Influence and Importance

The crowds measured John the Baptizer from a horizontal, human level – comparing him to themselves and others. They were obviously impressed with his life, and Jesus understood why. Jesus identified the Baptizer, as the greatest among men. Among people, John was a prophet, being able to both understand the times in which he lived as well as speak accurately of the future, Luke 7:26. John didn’t cater his teaching to any pressure men sought to apply to him (Luke 7:24), nor was his head easily turned by creature comforts, Luke 7:25. Even more, John was the man chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah to enter into the hearts and lives of people, Luke 7:27. Yet, Jesus pointed out to the crowd that as rightly impressive as John’s life was, to have a spiritual summary or understanding was more important. Being the greatest among men paled in comparison to being the least in the kingdom of God, Luke 7:18-35. Certainly the way of Christ challenges our thinking. Is it true that anyone who trusts in Christ is greater than the greatest among men?

“I am the greatest,” shouted the young Cassius Clay (soon to rename himself Mohammed Ali) in February 1964. We know his reference was among boxers. Even so, very few serious boxing fans now consider the calculated boast of Cassius to play out to be less than true for a season in his life. Nearly exactly 50 years later, January 2014, a young defensive player in the NFL, Richard Sherman, had a similar thing to say about himself in an interview following the 2013 NFC Championship. Sherman broke into a verbal rant in an interview about how he is “the best corner in the game.”

When we hear people such as Clay or Sherman call out like this, Jesus offers understanding that they are like children calling out to other children to obtain their affirmation based upon what they just did, Luke 7:31-32. Their strength is their god (Habakkuk 1:11), as well as is the praises of men, Psalm 49:16-20. Boasting of your accomplishments will find much affirmation in this life from other children in adult bodies who also miscalculate their life and strength as being of their own effort, Genesis 2:7; Isaiah 30:15-17, 40:27-31; Luke 12:22-32; Colossians 2:19. It is according to such perceived strength that the boastful will one day rightly be measured (Revelation 20:11-15), but only if they fail in this life to place their confidence in Jesus the Christ, sent from God, John 8:12-24.

Truly the actions that characterize a man prove which wisdom is his, as well as which wisdom is right, that of men or that of God, James 3:13-18. The person who is perceived, by comparison to others, as having less importance or influence among men is brought from least to greatest (having more importance or influence than even Clay or Sherman) when he or she enters into the kingdom of God found in Christ, Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28, 9:48. The song sung by the descendants of Korah as they went to the formal place of worship remains sound today. Blessed is the man whose strength is in the Lord. Better is one day in His courts than a thousand outside (Psalm 84:1-12), even if you do play out to be the greatest among men – for a season.