“And many came to him. And they said, ‘John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Do you want to be great? Most of us yearn for that. I heard about another pastor a few weeks ago who does a blog too. He has 200,000 followers. My carnal first thought was, “I want 250,000.” That’s inside of all of us. We want greatness. We want to be not just recognized, but recognized more than everybody else for what we have done. Our culture encourages this too. Our heroes are not great statesmen and scientists and public servants anymore. Our heroes are sports stars and movie stars and social media stars. It’s a great rat race whose catch is that there isn’t any cheese waiting at the end of the path.
Desiring to be great isn’t a bad thing. Before we set off on a path to greatness, though, there are some questions we need to consider first. For starters, which definition of greatness are we going to be using? There are many of them available. Are we striving for cultural greatness, political greatness, personal greatness, spiritual greatness, athletic greatness, economic greatness, material greatness, or what?
Second, in whose eyes do we want to be great? That will determine the path we have to take to get there too. Achieving greatness in the eyes of teenagers is different than achieving greatness in the eyes of octogenarians. Impressing Baby Boomers is different than impressing Gen Xers. Capturing the attention of someone born in South Korea will not work the same way that capturing the attention of a Norwegian will.
Perhaps a third consideration is once we know the kind of greatness we’re seeking and who our primary audience will be, what exactly are we willing to do to get there? Some paths are more difficult than others. If we start off on a tough path but aren’t willing to do what it takes, we will wind up disappointed, disillusioned, and the subject of not a little derision. In the early seasons of American idol, the producers delighted in showcasing aspiring, but supremely untalented, singers who nonetheless were certain they were bound for pop cultural stardom. They wound up being the objects of a national joke.
With that out of the way, we can get to the bigger truth: The kind of greatness that lasts the longest and will ultimately be celebrated by the most people does not look at all like what any number of cultural pictures of greatness set forth. The chief example of this is John the Baptist, about whom John the apostle is writing here. Jesus Himself said in no uncertain terms that His cousin was the greatest man who ever lived. And yet, as John writes here, he never performed a single miracle or otherwise did anything attention grabbing or show-stopping.
What he did do was to point people to Jesus. And that, my friends, is the secret. The kind of greatness that matters most is kingdom greatness. Every other kind will burn away in the end. It won’t last. And the way to achieve kingdom greatness is not to do anything particularly big or flashy, It can be achieved without ever leaving a few square miles of land or knowing very many people. Kingdom greatness is gained by pointing people to Jesus.
This can be done from a big stage, it’s true. But it can also be done in small ways that nobody notices save the single other person with whom we are speaking and even they may not notice it at first. But God notices. He takes note of every single instance we are faithful to His command to make disciples. No matter the size of our stage, if we make certain that “everything we say about this” Jesus is true, greatness will be our end. It may not be a greatness that is celebrated by many souls in this life, but when the kingdom comes, there will be a crowd of witnesses singing our praises as a part of their praise chorus to the Lamb. And they’ll have all eternity to do it.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the kind of greatness I’d like to experience. Let’s get to work.