The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"The one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist!"

Scripture: Matthew 11:2-15

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"  4And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me."

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?  8 Why then did you go out?  To see a man clothed in soft raiment?  Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses.  9 Why then did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.10  This is he of whom it is written, 'Behold I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.' 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli'jah who is to come.15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Meditation:  Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?   Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest person born. Who
can top that as a compliment? But in the same breath Jesus says that the least in the kingdom of God is even greater than John!
That sounds like a contradiction, right?  Unless you understand that what Jesus was about to accomplish for our sake would
supercede all that the prophets had done and foreseen in the past.  John is the last and greatest of the prophets of the old
covenant.  He fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets: to be fingers pointing to Christ, God's Anointed Son and Messiah.
John prepared the way for the Messiah and he pointed others to Jesus the Messiah at the River Jordan when he exclaimed,
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)  John saw from a distant what Jesus would
accomplish through his death on the cross -- our redemption from bondage to sin and death and our adoption as sons and
daughers of God and citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who point the way to the
Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He is the herald who prepares the way for Jesus the
Messiah. Jesus confirms that John has fulfilled the promise that Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Messiah (Malachi
4:5). Jesus declares that John is nothing less that the great herald whose privilege it was to announce the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus equates the coming of his kingdom with violence. John himself suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God
was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded. Since John's martyrdom to the present times the kingdom of heaven
has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent men. The blood of the martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to
this fact. The martyrs witness to the truth -- the truth of Jesus Christ and his saving plan for the world.  Their testimony and
death prove victory rather than defeat for the kingdom of God. Through Christ's victory on the cross they obtain the glorious
crown of victory and everlasting life with Christ. Are you ready to witness to Christ and to suffer violence if necessary for his
sake?

Why did John, while in prison, send his disciples to question Jesus?  John wanted them to hear and see firsthand from the
Messiah himself before John would meet his fate, martyrdom at the hands of King Herod.  Jesus says that his miracles and
message about the kingdom or reign of God are proof enough for John and his disciples to recognize as the fulfilment of Isaiah's
prophecy foretelling the signs and wonders which the Messiah would perform  (see Isaiah 35).  Jesus in his characteristic
fashion also returned one question with another.  What do you see in John the Baptist?  And why does Jesus contrast John with
a reed?  Unlike a reed which is spineless and can be bruised easily, John stands as a pillar of truth which no demonic force can
overtake because his heart is set on God and burns with the fire of God's truth and love.  Someone who is tepid -- careless,
half-hearted, and lukewarm -- is easily swayed by whatever hits his or her fancy.  If our heart is not filled with the love of God is
easily grows cold and our faith wanes.  If the heart feels emptied of God it seeks to fill the void with other things, which not
being God, cannot bring true satisfaction.  If we want to be like John the Baptist, then we must set our heart, mind, soul, and
strength on one thing, and one thing only -- the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.
There is no room for compromise.  We are either for Jesus and his kingdom or against it.  We either give him our full allegiance
and submission or we hold on to the reigns of running life as we want it to go.

"Lord, stir my zeal for your righteousness and for your kingdom. Free me from complacency and from compromising with the
ways of sin and worldliness that I may be wholeheartedly devoted to you and to your kingdom."


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager