And I say unto you. That many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing o
SITTING DOWN OR CAST OUT
Mr. E. Roe
August 28, 1966
“And I say unto you. That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 8, 11 & 12.
What a solemn Scripture! We really need something solemn in these days. In coming to the house of God, surely, it is not always to be nursed, fondled, given sugar sweetsÂ—surely notÂ—when the Word of God has so much in it that is solemn and searching. Much that our Lord taught is never referred to from the pulpit, at least, in these days. It does not appear to me as if there is much of His teaching at all, certainly not these solemn, searching, discriminating portions. Yet people are living and dying and entering into a vast eternity who have never heard (though they have been to chapel and church, maybe, all their lives) that there is a hell, of never-abating despair, and that our Lord preached it as no-one else ever did.
In order to ascertain the proper meaning of these two verses, you must spend a few moments with me on the context. I hope you will always do that privately too. You will usually find the key of interpretation hanging up close by if you look. The immediate context is about that centurion that had his servant sick of the palsy, grievously tormented, “And Jesus saith unto him, ‘I will
come and heal him’.” Do note the readiness, this loveliness of Jesus Christ. “I will come and heal him.” “But, Lord, he is not a Jew. He is not one of Thy nationality; he is not one of the tribe of Israel; he is a foreigner, a Gentile, a stranger.” “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” I have no doubt he felt that unworthiness. The humility of this centurion is very beautiful. It is the sweetest grace a Christian can wear, humility. I do not mean, of course, that spurious stuff, mock humilityÂ—this was the real articleÂ—”not worthy to come under my roof.” And yet he was a man in authority. He governed at least a hundred soldiers, probably more, and he knew what it was to say to this soldier, “You go there” and he went, to the other “Come here” and he came. One would think this would engender prideÂ—not always. Men can be in great positions, positions of authority, and wear the beautiful garment of humility, but one may be in a poor house with only rags and tatters to wear and yet be as proud as a peacock. Humility is something that does not depend upon positionÂ—either poverty or riches. So he illustrates his own particular case, “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man. Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant. Do this, and he doeth it.” When Jesus heard it. He “marvelled,” and, (if I may say so), well He might marvel. What kind of treatment had He been receiving at the hands of Israel, the Jews? Nothing but mockery, contempt, hatredÂ—”They hated Me without a cause.” His Gospel they did not want to hear, nor Him either, and yet here is a stranger, a centurion, a Gentile who is full of faith, and faith in Him.
“When Jesus heard it. He marvelled, and said to them that followed. Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” I repeatÂ—”No, not in Israel.” Was there one that could approach the centurion’s faith in Christ? He knew that Christ had to speak the word (the same as he could speak a word to his soldiers) and the word would be obeyed, that Christ only had to say to the sickness “Depart” and it would depart. Christ marvels at this beautiful grace that was in this good man. He did not marvel as He was God, because He knew all things, but as the Man He marvels at it. The lesson is thisÂ—that externals in religion will never do. Israel had the externals; the centurion had not; that is, the Jews had the Gospel preached to them by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ Himself. He had worked miracles amongst them many times, yet the Israelites, the Jews, remained as ignorant, as full of unbelief and infidelity, for the most part, as though they had never heard a word; and yet, here is a man who, without the means, has such faith in Christ that He marvels at him. How clear is the truth! Externals in religion take you nowhere. You and I (and I put myself in most readily) are highly favoured. We have the means of grace and we have had them for years. You would not be able to say how many sermons you have heard, or
how many I have spoken, and yet the whole of it is no good, useless, as far as salvation goes. It does not prove us to be children of the living God. Oh no! The man in the street out there that today is a blasphemer, desecrating God’s day may be found in heaven and the most zealous “dead” professor may be found in hell. It is just like that. It is the most unexpected, the unlikely, as we judge, whom God is pleased to choose and take and save to his glory, while they whom we may imagine are bound to be His people are found to be weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth presently. So I hope and trust, more than ever, I may never be allowed to put an ounce weight on my years of preaching, of itself. It could be my condemnation, not my salvation. And you, do be honest with yourselves, please. Accept this in the spirit I give it. (God knows my spiritÂ—it is for your good.) Do not conclude that, because you come to chapel or have put on a profession of Christ, that you are thereby one of His. The centurion may rise up in the day of judgment against you, for he believed without these means. Yes, it is very solemn. It struck me with a power as it came to me in bed, for I had an idea of the context, and memory could recall the gist of it, and it made one lay and shiverÂ—how empty all externals in religion seemed to me that morning! I could have thrown the lot of it right away.
