“When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Look, those who wear soft clothing and live in luxury are in the royal palaces! What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.”
(Now all the people who heard this, even the tax collectors, acknowledged God’s justice, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. However, the Pharisees and the experts in religious law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”
Adequacy (noun) : the fact of being enough or satisfactory for a particular purpose
Jesus makes some pretty big statements about John the Baptist in this passage, doesn’t He? He says that John is the predicted messenger of Malachi 3.1, and that among those born of women no one is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.
For Jesus to say that John is the messenger of Malachi 3.1 is, essentially, to also claim that He is the Messiah mentioned there. One is the forerunner for the other, so, if John is the forerunner, Jesus is saying He is the other:
“I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
Second, for Jesus to say that John is so highly regarded (among those born of women no one is greater than John) but that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John can be puzzling.
Is Jesus lying to gain favour with John’s disciples? They’ve already left, though (v.24).
Perhaps this is lunacy, not corresponding to reality?
John A. Martin wrote this:
“Jesus was not declaring that John was not a part of “the kingdom of God,” for John had been preaching the same message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was saying that being a great prophet is not nearly so great as being a member of the kingdom.”
What a great thought for you and for me, being a great prophet is not nearly so great as being a member of the kingdom. If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy or that you don’t measure up to those around you that seem to be making great Kingdom strides in their lives – and maybe in the lives of others – here Jesus is saying that simply being there will be far better than anything you can do here.
Paul wrote this to the believers in Corinth, a great thought to take into today about ourselves:
“Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
(2 Corinthians 3.4-6, emphasis added)