire beside thee? My flesh and my heart fails: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever'. Now believer, does He still astonish you? Is He still attractive to you? I hope you're getting the picture.
The second thing I want to share with you is, not only is He an astonishing and attractive Saviour, but He is an approachable Saviour. They followed Him wherever He went. This chapter that we read started with John the Baptist making straight paths, not just for the Lord, but making straight paths for other people to follow the Lord. It says in verse 5 that all the land of Judaea went out to listen to John the Baptist, but John the Baptist was only pointing toward the Saviour. In verse 7: 'And John preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I'm pointing toward the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!'. From that moment on men started following Christ, in verse 17 you have Simon and his brother Andrew in their boat, and they've been casting a net into the sea, and Jesus comes to them and says: 'I will make you fishers of men, follow me. And straightway they forsook their nets and followed Him'. In verse 19, James and John the sons of Zebedee, fishermen too, are mending their nets - and Jesus speaks to them and they follow Him. Then the crowd follows Him into the synagogue, where He performs mighty deeds. Then they follow Him to Simon Peter's house, where his wife's mother is healed of a fever. Then they follow Him to all the towns and the cities of Galilee, and then they even follow Him out into the very wilderness! Just to be with the Lord Jesus! That tells me that He is an approachable Saviour.
Believer, do you follow Him? I mean, do you seek Him for help when you need that help? Do you go to Him where He is? It says in verse 45: 'they came from every quarter' - where are you today? Could it be that someone is in a position, a place, a circumstance, they have done something, and they feel that they cannot approach Christ, they cannot maybe come to the Lord's Table? There's so much remorse, even repentance, but they still do not feel worthy - listen! They came to Him from every quarter, for He is, was, and ever shall be an approachable Saviour! Just like the Psalmist says: 'O, hear my cry, O Lord, attend unto my prayer! From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the Rock that is higher than I'. Even if you feel that you're at the end of the earth, and about to fall off, even from that quarter men can come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
All that matters is that you come, you can never cause Him sorrow if you come, you can only cause Him joy, for He says: 'Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out'. It says they came to Him from every quarter, the word 'came' in the Greek is in an imperfect form which means 'they kept on coming' - out of the hedges, from behind the rocks, down the valleys, over the mountain peaks, from everywhere, from every circumstance, trial, sorrow, heartache - they just kept coming! Listen, this is true, take heart: even in this assembly, where at times we don't see too many coming to the Lord Jesus by faith in salvation, they will always keep on coming to the Lord Jesus until He comes to us! Multitudes will never cease to come from every quarter, they're coming now all over the world, and they will keep coming, and there will never be a time when they will not come. We're told in the prophetic Psalm, Psalm 22:31: 'They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this'. I love that hymn in the Redemption Hymnal, 630 I think it is:
'Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the wild and scorching desert,
Afric's sons awaked from sleep;
Jesus' love has drawn and won them,
At His cross they bow and weep.
Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the fields and crowded cities,
China gathers to His feet;
In His love Shem's gentle children,
Now have found a safe retreat.
Coming, coming, yes they are,
Coming, coming from afar,
From the Indus, and the Ganges,
Steady flows the living stream,
To love's ocean, to His bosom,
Calvary their wond'ring theme'.
Even this very morning, all the world is still coming to Jesus. Maybe there is someone here, and you're not saved, and you've never come to Jesus: will you not come with the many from every quarter who come to Him? But my chief thought from the Spirit of God, I believe today, is to the believer: this is in the imperfect, 'they kept on coming' - coming to Christ is not a matter once-for-all in your life at conversion, it's something that is to happen over and over again and again. Peter said in his epistle: 'If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone' - we are to continually be coming. There should be daily comings to the Lord Jesus, and from whatever quarter we find ourselves in.
Are you poor today? If you come from the poor quarter, and come to Jesus, He will make you rich with the wealth that is in Him. If you are rich, you can forget about your worldly treasures, and rejoice only to be rich in Him. If you've had a hard, trying, perplexing week, a week of losses and crosses, you can still approach Him from that quarter and find Him a solace for all your cares. If you've had the opposite week of prosperity and success, you'll not be content until you come to the Lord Jesus and leave the best things that this world can offer and embrace the Lord from heaven. Men from different quarters and abilities, you could be the greatest thinker in the world, the deepest mathematician, the most profound philosopher, but the best rest of faith that any can find is in coming to the Lord Jesus, laying your all before Him, giving it all up. No matter what your character is like, Mary was contemplative, she needed to sit at the feet of Christ; Peter was active, he needed to go out and to feed the sheep and the lambs, to tend them; whoever you are, whatever your circumstance, wherever you come from, whatever your disposition and character is - all men can find their need in the Saviour!
