Posted by: duncandrews | May 2, 2011

The smallness of Jesus: a sermon

Intro to a sermon on Colossians 1:15-20

The Smallness of Jesus

Well, Easter has come and gone, and for many people it’s one of the few times in the year, along with Christmas, that Jesus gets a second thought. But increasingly, even that small connection many people have with Jesus is getting smaller. Christmas is actually about a big guy in a red suit; and Easter is of course about a cute little rabbit.

And, as Jesus gets pushed more and more out of view, it seems to me very hard to not feel his smallness. It can seem like he is insignificant for life in the 21st century.

I wonder if you’ve ever felt this smallness of Jesus.

Jesus can seem so small in the world around us. Governments do their thing, economic theories get debated, wars get fought; all, it seems, without reference to Jesus. Perhaps he was a moral example – but not someone with any real, public authority.

It doesn’t get much better, though, when we look at the church. I mean, if you want evidence of the smallness of Jesus, just take a look around you! I don’t mean any disrespect – it’s just a matter of numbers. The population of Drummoyne is about, 10 000 people. How many of Jesus’ followers are here today?

But it’s not just about numbers. Throughout history and across the world, churches have been filled with people who are so often unimpressive, broken and weak – and here at Drummoyne, underneath it all, I don’t think we’re all that different.

Jesus can seem small when you look at the smallness of that funny, broken, rag-tag group of people who follow him.

And then, if it wasn’t bad enough already, for those of us who do follow Jesus, he often seems small in our own lives. Perhaps there areas of our lives we won’t let him touch: our sexuality, our money, our desire for control, our family, our business?

Or perhaps for some of us it’s just the busyness of our lives that keeps Jesus small. If I think of the past few weeks, the dominant reality of my life hasn’t often been worshiping Jesus. It’s more like ‘tired, stressed and grumpy’. And I’ve been on holidays!

The pressures of life can so easily crowd out Jesus until he’s just a tiny presence.

In the world; in the church; in our own lives, it often feels like Jesus is small, is insignificant.

We’re looking today at Paul’s letter to a small group of people who were followers of Jesus, in a place called Colossae. And it’s important to realise that these first readers of this letter would have felt these same pressures.

It was about 30 years since Jesus was around; but he hadn’t brought any great political change – the Roman empire was still very much in control; in fact for the next 250 years Jesus’ followers would be persecuted in an extreme, organised way.

And they themselves weren’t the most impressive bunch, either; there were some influential people among them, but Jesus often seemed to attract the poor and marginalised. His first followers weren’t high-powered businessmen but blue-collar fishermen.

It must have been extremely tempting for this small group of nobodies to think that Jesus was, at the end of the day, a bit of nobody himself. He had, after all, within living memory, been executed in the most humiliating way.

Some of you might have seen this before: it’s a piece of ancient graffiti, probably done within a few generations of this letter.

If you can’t make it out, here’s an outline of what it looks like.

It pictures a man worshiping a donkey nailed to a cross, and underneath it written in Greek it says ‘Alexamenos worships his God’. The thought that you’d worship someone who’d been crucified was ridiculous. The mockery is clear here, isn’t it? Jesus is no more than an ass, a crucified donkey, and it’s crazy to worship him.

So it’s in this climate, in a society where Jesus was an irrelevance, to this small group of nobodies, squashed into someone’s living room to worship a crucified donkey, that Paul writes these stunning words. From Colossians 1, verse 15, Paul says this about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

It’s an amazing passage, isn’t it? In many ways it forms the heart of everything Paul wants to say to the Colossian Christians. You get the sense as you read that you’re being let in on something right at the heart of reality. In the face of the stories of the world around them, which talked of history being governed by fickle gods, or political powers, or blind chance, Paul tells a strikingly different and confronting story. The whole history of the entire creation is all about Jesus. He is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story of the world. Everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen, happens in relation to him, as its supreme Lord, who is bringing everything to its completion.

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Responses

  1. […] letter of Paul to a small, unimpressive group of Jesus’ people in Colossae. I’ve posted before on this little gem, but thought I’d gather some more thoughts together flowing out […]


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