“WHY KEEP JESUS WAITING?”
“If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…” (Rev. 3:20)
INTRO.: A song which challenges us to open the door of our hearts to Christ is “Why Keep Jesus Waiting?” (#310 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #624 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Christopher Columbus Cline, who was born near Wooster in Wayne County, OH, on Nov. 21, 1848. His first education was received in a log schoolhouse. Later, he also attended the University of Kentucky and the College of the Bible, both at Lexington, KY. At some point in his early life he became a member of the church of Christ.
Over the years, Cline served as both a gospel preacher and a professional educator. Among the places where he taught were the Christian College of Columbia, MO, Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, and Maddox Seminary in Little Rock, AR. In addition, he helped to organize the Palestine Exploration Company which in 1879 sent to Palestine John William McGarvey (1829-1911). This visit resulted in the publication by McGarvey, a gospel preacher and teacher at the College of the Bible, of his famous book, Lands of the Bible. Cline had a son named McGarvey who lived in LeRoy, IL, which is just southeast of Bloomington-Normal.
During his lifetime, Cline compiled a number of hymnbooks, including the Standard Church Hymnal of 1888, as well as three different editions of Popular Hymns which were published by Christian Publishing Co. of St. Louis, MO, the first of which sold over two million copies. Among the many songs which he composed, “Why Keep Jesus Waiting?”, produced in 1882, is probably the most famous. In his later years, he assisted his three daughters, Sarah Yancey Cline, Sarah May Cline, and Effie Fones, in establishing the Little Rock Junior College for Women and the Conservatory of Music, both in Little Rock, AR, where he died on Dec. 14, 1920.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “Why Keep Jesus Waiting” has appeared in the 1920/1927 Cross and Resurrection in Song: Revised and Enlarged edited by Flavil H. and Samuel H. Hall; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1940/1944 New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1994 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 1999 Into Our Hands: Songs for the Church edited by Leland R. Fleming; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The hymn encourages us not to keep Jesus waiting but to open the door of our hearts immediately to let Him come in.
I. Stanza 1 reminds us that Jesus wants us to be part of His fold.
Why keep Jesus waiting, Waiting in the cold?
He will bear you gently, Gently to His fold;
See Him, soul, and open, Open I implore.
A. Jesus is waiting for us to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30
B. When we come, He will bear us gently to His fold, which is the church: Jn. 10:16
C. The way by which we come to Jesus is to receive Him in faith: Jn. 1:11-12
II. Stanza 2 speaks of His call for us to hear Him
Why keep Jesus waiting, Waiting at the door?
Oft He knocketh softly, Softly, o’er and o’er;
Hear Him, soul, and open, Open I implore.
A. Jesus is also waiting for us to listen to His call: 2 Thess. 2:13-14
B. The fact that He is pictured as knocking often symbolizes His desire for our salvation: 1 Tim. 2:3-4
C. Thus, He wants all who have ears to hear what He has to say: Matt. 13:9
III. Stanza 3 teaches us that He pleads with us to make Him our Savior
Why keep Jesus pleading, Pleading at the door?
He would be your Savior, Ever, evermore;
Love Him, soul, and open, Open I implore.
A. Jesus is pleading with us because He is seeking to save the lost: Lk. 19:10
B. The very purpose for which He came to earth is to be our Savior: Lk. 2:11
C. Because of what He has done to make our salvation possible, we should love Him: Jn. 14:15
IV. Stanza 4 talks about the fact that there will come a time when His pleading and the opportunity to open will be passed.
Why keep Jesus waiting–Knocking at the door?
Soon He’ll cease His pleading, Yes, for evermore;
Come, poor soul, obey Him; Open, I implore.
A. Jesus will continue waiting and knocking until death comes to us: Heb. 9:27
B. And when death overtakes us, or the Lord returns, the door will be shut: Matt. 25:10
C. Therefore, while we have the opportunity, we need to obey Him: Heb. 5:8-9
CONCL.: In a small songbook entitled Best Hymns No. 3, edited by Harold F. Sayles and published in 1903 by the Evangelical Publishing Co. of Chicago, IL, this same tune by C. C. Cline is used with words by “Rev.” George W. Crofts, entitled “Don’t Keep Jesus Waiting.”
1. Don’t keep Jesus waiting, Waiting evermore,
Hark! He knocketh softly At thy bosom’s door;
Haste that door to open, Open I implore.
2. Don’t keep Jesus waiting, Waiting at the door,
How He suffered for thee All thy sins He bore;
Bid Him freely enter, Bid Him, I implore.
3. Don’t keep Jesus waiting, Friend He is and more,
As thy Savior loves Thee, None e’er loved before;
Do not turn Him from Thee, Do not, I implore.
4. Don’t keep Jesus waiting, Till the day is o’er,
Sad, should Jesus leave thee, Leave thee evermore;
Wide the door fling open, Open, I implore.
There is no date listed for the song, but it is identified as copyrighted by “the Evangelical Pub. Co., Chicago.” I personally think that Cline’s original text is much superior. As we think about man’s need for salvation, we would naturally ask of anyone who has not yet obeyed the gospel and is still lost in sin, “Why Keep Jesus Waiting?”