Did you ever stop and think about that statement? This is John, the blood cousin of Jesus, we are talking about. John, the great preacher who gave up any semblance of a "normal" life--family, a comfortable home, a business, even the standard fare of the day that most of his Jewish friends and family enjoyed—all for the sake of his mission as the Forerunner of the Messiah. John, the brave martyr who dared speak against an evil and sinful woman and her weak and ignominious husband. Yet the least in the kingdom is greater than he?
I am not going to define either "the least" or "the kingdom" in any sort of theological way. I am sure great scholars could write pages about it, but I am not sure it would do me the same amount of good as simply considering these phrases at face value. Are you in the kingdom of his Son? I am, or so I claim. I certainly do not claim to be the greatest. I am much closer to the least, but greater than John? I would never in a million years claim it, yet both Matthew and Luke record Jesus saying it. It must be true in some way.
I don't know about you, but that statement does not make me puff out my chest in pride. Instead, it makes me hang my head in shame. I have never lived up to John's example and I probably never will. But when I think of what Jesus says here, it certainly makes me want to try harder.
How about you?
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1Pet 1:17-19)