” The one thing needful, dearest Lord,
Is to be one with Thee.”
That’s itÂ—that’s the only thing.
Now out of this singular occurrence of the centurion coming to our Lord, by way of digression, our Lord gives these words we have read as a text. Turning to His disciples He says, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you. That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In other words, the centurion is an illustration of the great number of the Gentiles that our Lord would gather unto Himself eventually. So He drops these two verses in by way of digression while talking about the centurion. If it had not been for the centurion, humanly speaking, we would not have had these two verses with all their beautiful teaching.
Here is the thought of the Gospel as a Feast. “I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” “Sit down.” “Many, from the east and west.” Luke says “North and south,” bringing in all the points of the compass. Many of the Gentiles shall come and sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. I do not know what the disciples thought of that, because they were very prejudiced in their notions. They had no heart for a Gentile to share with their privileges, any more than some denominations today have any heart for anyone out of their denomination
to share in the Gospel of Christ. You know what I mean. You have it in your own heartÂ—so have I. That tendency to think, if everyone is not dressed just as I am dressed, looks just as I look, speaks just as I speak religiously, he or she cannot be right. Do not judge! Christ said that many of these strangers and aliens From the commonwealth of Israel shall come, and they shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham, the friend of GodÂ—Isaac in whom the seed was promisedÂ—Jacob who, as a prince, prevailed with GodÂ—three of the choicest of the family of God are named, revered, well-loved names, as they should be, of course, and these strangers to come and sit down with them! “Lord, this can never be, surely.” They must have had a shock when they heard Him speak these words. But He said it Who is the Truth. “I say unto you. My disciples, who have not yet understood my mission properly, I say unto you that many like this centurion, with no religion at the moment, shall have it, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
The idea of a feast is seen in the words “they shall sit down.” There was a law among the Jews (not Biblical) that it was a crime to sit down and eat a meal with a Gentile. You remember how Peter sat down and did eat a meal with the uncircumcised. The Apostles at Jerusalem got to work on him over it and said, “Why, you are not walking according to the truth of the Word of God, because you sat down and did eat with the uncircumcised.” “Ah,” says Peter, “I thought once I was a good sort of man, but God gave me a vision. He revealed something to me. He shewed me that I was not to call any man common or unclean and He opened the truth to me that Gentiles were in that sheet and that they were to be received, and were received at the feast.” They shall sit down, with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob.
The figure of a feast, where it is most appropriate, is here. After all, it is a marriage, and there should be some joy and rejoicing at a marriage. If there is not, then there is not likely to be much atfterwards. I say that kindly, because you cannot have every day a marriage-day. Sorrow and trouble and difficulties are bound to ensue, but let the marriage day be a happy one. Yes, surely. And this marriage-day of all days! This is the marriage of the King’s Son, God’s Son. He had but One and for Him He makes a marriage feast. Really and truly then, the Gospel has something to do with union to Jesus Christ.
The whole of the feast is made for those who are or shall be manifestly in union with Jesus Christ, no matter where they are at the moment. “They shall come from the east and the west, the north and the south, never mind what they are up to; they may be the slaves of the devil, as they are, in fact, but they shall come. My wedding shall be celebrated, the feast shall be eaten, the good things of the Gospel they shall know. I will see to it,” says God, He Who made the feast. Ah! does it not show His
heart towards sinners? What do you want better than this? Would He go to all this trouble of making such a sumptuous feast as the Gospel is if He had not a heart toward a sinner? Certainly not. You may take it for granted therefore, that, while God maintains the preaching of the Gospel of His dear Son, He has a heart to save some, and He will. We may not see; we do not see what we would like to see, but He will do His work through that ministration of His holy Gospel. It is good for a minister to remember that, whatever be the result of his ministry to him, if his ministry is true and right, he is a sweet savour unto God, whether they who hear him are saved or not saved, it makes no difference to the minister’s state before God. His usefulness will not glorify him before God and his apparent disappointments will not make any difference with God. His ministry of the Gospel is a sweet savour to God and, whether the people believe it or whether they tread it under their feet, makes no difference to the minister’s state. God still looks upon him as a sweet savour. That is a helpful Scripture, you know, because today, quite frankly, there is scarcely anything to encourage a man to continue preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “We see not our signs.” It is lamentable; it makes one feel very despairing sometimes. But, there, back to the feast.
