Greater Than John?

J. D. Conley
February 2, 2014

Jesus declared, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mt.11:11). What a remarkable statement! One might find it especially remarkable given John's sterling attributes. For example, John possessed great humility. In comparing his ministry with that of Christ's he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn.3:30). He told the Pharisees, "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (Jn.1:27). When questioned by those who thought he might be the Messiah, John's truthfulness came shining through, "I am not the Christ" (Jn.1:20). On Jordan's banks he told Jesus "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me" (Mt.3:14)? Not only was John humble and truthful he was a stalwart Jesus told the multitudes, "What went ye out to see, A reed shaken by the wind, a man in soft clothing, a prophet? yea I say unto you, and more than a prophet" (Mt.11:7-9). John was fearless in his preaching, a man who refused to be intimidated even by those in power. He told Herod it was unlawful for him to have his brother's wife (Mt.14:3,4). He was put in prison for making that statement and eventually beheaded.

Knowing what we do about John's character we might be puzzled as to why Jesus would say, "...he that is least in the kingdom is greater than he." Those with honest hearts readily confess, "I'm no John, I cannot begin to compare to him!" But Jesus in using the word "greater" is not saying, "the least in the kingdom is better than John." Would not members of the church agree that they are not only, not better than John, but they're not even as good as John?

What Jesus means is - the person who is least (little) in the kingdom is greater than John because John never was in the kingdom or church of Christ. Even the lowliest member of the church has been elevated above John. John lived as a servant under the Law, we live as children in our Father's house, (1Jn.3:1-3). As Christians we enjoy fuller and richer blessings than John ever did. In this sense we are greater than he.