'He Shall Be Great!'
A Christmas Message
'He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest." (Luke 1. 32).
In this world men are accounted great because they have achieved some noteworthy thing that has produced immediate results. A skilful general wins a crucial battle ‑ he is accounted a great soldier. A commercial magnate welds a number of trading organizations into one enormous unit, controlling a major part of some vital commodity, he is a great business man. A shrewd and plausible politician rises to the top by his astute handling of foreign affairs, he is a great statesman. None of these is called great while as yet he is in the state of progress towards his goal, while his plans are developing, but only when he has 'arrived'. The world demands, not only success, but the visible evidences of success, before it will bestow its diploma. The man who patiently and zealously builds for the future, knowing that his goal will not be reached in his own lifetime, and that the fruit of his labours will only be reaped by posterity, is never esteemed great whilst yet he lives, even though recognition may come after his death, when at last the realization of all his dreams is there for all to see.
So be it then, with our Lord Jesus Christ. Of all great men He is the greatest. He came down from Heaven to achieve the greatest work of all time, the redemption and reconciliation of mankind and the consummation of God's creative Plan. His greatness was not recognized then, but in days to come it will be plain for all to see. "He shall be great" ‑ that is the promise and it cannot fail of fulfilment. Men, and angels too, will join together in worship and adoration, praising and blessing the name of the Son of God. That name is exalted above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
At the time of His birth there was no evidence of coming greatness. He was born in the meanest of mean circumstances, his mother a lowly descendant of a once kingly line from which all the insignia and trappings of kingship had long since departed; born citizen of a conquered and subject people; born into a humble workaday environment. What promise of greatness reposed here? His only credentials were those declared by an old priest and an aged women Temple attendant, neither of them of any moment or influence in the world of big things. Who would have thought that this infant son of a village maiden would start a fire that was destined to sweep the world and never be put out? Who would have thought that this tiny babe was foreordained to outlive all the kings who ruled at his birth and to succeed to the kingship of the world when all their thrones had been swept away? Who would have thought that this little life that so quietly and unobtrusively came into the world would catch up and knit together so many other lives? Through generations yet unborn He makes of them a mighty striking force, a power so great that even the proud gates of hell will not prevail against it? That was to be the outcome, an outcome that has not been fully realised even as yet, but an outcome that will surely one day cause all men to recognise the true greatness of that Light which two thousand years ago came into the world.
We do perceive that greatness. To us He is already great. How could it be otherwise? We know of the mighty power that descended upon the Church at Pentecost and has remained since with all whose lives have been given to him. We do not yet find it possible to perform mighty outward works and so far as the world is concerned there is still little evidence of the power working within. But the power is there, a power that is preparing us and fitting us for the full revelation to all men that is to come "at His appearing". Without the long years of that inward working in our hearts and minds we would be quite unready for the duties and responsibilities which will devolve upon us directly the Messianic Kingdom is established in power and the Word of the Lord begins to go out to all people.
During the first few years of the twentieth century a young man in his early thirties resided in London. He was poor, made so by his chosen way of life, for he was a student, studying and equipping himself with the intention of one day delivering his people. Day after day he could be seen in the reading-room. Lenin is rightly esteemed one of the world's great men. Whether the social system he founded is a good thing or a bad thing for the world does not alter that fact. He was an atheist and his achievement was a purely material one, but from the world's standpoint he was a great man. But no one esteemed him such in those early student days; only after the fruit of his labours appeared in the creation of the Soviet State and its continuance against its enemies was that recognition granted.
So will it be with our King. He was despised: and rejected of men, accounted a dreamer and an enthusiast, ignored and unheeded, in the days of his flesh. His followers too. in like manner, are accounted fools, for his sake. The world does not really believe that the saints are: going to reign. Men do not take seriously the oft-repeated declaration that in a day yet to come the Lord Jesus will assume His great power and command all men's obedience. The disciples of Jesus go about their studies and their training, conspicuous only by their poverty in the things of this world, and their absolute devotion to the ideal they have set before them, and the world smiles tolerantly and takes no further notice.
One day our King will stand up, a nonentity in the counsels of the world no longer. He also will proceed to the creation of a new social order, one which will embrace, not half the world as does the Soviet system, but the whole of the world. "His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." The kings of the earth will fight against it, just as the Western powers tried to fight at first against the new Russia, and they will fail to arrest its progress. The Rider on the White Horse will cleave the heavens in his descent to the last great battle and the powers of this world will give way for the last time. The kingdoms ol this world will have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ - and He shall reign for ever and ever.
"He shall be great!" The promise stands, disbelieved and disowned by the world of men. They will believe, in that day when He stands up to command obedience. There will be no uncertainty about the matter then, no disputing. The benefits of that Kingdom will be abundantly manifest to all, and in their joy and exaltation of spirit men will declaim to the heavens "This is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us. We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
(The above article was written 50 years ago has been abridged ‑ it also stimulated the following little study).
"WHO WAS THE GREATEST"
This was the argument of the disciples. It reveals how far from the Lord's way of thinking they were at this time. It might have been more edifying to look back in the history is Israel to ponder the lives of their truly great men and women. For them and all Israel, their greatest man had been Moses the only man who had talked with God 'face to face' as with a friend. This great leader and founder of their nation, the man who had mediated the Covenant and the giving of their Law, was also 'the meekest man in the all the earth". There was nothing about him that was bombastic arrogant or conceited. He never aspired to be Israel's leader and he showed contrition of heart that could intercede for Israel and for his sister when she was being most unkind to him. Others followed Moses example ‑ their leadership exemplified humility.
They often discovered that the way to the top was only through obscurity suffering and rejection. They achieved leadership in acceptance and acknowledgement of God. To a degree they reflected the character of Moses ‑ and that of their God.
So it was with our Lord. The child of a peasant family in Nazareth, born in a peasants home in Bethlehem, a fugitive in Egypt, unwanted by the people of His own town In His ministry He seems to have spent more time with those of the lowest point in Jewish society, helping those whose need was greatest, living and dying with the rejected of society. Yet in the courts of Heaven He was given the greatest honour. He was great because He humbled Himself; He was great because He was willing to take the lowest place; He was great because He truly reflected the image of His Father. He spoke most against arrogance and hypocrisy ‑ that which characterizes the 'great ones' of the Earth. He set the pattern for us; how close have we come to following His example.