Wherein lies greatness
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Mt. 17:1.
Coming from this lips of Jesus, this is praise indeed. Though the greatness of some men has to be reappraised after their shortcomings and faults are revealed, we need not fear this about John. He was a great man.
What is even more striking about this is that John himself never sought fame or greatness. He had no ambition or stomach for the praises of men. Once, when some tried to stoke the embers of envy in John’s heart on account of the increasingly popular ministry of Jesus, John simply responded, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:27-30). John had no problem with decreasing, becoming small, as long as Jesus increased and became great.
That is what made him a great man. He was great not because he was more intelligent than others, or because he was a better artist or speaker than others, or because he was a man’s man. His greatness lay in his witness to the Christ. But more than this, our text not only speaks to John the Baptist, it also speaks to you and me. The greatness of any disciple in the kingdom of God lies in their witness to Jesus. We are great insofar as we give a clear and unmistakable witness to Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, therefore, let us go out and shine the light of the Lord in this dark world.