#A WELCOME FOR JESUS
"And it came to pass, that when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received Him, for they were all waiting for Him."
- Luke 8:40
THE Revised Version is, in some places, though not in many, better than the Authorized Version. Our text is one of the few instances in which there is an improvement—"And as Jesus returned, the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him."
We have already noted, in our reading, that our Lord had gone where He was not welcomed. He went across the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes and there He met with an ill reception and was even entreated by the people to depart out of their coasts. Yet, although Jesus knew beforehand the treatment He would receive there, He went. He did not stay there long, but He remained long enough to effect a grand purpose of Grace. Upon His landing on that inhospitable shore, a poor creature, held in captivity by a legion of demons, was set free and, that done, the Master yielded to the unwise, ungracious, unkind request of the Gadarenes and went His way back across the sea.
The Lord Jesus Christ may still come to a family that does not want Him, does not wish to have Him. A man of God may pass that way and tarry for a night. The Gospel itself may be carried to people in a certain quarter and they may hear it, though they have no wish to do so. Well, if this is your feeling, my Hearers, do not be burdened with what you consider the great calamity of Christ coming near you! Do not be disturbed by the fear that you will be forced to be saved against your will! The Lord Jesus Christ will not stay where He is not wanted. As He bade His Apostles, when they were persecuted in one city, to flee to another, so He does Himself. If He is not received here, He will go elsewhere. Yet I trust that, at least, He will not leave your family, that He will not leave your ungodly neighborhood—until He has won from it some trophy of His Grace—until He has taken "one of a city, and two of a family," to "bring you to Zion."
He still delights to gather to Himself unruly ones whom He will tame, unclothed ones whom He will robe in the garments of righteousness, and demon-possessed ones whom He will cause to sit at His feet, as the Gadara demoniac did when he was restored to his right mind. I have seen this happen again and again, and it has been a blessed thing for those whom Christ has thus rescued and saved. He has gone away, at the request of those who did not wish for Him, yet He has not gone till He has left behind Him a witness to His power who has continued, after His departure, to tell what the Lord has done for him! Thus a tree has been planted which Satan cannot pluck up and a light has been kindled which all the powers of darkness cannot blow out! Yet, alas, there are still some who do not want Christ and who treat Him so ill that He goes away from them, as He returned from the coasts of Gadara.
But now look at the other side of the narrative and learn from it that while some will not receive Christ, there are others who are anxious that He should come to them. When Jesus took ship and crossed over to the other side of the sea, "the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him." Minister of Christ, servant of the Lord, if you are rejected in one place, you shall be received in another! If, today, you have to shake off the dust of your feet against impenitent hearers, it may be that, tomorrow, you shall find some whose hearts the Lord has opened, who will gladly receive your message, who will come to Christ and find salvation in Him. What a mercy it is that all ground is not stony ground! There is yet some "honest and good ground." It is not everywhere that the door is shut, so that God’s servants cannot enter, but, in many places, an abundant entrance is made by the power of the Holy Spirit, and God’s servants are able to step in. Wherever Christ is welcomed, there we may expect to see His power displayed.
As we read the chapter, we saw that it was so in this instance. The people waited. The people welcomed and then Christ put forth His power until the people wondered. If we are, at this time, waiting for Christ, and if we now welcome Christ, we shall, by-and-by, become a wondering assembly, marveling at what the Grace of God has done among us!
I am going to divide my subject in this way. First, here is a beautiful sight. "They were all waiting for Him." Secondly, here is a sure arrival. "Jesus returned." The people were all waiting for Him, so He came to them. And, thirdly, here is a hearty welcome. "The multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him."
I. First, then, here is A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT. "They were all waiting for Him." I shall try to show you this beautiful sight in four pictures.
I think that it is a very beautiful sight, first, to see a waiting assembly when all the people have come together—not to hear fine music, or merely to listen to the voice of a man, but anxious to meet with God, desirous to feel the power of Jesus Christ! Happy preacher who has to address such an audience! Happy audience that has been brought into such a condition! "They were all waiting for Him." Just for a minute or two look at our ordinary congregations and see if our text is true concerning them. Alas, the people are not all waiting for Jesus, for they have not all assembled at the hour of worship! A few come on time and take their seats, but it is not so with others. I am not speaking of you, my Hearers, for I exempt you from this description. You would not get in if you came late, so you do not generally attempt it, but you know how it is in many places.