Now, the last thing some people imagine about the Gospel is that it is a feast of joy. You will understand me, I hope, when I say it is not a feast of misery. You could not have that; that would be no feast at all. It is a feast of joy. “Behold” was the first announcement, “we bring glad tidings of great joy.” Joy, it is joy. Pardon my saying this, but I feel it very, very acutely. How little of this do we see today among people that go to church or chapelÂ—even our chapel here. How little of this joy is seen, heard or felt! talk of misery, talk of darkness, and some will delight in it. Well, misery has its place. God knowsÂ—ah! it has indeedÂ—but the Gospel will cure it, if it is the right kind of misery. If it is misery and darkness because of your sinnership, then let me tell you, frankly and candidly, the Gospel will be the only thing you will want to hear, nothing else but that, and why? Why, because it is the prescription for your malady, the cure, blessed be God. You will say, “If I have it not, that is what I want. If I do not feel it, that is what I am after.” It is good to be at points, you know. If you have a bad case in your own heart by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, that will make you a hearer of the Gospel. You will want to hear it, and you will hear it, if it is to be preached. You will run miles after it and will not think it a burden either. Why? Because there is the remedy, the blessed Gospel of Christ, the good news of heaven that His Son did die to put away sin, and, if that be true, “Perhaps He put away mine. I do not know,” and you will say, “But I will seek, I will ask, I will search for it.” Of course you willÂ—you must. You do not wrap yourself up lackadaisically in a doctrine and say, “Oh well, what is to be will be.” That will not do for a living soul. Yours is an urgent, pressing case, and you are after the enjoyment of the good news. Oh!Â—
“Assure my conscience of her part
In the Redeemer’s blood,
And bear Thy witness to my heart
That I am born of God.”
That is the next best thing to having it, to be seeking it, the Gospel of joy. What can be a greater joy to a man head over ears in debt than to be told his debt is cancelled, his obligations wiped out, specially as we speak of those toward God? Debts toward Him He has cancelled. This is heaven begun when you have a little of this in your heart. Ah! it would not matter what else you had, friend. You might have a good dose of earthly joy, but this would excel it. You would say, “This is my drink, real water, my life, my hope for ever, joy.” “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Think of the good things that are to be had at this feast. “The Lord of Hosts will make in this Mount a feast of fat things.” There is the wine on the lees, well refined. The wine has been on the lees for a long time, but it has been drawn off and now it is so strong that it maketh “even the lips of them that are asleep to speak” when they drink. Do you know what it is to be asleep in the things of God, drowsy and heavy day by day? Prayer a burden, the Bible you do not read and all this because you are far more asleep than you are awake, and yet, blessed be God, sometimes He will drop a little of His love in your heart like the best wine that will make even your weary, lazy, sleepy mouth open and speak to His praise. You will say “I do not want the new stuff; this old wine is best.”
Ah! and “fat things.” That means rich thingsÂ—an abundance of themÂ—the excellency of them. There is nothing that the Gospel does not possess for a sinner. If it is righteousness needed, it is here. If it is pardon, it is here. If it is holiness, it is here. Enumerate all your wants (you can do that sometimes) there is a sufficiency here. It is wonderful how some of you can argue yourselves against hope. I wonder why you do it. I wonder why I do it. It is atheism, you know. It may appear to be a very spiritually-minded condition, but it is not, it is not. It is that old devil of legality and starched-up pride that is in you and me, still looking for something out of the dung-heap that is good. No, it is:Â—
“Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me ”
at least, “We hope so,” say we
“Oh Lamb of God, I come,”
and no sinner ever was, nor ever shall be, thrown out that comes that way to this feast.
One more thing about this feast. Everything is for nothing. That is the sort of feast for me, everything for nothing. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to this beautiful pure water, drink, drink without money and without price.” Here is milk in abundanceÂ— the sincere milk for the babeÂ—here is strong meat for those who are older and riper in their experience at this feast. Oh come, come.
