“… 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: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
“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.” (verses 9-11)
John has just expressed doubts about Jesus’ identity. “Are you the one,” he asked. Yet previously he had boldly proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the “one who was to come.” Do his doubts now diminish his life and ministry?
No, not at all. Indeed, Jesus affirms John’s crucial place in the unfolding drama of salvation history. In the process, he also affirms ours.
Did you go out to see a prophet, Jesus asks the gathered crowd, then answers the question himself: “Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”
The sheer fact that he calls John a prophet is a stunning affirmation in itself.God’s people had endured a 400-year period of silence, “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11), a period in which the ministry of prophets ceased. There was no prophetic word. There was not a single prophet. But now, Jesus says, the famine is broken, the word of God is breaking through once again, and John himself is the messenger. It’s enough to dramatically set John apart.
But there’s more. John himself is the fulfilment of prophecies spoken by earlier prophets. He is the “voice of one calling in the desert” (Isaiah 40:3). He is the one, Jesus tells us, that he himself had heard the Father speak about: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”
What a uniquely privileged role! Indeed, Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Of course. John breaks the silence. He is the messenger who makes the long-anticipated announcement that Messiah is finally here. Incredibly Good News! A new era has begun. The kingdom of God is decisively breaking in. The promise is fulfilled. And all of it is focused in Jesus.
Which then provides the basis for the second part of Jesus’ statement. “Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than (John).” To be birthed into the kingdom is greater status indeed. The way has been opened by Jesus, Messiah, who has come as Immanuel, making God’s presence known. His death on the cross cleared away the stain of sin, so that we could stand cleansed before him – fully justified. His resurrection means death has been defeated, the victory won, redemption secured, and life in all its fullness imparted. His ascension means the Father has placed all things under his feet and bestowed on us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). What Good News!
If we have placed faith in this risen Saviour and Lord – Jesus – we have entered this new reality. We are citizens of the kingdom.
So, praise the Lord for John the Baptist. He was uniquely used by God to prepare the way for our Messiah. But praise the Lord more fully yet that we ourselves have been so blessed to be birthed anew into the kingdom. What wonder.
Father, thank that all of this has been your plan from all eternity. Praise you for John’s ministry, preparing the way for your Promised One, your Son, Jesus – our Saviour and Lord. I receive him. With all my heart I pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done,” right here in my own life, as I submit to you.
Reflect: Consider the value placed on you by the Father. If you are in Christ, you are a citizen of his kingdom. Give thanks. Pray: “Your kingdom come.” Seek to walk in his ways all day.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash