Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
Thesis: A most important issue for man's experience of life is what he does with the issues of "greatness".
Introduction: Jesus is all about "Life". When He created, it was to share His Life with others. When He refused to immediately squash rebellion, His reasons had to do with this issue of sharing His Life. When He ultimately descended into His creation to absorb the consequences of Death into Himself on the behalf of His creatures, it was because of His "fixation" upon sharing His Life with others. The great summary phrase of all of the impact of His communication with that part of His creation called "man" is "eternal life". "This is the promise that He promised us: eternal life." According to biblical revelation even Death serves His purposes of Life. Jesus is all about "Life".
Therefore, as we have studied Jesus' comments about John in Luke 7:24-29, we have seen Him making a rather big deal out of what the perception of the people was in regard to John. The reason is rather simple: it is only by "faith" in John's message that men enter into "Life". If Jesus is "into" Life, it stands to reason that He would attempt to make sure that men are not put off from Life by the matter of stumbling by John.
Last week we considered some of the facts about John as a "more than a prophet" personality. That he was a prophet means two things: his message is believable; and his objective is valuable. That he was more than a prophet also means two things: none of his message is not believable; and his position as the forerunner of the Christ signals the onset of one of the two most important events of human history.
This week we are going to look into Jesus somewhat cryptic remark regarding John's "greatness" and "leastness" to see what it means and why Jesus said it. It is interesting that Luke recorded this fact after this cryptic comment: "... when all the people...heard this...they acknowledged God's justice." This comment seems to imply that the people understood what Jesus was saying and agreed with it. So this morning we want to join them in understanding and agreement.
October 12, 2008
- I. What Does Jesus' Comment Mean?
- A. To answer, we must understand several of the issues in the context.
- 1. The contrast that exists between the present realm and the coming realm.
- a. Jesus deliberately stated the contrast in terms of "those born of women" and "those in the Kingdom of God".
- 1) The realm of those born of women is the straitly defined "post Genesis 3", "pre Revelation 21" realm where Sin is a major element in every aspect of man's existence.
- 2) The realm of those in the Kingdom of God is, by contrast, that "pre Genesis 3", "post Revelation 21" realm where Sinlessness is a major characteristic of every aspect of man's existence.
- b. Paul deliberately contrasted these realms in Romans 8:18 in terms of man's experience.
- 1) In the "Sin" dominated realm, man's experience is "suffering".
- 2) In the ""Glory" dominated realm, man's experience is so "beyond" suffering that there is no real comparison.
- c. Both Jesus and Paul deliberately declared that one of the most critical factors of man's participation in both realms is the absolutely huge difference between the way men look at things and the way God looks at the same things.
- 1) Isaiah set the stage by saying "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. for as the heavens are higher than the earth [this is Jesus' contrast of realms concept], so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
- 2) Jesus picked up on that thesis when He said to God in Luke 10:21, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth [again, this is Jesus' contrast of realms concept], that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."
- 3) And Paul insistently declared the same thesis when he wrote to the Corinthians, who were being eaten alive by their own pride, and said, "...the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Corinthians 1:25 in context).
- 4) We conclude, then, that Jesus was warning His hearers that what He was talking about -- greatness and leastness -- involves serious "perception" issues.
- 2. The contrast that exists between "greatness" in the present realm and "greatness" in the coming realm.
- a. Because it is a contrast between a "Sin" dominated realm and a "Glory" dominated realm, the "Sin" dominated concept is significantly misguided.
- b. Men view "greatness" as God views "greatness" in one of its particulars.
- 1) Both men and God agree that "greatness" has to do with what "others" give you.
- a) Men consider one "great" if "others" give them status in their eyes.
- b) God considers one "great" if he/she has been given status in His eyes.
- c) The issue is the same in both cases: the "great" one is considered to be of very great value by the one using his/her definition of "greatness".
- 2) This signals that there is at least a germ of Truth in man's mind, but, keep in mind, germs are very hard to see and no one ever knows what will result from ingesting them.
- c. Man's view of "greatness" makes a radical departure from God's view at the methodological level.
- 1) Man's view of the methods of "greatness" are critically flawed.
- a) Man's view begins with a perception of "power": they are "great" who have more than the average amount of ability to dominate the circumstances.
- b) Man's view continues with a perception of how that "power" is applied: they are "great" who apply their power to "approved" objectives.
- c) Man's view falls to the ground with a final perception: for men, "others" are "great" if their application of power doesn't mess with their own.
- i. The reason this causes man's concept to fall to the ground is fundamental: no one is great unless I say they are great (which, being translated, means this: I am the greatest since I determine who is "great").
- ii. For a man to take the position of "God" is fatally destructive.
- d) This highlights a crucial aspect of "greatness": the real, heart-perception of the one granting the "great" that status.
- i. Men are often willing, in the superficial realms of life, to simply accept the verbal declarations of others as to their greatness because they simply cannot force "heart" attitudes and they do not understand that it will be the "heart" that proves to be the most potent "germ" in the end.
- ii. Men are seldom willing, in the intense realms of life, to settle for meaningless words.
- iii. But, since the one who grants "greatness" to another is ultimately "greater", the entire concept of man spins down into the chaos of competition.
- 2) God's view of the methods of "greatness" is true and workable.
- a) God's view of greatness begins with His perception of the "other's" intrinsic worth (every man has this quality in God's heart as proven by His death for them): a person does not have to do anything to be "great" in the eyes of those who grant status on the basis of intrinsic value.
- b) God's view of greatness continues with His perception of whether those "others", who have such worth in His eyes, are willing to accept His perception of the "greatness" of others.
- i. With men, the issue is whether a person will do what I want to be done for me.
- ii. With God, the issue is whether a person will accept My view of others as "great".
- iii. Neither men, nor God, maintain a "static" view of another's "greatness".
- c) God's view moves further along with His method(s) of getting people to accept others as "great".
- i. It starts with a man "accepting" His view of greatness in respect to him. [A man must believe that he is loved by God apart from any thing he does.]
- ii. It continues with the process of a man "transferring" the application of this truth to others.
- B. To answer, we must plug God's view of greatness into Jesus' comment about John.
- 1. Men viewed John as "the greatest" because he occupied the position of "the greatest prophet" with "the greatest task" (to prepare men for the first Advent, one of the two greatest events in human history).
- 2. God's view of John as "less than the least in the kingdom" because he had not yet shed the "Well, what about me?" mentality that marks all those "born of women".