This passage reminds of one of C.S. Lewis’ great quotes:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
You cannot read this passage and think that the Bible only depicts Jesus as a great man or brilliant moral philosopher. The word that Paul uses here is supreme or pre-eminent 1:18). Here are a few illustrations that I found that help to convey what this means for us as followers of Christ seeking to give Him supremacy in our lives.
1. (From Our Daily Bread) – Pam Sneddon was taking a class in photography. For one assignment, she chose her 6-year-old daughter as her subject and asked her to sit on a serene hillside. Close by was an apple tree in full bloom. Pam just couldn’t resist. She gave the tree a prominent place in the picture. Pam was surprised when her instructor pointed out a problem with the photo. The apple tree distracted from her primary focus, the little girl. “See how it catches the eye,” the instructor said. “It competes with your subject. You need to choose one subject and leave the other out.” This observation applies to more than good photography skills. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must center our attention only on Him. Like amateur photographers, we are often attracted to the “apple trees in full bloom.” We pay more attention to our hobbies, friends, family, or work. Christ commands our attention because He is “the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality”. That may mean relegating something we deem to be important to the background–or cropping it out of the picture altogether. Whatever distracts us from Jesus has to go. As the preeminent One, He must be the single focus of our lives.
2. In Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper, our Lord’s hands are empty. And therein lies an inspiring story. Da Vinci dedicated three years to this painting, determined that it would be his crowning work. Before the unveiling, he decided to show it to a friend for whose opinion he had the utmost respect. The friend’s praise was unbounded. “The cup in Jesus’ hand,” he said, “is especially beautiful.” Disappointed at once Da Vinci began to paint out the cup. Astonished, the distinguished friend asked for an explanation. “Nothing,” Da Vinci explained, “must distract from the figure of Christ.” Da Vinci focused attention solely on Christ by removing the distraction of the cup. Having removed the cup, he had to do something with the hand. The left hand was already outstretched just above the table, lifting, as if to bless and command. Now the right hand, also empty, was also outstretched invitingly.
May the Lord more and more have supremacy in our lives – over our spouse, our kids, our job, our favorite teams, our finances, or whatever else has supplanted Him as the Pre-eminent One.