Unexpected Greatness

We are all familiar with greatness. Maybe not from firsthand experience, maybe we are not great ourselves, but we as people are drawn to the greats. Those who are great transcend time and space. Those who are great are talked about long after they are gone, they are remembered, and once they are great, they become even more. They are legends. Just like the great Babe Ruth says in The Sandlot… “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” People only become legends because their lives were marked by greatness. We all imagine someone when we think about greatness, depending on who you are and what you care about. From athletic phenomena, like Muhammed Ali, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky, to the silver screen with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, to the stage along with Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, and Johnny Cash, to the typewriter and pages, like Ernest Hemingway, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their greatness lives on, being remembered by all who come after them, never forgotten. Although they die, they also live on. 

We dream of great lives, being great in our area of expertise and career and doing great things. We are discontent with monotony and simply being average. We want more. We want to be remembered. Not only do we want to be great but being legendary would be ideal. Death is the enemy. So many people long to be remembered. By giving and donating large sums of money, by building their portfolio, by “being a good person,” or by accomplishing something that no one ever has. We want our names etched on plaques, written in record books, and read in the history books. We want to leave a legacy. Because legends never die. Since death is immanent, we strive to find a way to defeat it, by being… great. It’s our way of trying to save ourselves, by being remembered. 

In Mark 9, greatness is a topic of discussion by the disciples, a conversation which Jesus is not included. Yet, prior to this greatness discourse by the disciples Jesus spoke of something greater. His death and resurrection. But this isn’t what the disciples wanted to hear. This isn’t what they left everything in their lives for, an impending death. They wanted riches, power, glory, and greatness. No in the death of their meal ticket to a better life. Yet this is where greatness takes place, unexpectedly as the great work of God is enacted in an unexpected place, on the beams of the cross. Where Christ hangs crying out in agony, he resides in his glory. It is not what was expected from the disciples, that their leader would end up dying. It is also still not expected by us. We still view greatness in legacy, in accomplishment, and in obvious victory. But this is not how God brings about his kingdom, but instead God brings about His kingdom through the gory, violent, shameful, and unexpected work of the cross. This is where greatness resides. In torn flesh, empty lungs, and a limp body hanging in apparent defeat. Yet this is where Christ is victorious, this is where he secures the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation for you.

You may never become great in the sense of the world, you may never become a legend, but one thing is certain, you have the promises of forgiveness, life and salvation. So, don’t fret if you find yourself happily average. Don’t be too concerned with the record books, the pages of history, or your own legacy. Just like legends never die, neither do Christians. Even better yet, you, dear Christian, will be raised in perfection.