“Ho every one that thirsteth come.” Do not say “It is no good my coming.” God says “Come, come all things are now ready. Come, come. Do not run away, do not be afraid to come.” He even sent His servant out into the highways and byways to compel them to come, not to run away. It is the devil’s business, you know, to try to make you run away from it by suggesting you would not be welcome, that you are not a fit person. Christ says “Come” and “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” Let the devil take that word. I do not wonder at Bunyan calling it “that blessed 6th of John.” He said “The devil at one end and I at the other-we did have a war about itÂ—but, blessed be God, I got the victory.” “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Now, there is a second part of the subject that I must touch upon and that is the dark side. “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “The children of the kingdom” here refer to the Jews primarily. We read in one Scripture where the Lord said that He would take the kingdom of God away from that nation and give it to another nation that should bring forth the fruit thereof; therefore, you have the explanation from our Lord of what He means by the phrase “the kingdom of heaven.” In this connection, it is the preaching of the Gospel. The dispensation of the preaching of the Gospel was taken away from the Jews, “the children of the kingdom.” Nationally, they were so, professedly they were so. “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we.” All the rest, the Gentiles, were dogs; they were the world, which is often the meaning of the word “world” in the New Testament. Gentiles, heathen nations were anathemaÂ—all others, other than Jews, were nothing. It is marvellous how that spirit still lives in religious circles. I hope it will not reign in you nor me. It is there, oh yes! We are like that dear old man in Wiltshire who said, “I be both a pharisee and a publican.” I quite understand the old gentleman, and I believe I met that old gentleman in my earlier days. Ah! how true.
But, back to this. “the children of the kingdom”Â—the Jews. They lost their ecclesiastical state in A.D.70, when the Romans destroyed their temple and took them away. “They were broken off” says Paul in Romans 11, speaking of the Jewish ecclesiastical State, “they were broken off that the Gentiles might be grafted in,” using the figure of the olive tree, you will remember. Ah! “the children of the kingdom” lost everything, and, not only that, but, here, “they shall be cast out into outer darkness.” Oh it is a solemn thing, friend, a solemn thing! Five were wise, five were foolish. When the Bridegroom came they all had their lamps, but some had oil and some had not. Some went in, some were excluded. When you think of the possibility of one preaching (for I put myself in with all sincerity) and yet can drop from the pulpit into weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and I fear a good many will, for they will say, “Lord Thou hast taught in our streets and we have preached in Thy streets too.” “Depart from Me, you are
workers of iniquity, you preachers, the lot of you, I will have nothing to do with you” and He consigns them to endless woe. On the other hand, there is a poor, limping beggar, with nothing but tatters to his back and corruption in his heart, who has got one prayer, “God be merciful to me the sinner” and Christ says, Â“Come in, come in thou blessed of the Lord.” That is the difference.
This “weeping and gnashing of teeth”Â—the despair and yet, notwithstanding the despair of the lost, there is no repentance. It is still gnashing of teeth. They are still cursing and blaspheming God, as we read in the Book of the Revelation. They “gnaw their tongues with pain”; there is the gnashing of teeth, the pain and the misery and, yet they curse God. Hell will not alter their hearts, no. If not altered by grace this side of the grave, they will go down to the grave in that unaltered condition.
Luke gives us the story too, but he gives us it in a different setting. One of His followers said to Him, “Lord are there few that be saved?” What a question! Yet I am glad these questions are asked, you know. “Are there few that be saved?” And how did he Lord answer it?” Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Don’t you bother yourselves about whether there be few or many, strive to enter in at the strait gate.” The margin of your Bible there gives the word “strive” as the word “agonise”. “Agonise” to enter in. It is life or death. It is hell or heaven. It is one or the other. The man that is born of God realises it so. He cannot put it off. He cannot be lulled into a sleep about it. He must have the matter settled. “Mine’s an urgent, pressing case. Lord. Answer it; tell me.”
Well, may God help us to strive. It is a blessed striving to have in exercise of soul, striving to enter in at the strait gate that leads to the narrow way, and the narrow way that leads to endless bliss.
Will it not be a miracle to get to heaven? It will. It will. All that do get there, what will they say? “Not unto me. Oh Lord, but unto Thee be the glory and the praise!”