We hear words like “marvelous” and “greatness” and “excellent” and “holy,” and we presume to know the definitions and chief manifestations of these words.
For example, in 2 Samuel 7 king David presumes that God wants a more “impressive” and “stable” dwelling place on earth, but God says, “Hold up! I actually prefer living in a tent like a homeless person! Why do you presume to know My value system?”
Or, think about this… the most theologically elite, religiously astute, decorumly dedicated people on the planet accused God-in-the-flesh of sinning! If you had asked the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, “Do y’all know what holiness means?” They would’ve said, “We are the holiness experts!” But when God shows up on earth, these “experts” are diametrically opposed to Him; and they’re constantly accusing Him of being unholy, because He hung around with ‘bad people’, and He ‘broke the Sabbath’, etc.! These “holiness experts” were supposed to be building the house of God, but when the Cornerstone of God’s house showed up, these builders rejected the Stone!
And this prompts the question, “Do you know what is truly marvelous?” Perhaps you’d say, “Yes! …Waterfalls are marvelous, Mountains are marvelous, the Super Bowl is marvelous, fried chicken is marvelous!” Well, you’re not wrong, but your list contains a glaring omission – the crucifixion of God in the flesh! The staggering fact that the Author of our existence became a frail, vulnerable, human being, and laid down His life and endured the cross in order to joyfully extend and apply forgiveness to His enemies …that is most marvelous!
I beseech you to read through the entire Bible, and submit yourself to the Spirit’s work of deconstructing and reconstructing your paradigms and perspectives regarding greatness, holiness, and magnificence. And to start you on your way, allow me to walk you through 4 examples in Mark chapter 1:
- The forerunner of the Messiah. As you contemplate the description of John the Baptist, does he line-up with your presumptions of “greatness”? Consider his appearance, his work environment, and his primary points of emphasis. His appearance is shabby (camel’s hair clothes, leather belt, chowing down on grasshoppers and honey). His work environment is the wilderness; he’s not conveniently and prominently located in the middle of a bustling city. And his primary message is, “You’re evil, and you’re desperately in need of God’s forgiveness! Repent!” Get yourself ready for the impressive, ever-increasing, kingdom of (wait for it) …a crucified lamb! I know y’all were expecting a powerful lion; and to be sure, God did say ‘Behold, THE LION,’ but the appearance of greatness, and the manifestation of God’s limitless power is a slain lamb (i.e. an astonishing display of WEAKNESS)!
- The apostolic recruits. Of course the foundational leadership team of the church will consist of seminary educated men! Right? That’s a given. Right? And we can all agree that uneducated fishermen are absolutely NOT candidates for apostolic leadership positions! Right!? It seems absurd that we would even have to clarify this! Right!? It would be beyond ridiculous to pass up level-headed, Pharisee-educated, Sanhedrin-credentialed guys like Nicodemus, in favor of hot-headed, Jesus-rebuking, rooster-cocky, foot-in-mouth fools like Peter. Right!?!?
- Jesus joyfully embraces the title Jesus of Nazareth. You know how people get PhD’s and then proudly promote themselves as “Dr.” Well, Jesus is like that, but instead of the title “Dr.” He proudly dawns the title “of Nazareth.” Ironically, Jesus actually has incredible powers of healing (He is in fact the BEST PHYSICIAN!), however He does not wear the title “Dr”, rather He proudly hails from a city whose slogan is “Nothing Good Ever Comes From Here!”
- Somehow, in spite of all the disgraceful stuff mentioned above, Jesus if FAMOUS! The ministry of Jesus has momentum and acclaim, and people are swarming to see Jesus! So of course, Jesus will seize the opportunity and capitalize on the momentum! Right? Nope. Jesus gets up before dawn and goes off by Himself to a desolate place to pray, and instead of hanging around the crowds of clamoring fans, He goes off to new towns in order to PREACH! Let’s be honest, the MASSES come to Jesus for the free, and highly effective, healthcare! The preaching is highly offensive, and frankly no matter how much complimentary healthcare Jesus offers, if He keeps up this preaching business, He’s liable to get Himself crucified!