Think of all the individuals who lived before Jesus died and how amazing they were. If you had to pick the greatest one who would it be? Obviously, to think about this, you would have to exclude sinless Jesus, but who would you pick?
What about Abraham, the father of all of those who walk by faith? It is in his life, above all others, where we see faith defined by his actions. Perhaps you might think of Joseph and his devotion to doing right in his teens while living in a foreign country. Then, there is Moses the amazing servant who delivered the Ten Commandments to the Jews and gave to us the first five books of the Bible. Joshua would have to be in that listing somewhere for his unwavering obedience to God from the time the Jews left Egypt until they possessed the Promised Land.
Who could surpass the greatness of David, the great king of Israel? Only one man in the entire Bible is described as a man after God’s own heart. Then, to read the lives of other men of old also brings them into this picture—Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, Josiah, Nehemiah and Ezra.
Think of the greatness of the prophets. What about the first prophet, Enoch, who walked with God and his faith was rewarded by escaping death? Would you not at least have to give great consideration to Elijah and Elisha who served God during the time of Ahab and Jezebel and their evil influences? What about Isaiah who volunteered his service to God saying, “Here am I, Lord, send me”? The steadfastness of Jeremiah and Ezekiel who encouraged the righteous remnant and rebuked the ungodly as Babylon carried Israel into captivity? Would you think that Daniel might be that person, who, as a faithful youth, was taken to Babylon and refused to eat the king’s food? What about his faith years later when at 80+ years of age he was in the lions’ den?
So have you picked one as the greatest individual, with the exception of Jesus, who lived before the death of Jesus? As strange as it might seem, none of those listed above would be the right answer. Hear the words of Jesus, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). If you struggle to understand this, just consider the unique work he did as the forerunner of Jesus.
However, there is someone greater than John. Hear the rest of Jesus’ words. “But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Who is greater than the greatest? It is you! What a blessing it is to be a Christian!