John the Baptist is in prison. He sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one to come or should they expect another. Jesus replies, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22)
Then Jesus makes an astounding statement, “I tell you, among those born of women there is none greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28)
Jesus seems to be saying that until this time, John is the greatest prophet and man who ever lived. Mark’s gospel confirms this when he reports that “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.”
Imagine the power of John’s words and actions to attract people to travel more than a day’s journey by foot to a remote desert location, making provision for food and sleeping, all to confess their sins and be baptized. Surely the Holy Spirit had to be acting powerfully in him. Yet, Jesus is saying that the people who are least in the kingdom of God are greater than John.
Do we realize how privileged we are as Christians to be in the kingdom of God, compared to the people who lived before God became one of us in the person of Jesus and inaugurated his kingdom on earth?
Last Sunday the Church celebrated Christ as king of God’s kingdom. Next Sunday we will begin preparations to celebrate his human birth conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary – Emmanuel – God is with us.
Yes, God is with us through the person of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says:
- “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)
- “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
- “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
- “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
While we may accept the idea that we are “least in the kingdom of God,” it is much harder to believe that we are greater than John the Baptist. Yet, that is what Jesus is saying because we are part of the kingdom of God, and God is with us in a way that he never was before.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Co.5:17)