Here they come—detachment of late-comers stamping up the aisle, interrupting the first prayer. Others come straggling in all through the reading of the Scriptures. God’s Word seems so contemptible in their esteem that they tramp up the aisle as if it were some unimportant book that was being read. Then comes the singing and some join in it heartily. But others do not even know what hymn it is, for they have only just arrived. And I have known some friends, in certain places, come so late that the minister had almost finished his sermon—and they were just in time to go home with the congregation! This ought not to be the case anywhere and is not the case where all are waiting for Jesus. I like the thought of the good woman who said that she never went to a service late for it was part of her religion not to disturb the worship of other people. I wish many more agreed with her. Oh, how much loss of spirituality, how much loss of blessing has come by that straggling in, one by one, instead of all being assembled, waiting for the Savior with such due respect to His holy name that they would not think of being late!
He who goes to see an earthly king is surely punctual! He would sooner wait an hour in the anteroom than keep the monarch waiting a moment. But what shall I say of those who seem as if it were a painful operation to join in the worship of God and so postpone that operation to the last possible moment? That was a beautiful sight in the house of Cornelius the Centurion, when he had fetched in all his kinsmen and near friends before Peter arrived, so that he could say to the Apostle, "Now, therefore, we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God." They were all there, all ready, all waiting, all prepared to hear and all glad to hear! The more of such congregations there are, the more will the Spirit of God work, the more numerous will be the converts and the more will Christ’s Kingdom spread among men!
I say all this because I know that there are many people from other places who are worshipping with us and I know, also, from observation, how many there are who look upon the House of God as a place into which they may stray at any time they please. Let it not be so with you, dear Friends, wherever you worship—but let it be said of you whenever Christ comes to the congregation—"They are all waiting for Him."
A second picture, more beautiful, still, is to see a Church waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ—a prayerful congregation met together to seek a revival of religion through the more manifest Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in their midst. I wish that all the members of churches that are in a declining state would say to themselves, "This state of things will never do. We cannot endure this dullness and deadness." Or, if the whole church will not say it, it would be a great mercy if some dozen or score of faithful men and women would meet together and say, "We cannot bear to have these Sabbath services and weeknight meetings without any converts. Month after month passing and no additions to the Church, no apparent power with the Word." I would not wish them to meet together to censure, to criticize, or to pour out their common complaints, but I would have them gather distinctly to wait upon the Lord in prayer, pleading His promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
I think I see such an assembly as that, all earnestly pleading with the Lord, all surrounding the Mercy Seat, laying hold of strong arguments from the Word and pleading them before God. I watch them as they have separated and gone home—they are still praying and they will meet together, again, at the first opportunity. And with more tears and greater urgency, they will present the same earnest cry, "Return unto us, O Lord Jesus! Return, we beseech You, O God of Hosts! Look down from Heaven and behold, and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself! O Shepherd of Israel, the drought has been long, the pastures are dry, the very earth is parched—we entreat you to fill the clouds with rain and water us with Grace—and make our barrenness to depart and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose." In imagination, I see these people coming together week after week—frequently pleading alone, and then pleading in company, making the Mercy Seat at the family altar to echo the same cry—and then, after they have prayed, they are all waiting, men and women and children, saying, "When will Jesus come?" They are hoping that there will be better preaching and that their fellow church members and especially that they, themselves, may be more spiritual. They are looking about the congregation to see whether there are any tokens of converts or anxious souls. They are all on the alert, expecting an answer to their prayers and, therefore, waiting for that answer and ready, as soon as God sends the fruit, to gather it from the tree and store it up!
Ah, Brothers and Sisters, we shall see greater things than these if we once get into that blessed condition, so that it can be said of us, "They were all waiting for Him." If we have such Prayer Meetings as that tomorrow—which is our day of special prayer in connection with the College Conference—what a day of prayer it will be—all with one accord in one place crying for the blessing! We might expect to have another Pentecost to make our hearts leap within us with gratitude and praise to God. "They were all waiting for Him"—oh, what a lovely sight—lovely in the eyes of angels and of the angels’ Master, to see His people all waiting for Him!
