• Jon Forrest


The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest

Brush with Greatness or Embracing it

Karl Barth, a famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. "Are you new to the city?" Barth inquired. "Yes," said the tourist. "Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?" asked Barth. "Yes; he said, "I’d love to meet the famous theologian, Karl Barth. Do you know him?" Barth replied, "Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning." The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, "I met Karl Barth’s barber today."

A number of years ago a man picked up a beautiful rock from a North Carolina stream bed and used it as his cabin doorstop. Years later a geologist who was hiking in the area stopped at the cabin and noticed the doorstop. He immediately recognized as a huge lump of gold. Surprisingly, it proved to be one of the largest gold nuggets ever found east of the Rockies.

I heard about a couple that was excited to pose for a photo next to a street sign while visiting French Lick, Indiana. The sign said, “Larry Bird Boulevard.” They did not notice the jogger running behind them while taking the shot until they saw him in the photograph that had been taken. They suddenly realized the runner was the NBA Hall of Fame legend himself.

In each of these examples, the individuals were excited to be near to greatness. One was thrilled to have met the great Karl Barth’s barber while another was excited about finding a beautiful stone to use as a doorstop and the couple were ecstatic to be on the street named after their hero. Yet each missed the boat of greatness. It wasn’t the barber; it was the famous theologian himself. It wasn’t just a beautiful stone; it was a massive gold nugget. And it wasn’t just the street sign in the picture; it was Larry Byrd himself, the great athlete.

People often get so near greatness, but still miss it. The same thing was happening in the time that Jesus walked the earth. Following is an example:

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus asked his disciples who people were saying that he was. They gave several answers with the names of impressive biblical figures, including Elijah and John the Baptist. They thought of him as great, but they had no idea just how great he was. But Peter nailed the answer when Jesus asked, “But, who do you say that I am?” He said, “You are the Christ! The Son of the Living God!”

People today misunderstand Jesus. They call him a prophet. They call him a great teacher or a great man. Yet they fail to recognize what Peter figured out. Jesus explained that even Peter would not know this if God had not revealed it to him. His answer would be the rock, the foundation of the faith. It would never go away and would lead the followers of Christ to break down the gates of hades.

I love the way the former atheist, turned great Christian author and theologian, C.S. Lewis, put it in his book, Mere Christianity

"I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make a choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Followers of Christ have the most valuable relationship with the most valuable individual in all of history. He is the Savior of the world! He is the Son of the Living God! He is the Messiah, the Anointed One promised by God to become the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace, King of kings and Lord of lords. Scripture teaches that he is the glue that holds the world together. No one in all history could compare with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is why we must always cling to Him. We must celebrate and worship Him because there is no other name by which we may be saved.

Has your experience with Jesus been a brush with His greatness or have you embraced it?

This Sunday we will continue our new preaching series, Rocky Road; If God can use Peter, He can use you with a message titled The Rock that Rolls based on Matthew 16:13-23. We will look at Peter in his glory and in his disgrace. We each have similar up and down moments in our walk with Jesus. We will see how God’s grace functions in our lives to turn our weakness into glory.

Embracing His Greatness,


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