There have been a lot of great people in history. You know that they were great because their last name appears to be “the Great.” We normally think of kings or emperors: Alexander the Great or Herod the Great for example. One king, Charlemagne snuck “the great” into his name which in English would make him Charles the Great. So many people have been given that title through the years and sometimes we may wonder about how people look at greatness – because some of those people have been terrible as well.
There are other people who are outstanding in their area of endeavor: music, sports, entertainment, teaching – etc. There is something about being in the presence of greatness. You might imagine all kinds of witty things you would say if you were to run into someone at that level of accomplishment. Then you run into them and you’re tongue-tied and can’t think of what to say. As John preached in the wilderness, people recognized his greatness. John never claimed it for himself. Finally, they asked John the question that was on their minds. “Are you the Messiah.” “John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” (Luke 3:16)
As people recognized greatness in John, he pointed to the only one who was truly great: the Messiah to come. John pointed out His greatness by comparing himself to a servant in His presence. And not just any servant; his servanthood was the lowliest of the low and he wasn’t worthy of that. He wasn’t fit to untie the sandals of the Messiah. The lowliest servant had that job. He would meet the guests of the master who had been walking on the roads. You know, those roads where the emission problems weren’t airborne. Those roads that were the repository for trash. He would meet those guests, untie their sandals, and wash their feet. When John compared himself to Jesus, the Messiah who was coming, he said he wasn’t even worthy to do that. When Jesus described John, He described him as the greatest born among men.
If we are honest, we would have to agree with John. We aren’t worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. Yet, the greatness of Jesus, not recognized on that list goes beyond “ordinary greatness.” The greatness of Jesus is that He washed the feet of others who were unworthy to untie His sandals. He made it possible for every person to have a relationship with God by His death on the cross. He reminds us that because of His forgiveness and grace, we are all worthy to stand before God and make known our needs and our desires. Part of the greatness of Jesus is found in the truth that He elevates unworthy sinners, like me, into a place of fellowship with God. Without Him, I’m unworthy of untying sandals. Through His mercy and grace, I can join with the heavenly choir and praise His name.
Oh Lord, I am unworthy of Your love, yet You give it freely to me. Help me to show others Your greatness by loving others the way You have loved me.