Now for the third beautiful picture which is, a seeking sinner waiting for Christ in confession and prayer. He is upstairs in the quiet of his own room. No one but God sees him, for he has taken care to shut the door. He is kneeling at his bedside. He says little, but he weeps much. He cannot utter many words, but his heart is breaking with his longing desire after Christ. He confesses his unworthiness. He knows that if Jesus of Nazareth passes by and lets him still remain in darkness, he deserves it. He bows his head low before the Lord and cries, "I have sinned." After a while, he begins to plead the promise, "You have said, ‘Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ Lord, I come to You! I am waiting for You! Come to me!" Mark his struggling faith. He says, "Lord, teach me how to believe, and let me know what it is to trust You! Gladly would I do so. I hope I do. ‘Lord, I believe; help You mine unbelief!’" Still more fervently he cries, "Lord, give me rest! Lord, come and take away the burden of my sin! Lord, I beseech You, shine upon me! Now, for weeks, I have cried to You. When will You come to me? Lord, these many months have I bowed at the foot of Your Cross and I have tried to look up, but, as yet, I see no light. Possibly, it is my ignorance that hides You from my eyes. Maybe it is my unbelief. Perhaps it is some sin I am still harboring. If so, Lord—
‘The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Your Throne,
And worship only Thee.’"
I said it was a beautiful sight that I was going to describe to you—and so it is. Yet there are, in such a scene, sighs and groans, and tears, and sobs—and men who love the pleasures of the world flee from it. But angels stand gazing with their finger on their lips and when, at last, they break the silence, the holy ones whisper, one to another, "Behold, he prays." And then their next word is, "Let us up and away to tell the bright spirits before the Throne of God, for this man that prays is not far from the Kingdom, and we must bid them rejoice with us over one sinner that repents." Oh, that there may be many such among us! These will be precious gems in the crown of King Jesus! While many a boastful professor shall be passed by, the humble seeker who is waiting for Christ shall have his name recorded on the tablets of the Redeemer’s heart!
Now one more picture, that of a departing saint, longing for Home—such a picture as you will make, I hope, dear Friend, by-and-by—such a picture as I hope to make when my turn shall come. The battle is fought and the victory is hear him say, in short broken sentences, "I have waited. I have waited. I have waited for Your salvation, O Lord! I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait and on His Word do I hope. Why are His chariots so long in coming?" His friends step very softly across the room. It is so quiet and still that you can hear the clock tick. He is waiting—waiting for his Lord, while in his inmost soul he is singing—
"My heart is with Him on His throne,
And ill can brook delay.
Each moment listening for the voice,
‘Rise up, and come away.’"
He has closed his eyes. He is gone. It is all over in this world. He has entered into his rest. Thus Jesus comes to those that wait for Him.
I would begin to wait for Him now, dear Brothers and Sisters, while yet in health and strength. Wait and watch for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is the joy and hope of His whole Church! Wait and watch for the opened Heaven, for the descent on Olivet on that day when He, who was seen to go up into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as He went up! And if you fall asleep before that wish of yours shall be fulfilled, yet this shall be your joy—that you were among those who watched and waited for your Lord, and you shall enter into His joy!
Thus have I set before you the picture in four panels which my mind’s eye sees in the last words of our text—"They were all waiting for Him."
II. Now let us turn to the second point, A SURE ARRIVAL—"Jesus returned." Men never wait in vain for Christ—if they are truly waiting for Him, He will come to them. How do we know this?
Well, we infer it, first, from the fact that His Spirit is there already. Brethren, are you waiting for Christ? Who but the blessed Spirit of God made you wait? There was a time when you would have been like the Gadarenes and would have asked Him to depart from you. But now the longing, the pining, the fainting, the swooning are all proofs of His Spirit’s work within you. Where His Spirit is, there Christ will surely be. Indeed, He is there by His Spirit. He never set a soul hungering without intending to feed it with the Bread of Life. He never made a spirit thirst without meaning to fill it with the Water of Life. You can be sure that if you are waiting for Him, He will come to you, for His Spirit is already with you.
Next, we know that He will come because His heart is there. If ever there is a heart that wants Christ, Christ wants that heart! If you have only one grain of desire towards Christ, Christ has a mountain of desire towards you. There never was a sinner yet who had a head start on Christ—if there is one who is waiting for Christ, He is there already! I tell you, my waiting Brother or Sister, Christ looks upon you with the deepest sympathy. He knows all your desires. He even finds music in your groans! He bottles up your tears, for He sees beauty in every sorrowful drop that distils from your eyes. Be of good courage, for, if you desire Him, He also desires you—and where Christ’s heart is, He Himself will be, before long! If His Spirit is working within you and His heart is already with you, He will surely come to you.
