Matthew 11:7-19

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then 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, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

There are two pretty incredible affirmations here. The first is about John.

Having just sent John’s disciples away after telling them to report to their teacher what they have seen Jesus accomplish, Jesus now testifies to the importance of John the Baptist, placing him among the great prophets of the Jewish tradition. Actually, he goes even further, as Jesus testifies that John is the one promised of old who would come and prepare the way for God’s chosen Messiah. No one, Jesus says, in all of Israel’s history was greater than John. Yes, that’s quite an affirmation.

But the second affirmation is even greater. And that’s about us.

For Jesus goes on to say that even the least in the kingdom of God are greater than John. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I think that it is because we have seen God’s redemption made manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. John prepared the way, but those who follow Jesus have seen the conquest of sin and God’s redemption at hand. And it is a conquest that, contrary to all human history, is achieved not through violence but through vulnerability and sacrifice. And it is a redemption that is brought into being not through human reckoning or any standard of justice or judgment with which we are familiar but rather through mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

And so any who have seen this redemption, who have heard the word of Jesus, and have believed are reckoned as greater, more blessed, than even John the Baptist.

Two powerful affirmations. Let anyone with ears hear.

Prayer: Dear God, you have invited us to behold in your Son power made manifest in vulnerability, justice established through mercy, and redemption achieved by grace. Grant us the courage and excitement to share with others the good news we have seen and heard in Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.