Does it not even make Him more precious to you when you think of how precious He is to multitudes of others even this very day? There's a tradition, and it is only a tradition, that says that the manna that came down from heaven to the children of Israel in the wilderness tasted just the way the person desired that ate it, that made it welcome to every palette and every taste bud. It's a tradition, not true, but yet it's so true of Christ, isn't it? Whoever you are, whatever your need, whatever quarter you come from, He is there to help, to succour, to strengthen, to relieve. This astonishingly attractive, approachable Saviour is there for us! Let us never lose it, let us never cease to come to Him and find our need in Him!
This is the note I want to finish on: He is an accepting Saviour. Oh yes, He's astonishing, He's amazing, He's attractive, He's approachable - but He is an accepting Saviour, the One who stands with open arms, with a heart that is breaking and melting, and eyes that are weeping, and He says: 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. Are you bearing a burden today? Jesus says: 'If you come to me, I'll take that burden, and I'll give you my yoke, and I'll help you carry it, and it's easy and my burden is light, and I will give rest unto your soul'.
Here's a lovely thought - do you ever read the Bible and the gospel stories, and you think to yourself: 'Wouldn't it have been great to have lived then? Wouldn't it have been great to see this leper cleansed, to see Peter's wife's mother raised from the fever, to see these demons cast out? Wouldn't it have been wonderful to be one of that throng that went out into the desert to meet the Lord Jesus, to hear His words, to see His works, to feel His compassion?'. In one sense it would have been, but in John chapter 16 the Lord Jesus told His disciples: 'It is expedient that I should go away from you, because if I don't go away the Comforter cannot come to you, that is the Holy Spirit'. In Palestine, when the Lord Jesus walked among men, He could only be in one place at the one time in His bodily presence - and even those who came out to the desert to meet Him from every quarter, not all of them could have got near to Him, maybe not all of them would have been helped by kept Him - but today, as God's people, Jesus tells us because we have the spiritual presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit, He is with His people wherever they are!
It is no longer 'and they came to Him from every quarter', but 'He comes to them in every quarter'. Jesus said: 'If a man love me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him'. Isn't He a wonderful Saviour?
Horatius Bonar was born and bred in Edinburgh, and became a mighty man of God and preacher of the gospel. He was among those Church of Scotland ministers who were involved in what was called 'The Disruption of 1843' - that was when men of God, and men of the Book, separated from the established church and founded what is known now as the Free Church of Scotland. In the same year as the Disruption he married a woman called Miss Jane Lundy (sp?), and he moved to a pastorate in Kelso on the River Tweed in the border areas between Scotland and England. They were married for 40 years, and that marriage was not without trouble and sorrow, yet in all of those years of pain and heartache Horatius Bonar could testify that all things that happened to them brought glory to God and give them a wider ministry of compassion among men and people in similar circumstances. During 40 years of marriage five of their children died. He wrote in his diary these words after, probably, one of those tragedies: 'Spare not this stroke, do with me as Thou wilt. Let there be naught unfinished, broken, or marred. Complete Thy purpose that we may become Thy perfect image'. His servant girl in the house reported that he spent many hours a day in his study praying aloud to God - this is what I want you to notice: out of his pain, out of his heartache, from his need, he continually came to Jesus. He wrote the very famous hymn:
'I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast".
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad'.
Let's bow our heads just for a moment as we close our meeting. I hope you have come here to meet with the Lord Jesus, I hope that is your desire every Sunday when you come to this place. I wonder is there someone here that has never met with Christ in salvation? Do you not see the wonder of Him, the loveliness of His person? Go on to the end of Mark's gospel and see how He died for you, shed His blood and bore your shame that you might be His child. Oh that today you would come to Him, and find salvation. I want to ask every believer in this place: when was the last time you really came to Jesus? Maybe it was your conversion, maybe it's been weeks or months or even years, maybe it's that burden that has prevented you coming - Oh, that you would see today that that burden doesn't prevent you, indeed it qualifies you, for if you come to Him you will find rest.
Oh Father, we thank You for the blessed astonishing, amazing, attractive, approachable and accepting Saviour. We thank You that as He was upon the earth men came to Him, even now across this world men are coming to Him as we speak, and one day we will all be gathered unto Him, around Him, singing praises to Him, unto Him that has loved us and loosed us from our sins in His own blood. But Lord, teach us today, from whatever quarter we find ourselves in, to keep coming to Jesus. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Universal Appeal Of Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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