How great thou art

Luke 7:18-30
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” That’s a lesson William Shakespeare offered on the idea of greatness.

In a way, John the Baptist fits each category.

There’s a miraculous tone to his birth.

Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, made John’s father, Zechariah, mute for a time. He couldn’t believe his barren, older wife, Elizabeth, would have a son. Elizabeth sensed that even in the womb her son had the knowledge of God’s presence. When John was born, his father’s first words were of praise to God. He also recognized John would “go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.” Indeed, he was born for greatness.

Later in his life, when God called John to preach, people responded.

Sure, he was the bug-eating crazy dresser. But his message was something that resonated with people. His preaching inspired many and made them wonder if he himself was God’s Messiah. John baptized many people and became a teacher that others followed. In that sense, he achieved greatness.

At the same time, John didn’t ask for any of this.

Can you imagine growing up hearing your parents go on about how you’re going to change the world? That’s a lot to live up to. Could he have envisioned what that would actually look like? John grew up and lived in the wilderness. How much pressure did he feel as he spoke to the people and confronted the religious powers?

As John continues his ministry, a pressing feeling comes upon him. The text doesn’t offer any clue into what John might have wondered to himself. We only have the question he posed to Jesus: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

John had already baptized Jesus. It stands to reason John had heard of the kind of ministry Jesus had afterward. Still, John needs clarification. He needs an assurance, I think. I wonder if he’s already feeling the threat of Herod. It won’t be long before Herod beheads John.

If so, John needs to know that he has pointed everyone to the right person. That he hasn’t wasted his calling. Jesus wants the Baptizer to examine the evidence. What do the healings say? How else can the dead be raised? Who else would bring good news to the poor?

Don’t worry, John. God’s time has come! You are on the right track.

And Jesus wanted everyone else to appreciate the greatness of John. He was the last of the old prophets. Scripture pointed people to him just like it pointed to Messiah. John saw what the other prophets did not, and he even baptized Jesus. Finally, everything he said and did pointed people to Jesus.

All that convinced the Lord that no one was greater than John.

Well, except for anyone who was the least in God’s kingdom. Who is that? Anyone who hears the invitation to God’s kingdom and accepts. That means you could be the greatest. 
Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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