“…a greater than Solomon is here” (Lk. 11:31)
By my count, Jesus mentioned Solomon twice in the gospels. In one instance, he pitted the iconic glory of Solomon – a king who expanded Israel’s wealth and territory like no king before or since – against a flower.
The flower won.
In the other instance, he pitted Solomon’s glory against his own. Outrageously, he claimed that he – the uneducated handyman from Galilee, while standing in the refurbished (and less venerated) second temple – was personally greater than Solomon.
To the average observer, or to the elites of Jesus’ day, it was laughable. As laughable as his statement about overhauling the temple project in three days – one that took Herod the Great 46 years.
But if true, the implications are profound. As C.S. Lewis famously noted, Jesus doesn’t leave us with middle-of-the-road options. Either this statement is completely untrue or fabricated, or, the glory – the majesty of Jesus of Nazareth – is so great in comparison to Solomon, that even the words used to describe it are insufficient.
The claim is mind-boggling – the kind of thing an unhinged person might say. That kind of arrogance routinely repels people. Yet, Jesus gets a pass on every self-aggrandizing statement he ever made, and is upheld for his humility. Why?
There is only one possibility – the one to which the faithful ascribe – “A greater than Solomon is here,” is not only true, but is a gross understatement. It was not a value statement about Solomon, just an observation of his own reality.
For Jesus, it was the most modest way to state the case.