Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 27, 2020
“What’s So Great About Jesus?”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I have a question for you. You have to answer it. “What’s so great about Jesus?” Yeah, what’s so great about Him?
Maybe that is quite a heretical thing to ask from the pulpit. But I’m wondering if you have ever been asked that. Have you put together a list that tells you and others why you think Jesus is so great? You should.
That is what Paul did when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. When I read it I want you to see the “V” form to his writing. The first section goes down and then it goes back up. The first part is about humiliation and sacrifice and it is followed by exaltation and adoration. A “V” – down and up. He uses this to answer the question, “What’s so great about Jesus?”
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)
This “V” – this down and up, this humility and exaltation, is what we also confess in the Apostles’ Creed. You have spoken this word, this confession, hundreds of times, or more, in your life. Down and up, humiliation and exaltation, all to tell us what is so great about Jesus.
About Jesus we confess that we believe, “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” (Notice all the verbs that show his humiliation – conceived, born, suffered, crucified, buried.) “He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God and Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”
John, in the first chapter of his biography about Jesus uses the same “V” model to talk about just how great Jesus is, but he starts with the greatness and exaltation and then goes to the humiliation and lowliness. John 1:1-5, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
When you know the greatness of Jesus it becomes more than one of the many doctrines in the Bible that you can study and then put it on your shelf. The greatness of Jesus, for He truly is great, will change your life. The reason that Paul speaks these words about the lowliness of Jesus, followed by His great exaltation, is because there were difficulties among those in the church. He told them, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…Each of should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3a, 4-5) We see not just the Who of Jesus but the How of Jesus.
It is when you and I know the intense weight of our sin that we hunger to find the answer of “What’s so great about Jesus?” When we know that we have not been the holy people of God, that we have let the devil have his way with us, when we are filled with guilt and remorse over poor decisions and sinful actions, we want to know if Jesus is great enough to deal with our failure.
It is when we are struggling and fearful, when we are anxious and afraid and we don’t want to even see what is going to come our way tomorrow that we have to know if Jesus is great enough to deal with our fears.
When our life is on the decline and it becomes apparent that our life on earth, and our time with our family and friends is coming to a close and we are going to die, we truly want to know what is really so great about Jesus.
Jesus is truly great, not only for who He is – the very Son of God, the Lord of lords and the King of kings – but also how He is – all that he has done for us. In the Christian song, “What a Beautiful Name”, the song starts quite mild with the chorus, “What a beautiful Name it is, What a beautiful Name it is, the Name of Jesus Christ my King. What a beautiful Name it is, Nothing compares to this, What a beautiful Name it is, the Name of Jesus.”
But then the song gets louder, the beat more pronounced, the words talk about the battle Jesus fought and won. And now the chorus has changed from the word “beautiful” to “powerful”. “What a powerful Name it is. What a powerful Name it is, the Name of Jesus Christ my King. What a powerful Name it is, Nothing can stand against, What a powerful Name it is, the Name of Jesus.”
What’s so great about Jesus? His powerful name takes every sin, when we repent of it and ask God to forgive us, and He forgives it and us. John, in his epistle writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9) That’s a pretty great Jesus. When we are empty and tired and have lost our strength, we have a Jesus who makes us new and courageous. Do you know the promise? “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) That’s a pretty great Jesus. How about darn death? “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
This question that I have raised today is actually quite personal. Today I told you why I think that Jesus is so great. In my life I believe that He is amazingly great. I mentioned about the humiliation and the exaltation – the “V” pattern in Scripture and Creed. I spoke of the Who of Jesus and the How of Jesus – the actions of Jesus that change our life.
But I can’t answer that question about “What’s so great about Jesus” for you. You, too, have to answer that question. Peter writes about this, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15)
I hope you answer that question with a longer list than I have put together in this sermon. I hope you start early in life and by the time that God is going to call you home you stand amazed at your long and thorough list. I hope with joy you can say, “I have a great God. I have a great Lord.” St. Paul in one of his letters could not contain the joy he had as he put together the greatness of God. He wrote, “Now to him who is able to do more than we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
What’s so great about Jesus? Everything!! Amen!!