Senator Ted Kennedy died sometime between yesterday and today.  It seems that the past five days or so have been filled with it…death I mean.

Though I’ve never been one to agree with many of Senator Kennedy’s political views, I have to give credit where it is due.  As a Senator, he has made quite an impact upon our nation.

Thinking of the Kennedy’s made me think of our “national families.”  You know, those families that have made public service their livelihood. The families like the Kennedies and the Bushes.  Perhaps some would even call these “Great American Families.”

In the midst of the deluge of media coverage of Senator Kennedy’s death, one of the man video tidbits of him caught my attention.  It is one where he is saying that he won’t run for President, even though it may mean that he never would run for the office.  He said that his life was given over to Public Service, which he was involved in with the Senate.

His life was given over to Public Service…  His life was given over to something greater than the individual… His life was given over…

I know nothing personal of the man, no more than anyone else watching the news that is.  But, that phrase caught my attention.  It made me think about what truly makes a man great.

Matthew 11:7-11 says:

7As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written:
” ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’ 11I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John the Baptist was a great man, as defined by Jesus.  Please, don’t rush over the first half of verse 11 just because you think the latter half is speaking about you.  There is much in that first 11a section and preceding.

He was great.  He had given himself over to something greater than himself.  He had given himself over to his God.  Completely, wholly, without compartmentalization.  We might say he was a zealot.  Jesus called him great.

He was given over to a mission, a task per se.  He was the messenger, preparing the way for Jesus.  His greatness wasn’t found in his possessions, likability, or fame.  It was in pursuing his God given mission.  He was great because he was obedient.

The last thing that I see is that he was utterly human.  I didn’t post the text, but the previous passages show a man in deep doubt, possibly even despair.  He was in prison, very close to death’s door as we later learn, and he sends some followers to ask Jesus if he was the “one.”

I’m not saying that he was great because he was so fallible.  Not at all.  However, I can’t use my own humanity to keep me from being obedient to God.  The latter half of verse 11 says that those considered the “least in the Kingdom of heaven” will be considered greater than John.  I’m sure that will be based upon our prioritization of God in our lives, and those same lives being lived in obedience to him.