Updated: Jun 2, 2021
How is it measured? Who is the judge?
Great? In the simplest terms, greatness is about being above normal; beyond average.
Comparatively speaking, something may be good, another thing can be great, still other things might be greater, and there must be one thing that is greatest of all.
Is greatness something to which you—dear reader—aspire? Do you harbor ambitions of greatness in your soul?
Perhaps you fancy greatness of intellect like Einstein, greatness in power and authority like a Czar, greatness of wealth like Sam Walton, greatness of skill and ability like Larry Bird, greatness in beauty like the daughters of Job, or some other fleeting aspiration?
Or you could be a bit more noble. You could want to have a great impact. Some folks want to make the world a better place. A parent may desire to rear great children. A philanthropist might dream of making a big difference in the journeys of those who are at some disadvantage in life.
Yet, if all we do is help ourselves (or even if we help other people) to have a better life on this third rock from the sun, what difference does that make ultimately? The best answer is that it makes no difference at all.
But wait, Jesus addressed the question of greatness. We don't have to figure it out on our own. His disciples wanted to know who would be the greatest in eternity. Jesus said, "Whoever humbles himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Apparently humility produces genuine greatness, or gives a person access to it, or better: reveals greatness (Matthew 18).
To be more specific, Jesus later uttered this clarification: "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 23:11). And in Luke 22:26, "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that serves."
Paul added another angle to the portrait of greatness in 1st Corinthians 13:13, "Faith, hope, and love are all enduring; but the greatest of these three is love."
So, humility, service, and love—these characteristics are the substance of greatness. The aether of greatness is of course permeated with the most glorious characteristics of godliness. And that too is clearly defined in the Scriptures. 1st Timothy 3:16, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." The voluntary humility of Christ in His incarnation (wherein He took to Himself the position of servitude and loved us to Himself through His own sacrificial death) is the superlative of all possible standards of greatness.
And this is that to which He calls all of His children. Yet it isn't just a greatness that we are supposed to pursue, it is a greatness that God Himself has most assuredly prepared for us. All who embrace the gospel of His saving grace will quite literally inherit His greatness.
Our polluted hearts do indeed desire greatness. Perhaps it varies in expression from person to person, but ultimately it is always the same thing. Just like Satan wasn't satisfied with what was apparently his position as "greatest among" the angels, we too as humans are naturally disenchanted with our appointed station. So, we usually want greatness expressed in some selfish and self-aggrandizing form: fame, comfort, security, popularity, admiration, repeated ecstasy, etc.
But these grand mountain peaks are frozen and lifeless. These promising oases are mirages. True greatness is found only in connection with the supreme expression of God's greatness: the Lord Jesus Christ. All things were created by Him and for Him. He was before all things. It is by His powerful hand that all things are held together. All things must be put in submission to Him. He will be exalted and glorified above all things. His glory will not be stolen. Nothing and nobody will ever long succeed in distracting from the credit that is due only to Him.
So yes, Jesus is greatness personified. And if we desire to be or do anything truly great, anything that will last into eternity, we must find our fulfillment in magnifying the greatness of our Savior. He alone is worthy. And in Him alone will we ever find the significance and satisfaction that we crave.
In the marvelous words of John Newton (the author of the great hymn, Amazing Grace), “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”