Continuing to slowly examine what Jesus said about John the Baptist this next verse has been misinterpreted (again) by the Jehovah Witnesses to prove that John the Baptist never made it to heaven:
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11 v 11)
This weekend many people in Britain will be taking on the ‘100 challenge’. Captain Sir Tom Moore now famously having walked 100 laps of his garden before he turned 100yrs last year and raised nearly £33 million for the NHS charities will not be here to see people like Dame Mary Berry bake 100 cakes. He had inspired Britain with his achievement but having died on 2nd February will not see stars like Joe Root hit a cricket ball a 100 times or Dame Judi Dench eat 100 chocolates! He had talked with his daughter about this weekend’s challenge to raise more money but he isn’t here to experience it. His daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, said: “He would have loved to have done this. We talked about it and he was really, really looking forward to it.”
It may not be the best example but it helps to reveal what Jesus was meaning.
John the Baptist will always be remembered for being Malachi’s ‘messenger’ who prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah with the message that a new kingdom was near. It is this role that set him apart from all the amazing servants of God. Jesus says there is no one greater in that old era and so we think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, the prophets and King David. John the Baptist beats them all because of his crucial role in preparing the way for this new Messianic Kingdom. But Jesus also indicates that John is going to die. He won’t make it into experiencing what he foretold. His mission was great in the old kingdom in fact there was no one greater than him. But, as the Message translation helps, “No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.”
So who are the lowliest people in the new Jesus’ Kingdom? The gospels all reveal even though the disciples at the time may not have perceived it that the least likely are the greatest. The blind, the lame, the deaf, the poor, the widow, the child who accept Christ and follow Him though least are greater than John the Baptist.
But there is one other person who is least and yet who is greater than John the Baptist and all the super heroes before him. You!
You in your own prison of doubt, pain and confusion perhaps.
You who have nothing to give to Jesus except brokenness and sin.
You who feels like a failure and a disappointment to so many.
You, me, we are the least.
You, me, who have and continue to experience grace upon grace. Forgiveness, love, mercy, cleansing, freedom, the words just tumble out. All because of the death and the resurrection of Christ. We are greater than any character in the Old Testament and this one man stuck in prison having prepared the way for Christ, John.
So think on that, the next time you are hard on yourself. You are experiencing what many before you only longed for and you have what many still don’t have, a Saviour, Jesus Christ.