I also know that He will come because His work is there. I expect to find you, tomorrow morning, dear Brother, where your work is. My Sisters, I expect to find you in the house where your work is. Where, then, is Christ’s work but in longing, anxious, breaking hearts? What does Christ do? According to the Psalmist, beside all His other work, He does two things—"He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names." And, wonder of wonders, at the same moment, "He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds." Our Lord Jesus is just as much at home in binding up wounds as He is in guiding stars—these two works are equally pleasing to Him—no, the latter is the choicer work of the two. So then, if you are waiting for Him, He will surely come to you, for His business lies your way. He has work to do in you.
This is not all. He has given us His promise that He will come. "They that seek Me early shall find Me." That is a promise which refers to the young, but it refers to the old, too. If they are seeking Him with such earnest longing that they seek Him early in the morning, or seek Him at once, they shall surely find Him. "for everyone that asks, receives, and He that seeks, finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be opened." These are our Lord’s own words, so He will not let you wait for Him in vain, you may depend upon that! His promise tells you so.
Besides that, there is an experience which many of us have had which we would like to tell you for your encouragement. It is Christ’s custom to come to waiting souls. I can speak for many Brothers and Sisters here, as well as for myself, when I was seeking the Savior that, for a long time, I said to myself, "The Lord Jesus will hear my brother. He will hear my sister. He will be gracious to my father and my mother, but not to me." The devil said, "Your name is not on the roll of Christ’s redeemed ones." How did he know? He had never read it. How could I tell? I had never seen it. When any man says to me, "Suppose I am not elect," I usually answer, "Suppose you are. And suppose both you and I leave off supposing and go to work upon certainty instead of supposition. Is not that a wise thing to do? Now, Christ has said, ‘Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ Will not the wisest thing for us to do be to go and see whether He will cast us out?" And, dear Friends, if He does cast any one of you out, I should like you to let me know of it, for I have gone up and down the land, these many years, telling everybody that Christ never did cast a sinner out and I do not wish to say what is not true. If He does cast out one who comes to Him, I shall have to amend my testimony—at least I shall have to stay at home and hold my tongue—if you can tell me, assuredly, that you went to Christ and He cast you out!
Sirs, I tell you that there is not, even among the damned in Hell, a single one who dares to say that he sought the Lord, and the Lord would not be found of him! There never shall be one among lost spirits who shall dare to say, "I trusted in Christ and He did not save me. I sought Him, but He would not look upon me." It cannot be so! Come along with you, then, I pray you, and end all questions and supposing by humbly casting yourself down at Jesus’ feet and trusting in Him! You shall not die, but shall live forever and ever!
Thus have I spoken upon a sure arrival—Christ will come to those who wait for Him
III. Now, lastly, those who have waited for Christ are sure to give Him A HEARTY WELCOME when He does come. I know that for certain because many things will lead them to do so. First, their fears. You know that at the time mentioned in our text, the people came down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and waited, and watched, and looked everywhere for Christ. He was gone. He who had fed them was gone. He who had healed their sick was gone. They said, one to another, "Which way did He go?" And the answer was, "He sailed across the sea and there was a storm that night—and He has not come back." They may have said, "Perhaps He never will come back." And some of the Galileans may have sadly added, "Alas, we did not treat Him well when He was here. We did not honor and reverence Him as we ought to have done and now, possibly, we shall never see Him again." Among them was that poor woman with the issue of blood—and she would say, "Ah, if He does not come back, then I cannot be healed. I have not a penny left to spend on another doctor! And if I had, I would probably only get worse instead of better." There was Jarius also, the ruler of the synagogue, and he was asking, "Where is the great Prophet? Do you think He will come back? My dear little girl, my only daughter, is getting worse and worse. I fear she is dying. Would God He were back, for He might heal her! If He does not return soon, she will be dead before He comes. And then what shall I do?"
