Sunday, November 13, 2011

One Greater than Solomon

The Queen of the South shall rise at the Judgment with this generation, and will condemn it. For she came from the furthest parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And see: one greater than Solomon is here. -- Jesus (Matthew 12:42, see also Luke 11:31)
It's amazing to me that sometimes we are embarrassed to acknowledge Jesus' greatness. American pop culture has spent generations now drilling it into our heads that Christians should be ashamed to think that Jesus is greater than any of the "other great teachers". We have been told time and again that it's nothing but bigotry and bias and narrow-mindedness to say that Jesus is greater than, say, Confucius. For the record, I find Confucius' teachings instructive. Many of them are insightful. But he doesn't hold a candle to Jesus. He isn't in the same league. And please don't imagine that my example is Confucius because of some thought that Confucius doesn't deserve his place among the great teachers; not at all, he has earned his place well. My example could just as easily have been Lao Tzu, or even someone considered great by people within the Christian tradition like Solomon.

Not many people could casually claim to be greater than Solomon and still come across as humble. (In the same conversation, Jesus also laid claim to being greater than Jonah, the prophet who called Nineveh to repent.) People came from distant lands and other cultures to seek the wisdom of Solomon. And one greater than Solomon is here.

I think it is important for us, as Christians, to have read the other people who have a reputation as Great Teachers. Many Christians, I suppose, are comfortable to say they follow Jesus, not Solomon, because Jesus is greater than Solomon. We can say this not only because Jesus said so, but also because we have some writings attributed to Solomon. We know that between Jesus and Solomon, it is Jesus who speaks to us more clearly and beautifully, whose call to follow rings through us. Solomon's ways may be truly good and we still study his words, but Jesus' are even better. Solomon seeks wisdom; in Jesus we see that wisdom personified that Solomon was seeking. So Solomon is not someone we would ever put down; in some ways Solomon walks beside us as we follow Jesus.

In proclaiming Jesus to the people of our day, we have a lot of chances that we don't always recognize. Every time someone says, "All religions are the same", there is an opening in the conversation to say differently. ("Wow, I see a world of difference out there. There are so many different beliefs. The tricky part is picking the good from the bad.") Every time someone tries to shame us into silence about Jesus is actually a chance to point to Jesus' uniqueness. We should not criticize or put down anything that is good; Jesus didn't put down Moses or Jonah or Solomon. Still, someone greater is here. Part of our job is finding the words to explain that to the people of our day.


Martin LaBar said...


Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Martin --

You've earned a new nickname: The Stealth Encourager. (Kind of like a stealth gardener, but with encouraging comments ...)

Take care & God bless, & Thank you for the encouragement.
Anne / WF