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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke



Part the First Of a Sermon

By John Albert Broadus

Co-Founder of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Reader's Note: This sermon is a chapter in my Book, John Albert Broadus: Prince of the Southern Baptist Pulpit.

Bible Passage:

"And of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." Acts 25:19

A new military governor had come to Caesarea. The people knew well enough that it was important for all those who had anything to do, especially with the government, to make the acquaintance of this man and try to gain his favor. For in all such cases the character and good will of the ruler was a matter of consequence. Among the persons who hurried to Caesarea to meet the governor Festus was a native ruler, a young man named Herod Agrippa.

He was a great grandson of the celebrated Herod the Great and was at that time allowed by the Romans to be a king, subject to them, over the northeastern portion of his ancestor's dominions. Agrippa came and spent a number of days at Caesarea. He had been educated in Rome, but as there were no newspapers, there would much information which Agrippa could obtain from the governor respecting the state of society and the gossip of the capital.

On the other hand, there would be much that Agrippa could tell the governor about the curious people he had come to rule over. [They were] a people well known over the world for their excitability and extraordinary stubbornness, a people hard to govern and hard to understand. And so the days went on with varied talk and counsel and feasts and baths and theater and gladiators, and all the apparatus of Roman luxury which Herod the Great had gathered in his capital city of Caesarea.

After Agrippa had been there many days, we are told it occurred to Festus—possibly he was coming to be a little at a loss for new subjects of conversation—to mention to the young king a singular prisoner whom his predecessor Felix had left there in prison, a man named Paul. [A man] . . . he found to be exceedingly unpopular with the Jewish rulers though he could not exactly understand why. For when the Jewish rulers were summoned before him according to the Roman custom, he found they had no accusation to make against the man—no civil offense [anyway] . . .. [B]ut they had certain questions of their own superstition and about one Jesus who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. One Jesus. How little did the Roman governor dream that as a fly preserved in amber, he was going to be remembered in the world's history simply because of his connections with Paul the prisoner and with this Jesus!

Things have changed since then. The long progress of what we call the Christian centuries has brought its changes and we live in what calls itself a Christian land after Jesus Christ. And yet, O my friends, it is very sorrowful to think how many there are, even in this so-called Christian land, which seems to care very little more about Jesus Christ than poor Festus did. Busy, some of them are with philosophical thought, and some with schemes of statesmanship, and some with the charms of literature, busy with the harassing pursuits of life, with its perplexing cares, with its bewildering pleasures, busy with everything else and hardly ever a thought at all of Jesus. What I wish to say is simply this: there is no one who has a right to think lightly of Jesus, and I wish to offer some reasons why that is so.

In the first place, Jesus is the most important personage in human history. The obscure and insignificant one, of whom Festus spoke so carelessly, has founded this world's most wonderful empire. The carpenter of Nazareth is a king of men. You will remember what Napoleon said, and those words have often been repeated, as he spoke to one of his friends during life, "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires, but they were by force, upheld by force, and when the force was withdrawn, how soon they all moldered away. Jesus Christ has founded an empire of love, and it lives through all the ages, and nothing seems able to destroy it." Yea, from him went forth the influences which have given to what we call Christian civilization, its highest dignity, its truest power. Much we have derived, no doubt, from Grecian literature and art, and Roman law, and something from our Gothic ancestors, but the chief power in Christian civilization comes from that Jesus.

Yea, the men nowadays who fancy they can do without Christianity, who prate that they have risen above Christianity to a higher plane than it has reached, seem not to know that all the elevated ethical conceptions and sentiments of which they boast and which they suppose make them independent are but the result of this same Christianity which they disdain. They are like a silly schoolboy who has but half learned a few of the teacher's lessons, and then fancies he knows more than the teacher and can henceforth do without him. Yea, the thoughtful world is coming to see somewhat more clearly that Jesus is the center of the world's history. Bossuet made that remark, and it has often been repeated: that the cross of Jesus Christ is the center of the world's history. All lines of preceding events seem to converge to that cross, and from it diverge all the great events of the world's subsequent history.

It is a kindred thought to say that Jesus is the center of the Scriptures. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to him: everything in the New Testament proceeds forth from him. You cannot understand the history of the Old Testament, if you think of it merely as a history of Israel. It is a history of redemption, that is its characteristic idea, and in Jesus Christ it has found its consummation, its climax, its completeness. Jesus is for us indeed the pledge of the divine authority of the Old Testament. Does a man say, "How do you know that what we call the Old Testament is from God?" I answer, the Jews were just as familiar in our Lord's time, as we are, with the phrase "The Scriptures." "The Scriptures," used so often in the Old Testament, and we know from Jewish chronicles that what they meant by Scripture was the Hebrew books which we call the Old Testament, and this selfsame scripture Jesus declares is from God and cannot be broken. I stand hearing his testimony to its authority and am content.

Part the Second and Part the Third to follow.

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