Then there was the poor paralyzed man who had four friends who promised that they would get him to Christ somehow or other, even if they had to pull the roof off the house. They meant to take Him to Jesus. As he lay there, he seemed to say, "Ah, me, I have my bearers willing to carry me into His Presence, but perhaps He will never come back! Perhaps He has gone away altogether." Now, whenever that fear comes into a man’s mind, through long waiting for Jesus, till he says, "Perhaps He will not come! Perhaps He will never smile upon me. Perhaps He will never hear my prayer"—when Jesus does appear, how gladly He is welcomed! From many a heart and lips goes up the cry, "He comes! He comes! ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.’" Among the waiting ones who are sure to welcome Christ when He comes are those who have been troubled by fears concerning His absence. Then, besides, their hopes made them welcome Him when He did come. The poor woman with the issue of blood said, "If He does come, perhaps I may be healed, so I hope He will return." And Jarius cried, "Oh, if He will but come in time, my dear child may yet be spared!" And the poor paralytic said, "If He will but come—if I may but hear the music of His footfall and listen to the charm of that dear voice, and look into those loving eyes, I may yet be restored!" So, when Jesus did return, the hopes of those who had been waiting for Him caused their hearts to dance within them and made them give Him a hearty welcome! Ten thousand million welcomes are due to the Savior who breeds such bright hopes within our spirits! Oh, if He comes to you, my Friend, how welcome He will be! How gladly will you receive Him! If any of you have no fears and no hopes concerning Christ, God have mercy on you! But such as have the fears and the hopes of which I have been speaking will be sure to welcome the coming Christ.
In addition to hopes and fears, there were many other things that made these people welcome Jesus. For instance, their prayers. When a man has long prayed for Christ, he will at last say, with the Psalmist, "My soul waits for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning." And this kind of prayer creates within the spirit such a thirst that when the fresh waters of Christ’s Presence flow, then does the man welcome Him with unbounded joy! And their faith, too, helped them to welcome Christ when He returned. When a man is truly trusting Christ and yet has no sensible realization of His Presence—when a man is really reposing upon Christ and yet does not, at the time, feel the comfort of full assurance—when at last Christ comes to Him and fully reveals Himself in all His preciousness and beauty, how heartily does such a man welcome his Lord and Savior! And their love, also, helped these people to welcome Christ. And O, my Soul, what joy it is to you to get into Christ’s company now that you have learned to love Him! My Brothers and Sisters, this is our Heaven below, is it not? In all the vehemence of our love which burns like coals of juniper, the Presence of Christ is most welcome to us. Oh, for but one glimpse of His eyes, for He has ravished our heart! Oh, but to hear the tinkling of the bells upon our High Priest’s garments, though the sound is soft and low! Oh, to listen to but one Word of His! If He will but whisper, "You are Mine," it will lift our heart up almost to Heaven, itself, and fill it with a foretaste of the bliss of Glory! I know that it is so with you, Beloved. In proportion as you trust Him and love Him, will be the heartiness with which you will welcome Him when He comes to you!
In closing my discourse, let me say that if we are prepared to thus welcome Christ, He is sure to come to us. There never was a man yet who stood waiting to welcome Jesus, but Jesus was already on the way to Him. Shall I tell you how you may sooner bring Him to you than by any other means in all the world? Expose your wounds and sores before Him! Unveil your poverty and wretchedness before Him and challenge His promise to heal and save just such sinners as you are! Never try, in order to attract Christ to you, to make yourself appear better than you are—that is poor policy and is sure to fail. If I were a wounded soldier on the battlefield, I think that I would try to appear quite as bad as I really was, so that the surgeon might attend to me at once. Certainly, it would be very foolish for a man who is sick, well-near unto death, to say to the doctor, "Leave me alone for a while; I can wait a little longer." No, rather let him cry, "O Sir, I must be attended to at once, or I fear that it may be too late! I am so ill that unless I am speedily cared for, death will claim me for its own."
Well, now, act in this fashion with regard to Christ. Go to Him, poor Sinner! Tell Him how bad you have been— you cannot aggravate or exaggerate your sin! Just lay it all open before Him and say, "My Lord, my sins are the mouths that shall plead with Your love. My misery is the eloquence that shall entreat Your mercy. I die if You do not, in pity, look upon me and forgive me. I have no other hope but in Yourself. I cast myself upon You. Lost or saved, I will trust in You. At the foot of the Cross I will perish, if I must perish anywhere." Ring the bells of Heaven, for that soul is saved! Glory to God in the highest! On earth there is peace between that soul and its Maker, for it is trusting in the Redeemer, and none ever perish who trust in Him! The Lord thus bless you, dear Friends, for Christ’s sake! Amen.