Your God Is Too Small, Or: The Greatness of God, Pt. 2

imagesIn my last post I considered how God reveals His greatness through the universe. In this post, I will consider how God reveals His greatness through His Son.

We learn in Hebrews 1:3 that “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” And in Colossians 2:9 that, “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Christ Himself claims to present accurately and authentically the character of God (see e.g., John  14:6, 14:9 and 17:7). Of course, as J.B. Phillips points out, being limited in space and time, “he cannot present the whole of God, but he can present in human form a character that may be understood, admired, loved, respected—or even feared and hated.”[1]

And the singular testimony of Jesus is that He is greater than anything else. While talking to some of the religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees), Jesus makes the most astounding claim: “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.” (Matthew 12:6) The extraordinary character of this claim can only be understood in light of the importance of the temple in Israel. The temple represented the center of Israelite national life. It was a gathering point for all the people of Israel, a symbol of their unity in the worship of their God, whose presence was found within its walls. So, in what way is Jesus greater than the temple? The answer is that in Jesus God’s presence is now not only found in the temple and for one people, but is accessible to all people everywhere.

Continuing on in Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus argues that He is not only greater than the temple, but is also greater than Jonah:

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:38-41)

 To see how it is that Jesus is greater than Jonah, let me briefly summarize what happens in the book of Jonah. Jonah is told by God to go preach to Nineveh; and Jonah fled by boat to Tarshish. Eventually Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed up by a great fish (Jonah 1). Next we read how Jonah prays from the belly of this fish and God commanded the fish to vomit him onto dry land (Jonah 2).  Then, Jonah goes to Nineveh and the wicked city actually listens to him and repents before the Lord (Jonah 3). However, in the final chapter we read that Jonah was angry with God for having compassion on the Ninevites (Jonah 4). And now we can see how Jesus is greater than Jonah. While Jonah proclaimed the message of God out of obedience, Jesus proclaimed the message of God out of pure love.

Finally, Jesus is not only greater than the temple and greater than Jonah, Jesus is also greater than Solomon:

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42)

We learn in 1st Kings 4:29-34 that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. The Queen of the south, Sheba, went to Solomon to test him and to see if he truly was as wise as people say. After “grilling” him with hard questions, she concluded that he was indeed wise—and this led her to give glory to God (see 1st Kings 10:1-9). So, how is Jesus greater? The answer is that Jesus is the essence of wisdom itself. In fact, in John 1:1 we learn that Jesus is the Logos, which in the ancient world, had come to mean the rational organizing principle of the universe. In John we learn that the Logos is a person—the person of Christ—that He is the source of all wisdom.

So, Jesus is greater than the temple because He is the presence of God embodied and available to all, He is greater that Jonah because He proclaims the message of God out of love (and not just obedience), and He is greater than Solomon because He is the very fountain of all wisdom. Jesus is Great. And Jesus is God. Hence, God is great.

In my next post, I’ll consider further why it matters that we think of God as great.

Check out this video: Jesus, He’s My King:















[1] Phillips, Your God is Too Small, 85.

One Response to Your God Is Too Small, Or: The Greatness of God, Pt. 2

  1. Pingback: Is Christianity the Best Possible Story? | Paul Gould

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