The Great One
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
William Shakespeare wrote them, but a character in one of his plays read the words: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” History is full of people we would call great, but what does it mean to be great? An online dictionary says a great person is one who has achieved importance or distinction in a field, so how can one be born great? Perhaps we think about those who seem to have entered the world with inherent abilities and then naturally excelled in their chosen field, say, Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci. People who achieve greatness might have some inborn talent that with hard work and dedication they’ve cultivated into outstanding performance, say Wayne Gretzky or Grace Hopper. And those who find themselves forced into greatness? What about Moses or Queen Victoria?
Then there are some who are in a category all their own. You might be tempted to say that Jesus was born great, but he was great before he came into the world in human form. His greatness is eternal and unquestionable, not because of any importance or distinction he achieved during his sojourn on earth but because of who he is, the beloved Son of God, who has all the attributes of his Father: knowledge, strength, wisdom, holiness, the whole package. And yet while he was living among people in the first century holy land very few actually recognized or acknowledged him.
In this account, Jesus drove a demon out of a man, amazing the crowd. But some accused him of calling on Beelzebub to vanquish the demon. Jesus pointed out the absurdity of their claim: how would it serve Satan’s interests to exorcise one of the devil’s own? Jesus countered that if he drove out demons by Beelzebub, how was everyone else doing it? But if he was driving them out by God’s power, then the kingdom of God was right there in their presence, and evil was being overcome. Anyone who was for him was for the kingdom; anyone who was not for him was against him. There was no neutral ground. And because nature abhors a vacuum (Aristotle), anyone who exorcised demons (or claimed to) but rejected the kingdom of God was simply setting up the possessed person for worse, because the spiritual space once occupied by the evicted demons was not immediately filled with God’s presence and power and was therefore available to Satan for repossession.
Other bystanders tested Jesus by asking for a sign from heaven, ignoring the one he had just given them. Jesus replied, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Yes, that Jonah, who after some persuasion went to the Ninevites with a message from God, enabling them to repent of their evil and be spared from destruction. Those Ninevites, Jesus warned, will stand up at the judgment and condemn this generation who refused to repent, instead rejecting Jesus, who was greater than Jonah. The Queen of Sheba, Jesus said, who traveled to listen to the wisdom of King Solomon, will stand up at the judgment and condemn this generation, who could not or would not see that one greater than Solomon was in their midst, performing miracles and telling them what they needed to do to be saved. Some believed and joined Jesus, but many opposed him.
The choice is binary: Jesus or not-Jesus. Either we are with him or we are against him. Not choosing is a choice, one with eternal consequences. Will we choose him, choose life? Or will we choose to keep stumbling around in the dark toward our own destruction?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour classes for ages preschool through adult following worship.