A messenger from God announced to his mother Mary, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, that he was going to be great.
There is relative greatness and absolute greatness. Snowdon is a relatively great mountain in England and Wales; none is higher. But it is a mere hill compared to Alpine peaks, and like a molehill if set down in the Himalayas. That is relative greatness. But Jesus Christ is absolutely great.
Great in his living
No life can compare to his. He was pure, meek and good, and yet strong and just. He hated all that was tawdry and hypocritical and denounced it publicly.
When he was under pressure, he never retaliated. When women expressed their affection for him and became so vulnerable before him, he never on any occasion took advantage of them.
Children were placed in his arms by their mothers for his prayers for them. He never abused such trust. He went about doing good. He showed such patience to his closest friends, staying with them for three years when they were often the slowest to learn.
His teaching was profound and at times controversial, but thousands of ordinary folk followed him everywhere and grew hungry without complaint, sitting on a hill and listening for hours to his sermons.
They were overwhelmed by his authority and could not forget his stories. In three years 500 had become his followers. No man ever lived like Jesus.
Great in his teaching
When you read the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5-7, you come across totally unique language. Shakespeare never said anything like this.
What claims Jesus made! That he is going to be the judge of each one of us. That he will determine our destinies. He has the authority to correct old religious men and straighten them out in their beliefs.
The people who are going to stand and not collapse when they meet the storms of life are the people who believe and apply into daily living his teaching. He warns about false teachers and compares them to wolves disguised as sheep. He says that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the way we come to know God and be loved by God.
Great in his dying
When men stretched Jesus out on a cross, picked up a sledge hammer and nailed his hands and his feet to the cross, he didn’t curse them and cry, ‘Wait till my Father gets hold of you!’ Instead he prayed that they would receive mercy: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
What dying grace, loving his enemies as he himself loved! He chose that death. He knew what was ahead of him and yet was determined not to attempt to flee from it. That was why he had come into the world. His death paid the ransom that covered the cost of our guilt.
He chose to become the Lamb of God who would take away our sinful liabilities. He would appease the wrath of a holy God toward his creatures, by receiving into his own body, soul and mind the judgment that our guilt rightly merited. He would end the divine alienation. He died for our sins, the Scriptures tell us.
Great in his resurrection
What is ultimate reality? Is there a more important question to consider than that? Is that coffin and the decomposing corpse the final reality? What is greater than death? Yet, on the third day, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Neither his friends nor his enemies wanted his dead body to be moved from that grave. His enemies guarded it to keep it there. His friends came to embalm it there.
What a shock to find the tomb empty! And then, for almost six weeks, he appears all over the land: on a road walking for a few hours; in a garden; by the sea eating breakfast with his friends; in the city of Jerusalem, in a room up some stairs: and then to individuals like his best friend Peter and brother James — helping and recommissioning them, giving them a purpose in carrying on living.
Five hundred were transformed by meeting with him; not with a ghost, but with a walking, talking, smiling, eating, drinking, caring friend. They were all prepared to die rather than deny the truth that Jesus was far more powerful than death, and because he lived they were going to live too.
Their hope was to be with Jesus and like him where he was. The face of his friend Stephen shone with glory as he was being killed, through possessing this real hope.
Still great today
I believe that the Lord Jesus brings the great reality of these truths to you now, not to mock you or make you angry, but to help you. He desires to gently change you, forgive your sins and make you a pardoned person — rescuing you from your guilt, and coming into your heart in inward renewal, energising, and enlightening you.
Welcome the Lord Jesus in a simple act of recognition. Receive him into your life, to be your Protector and Shepherd King for ever. One thing you can never avoid while you live and that is the providence of God.
Reading my words and being drawn to Christ is a wonderful evidence of God’s love for you today. Christ is great in his mercy, even to you and me, and even at this very moment.
Geoff Thomas served for over 50 years as pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth. He is a trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust.