I sometimes wonder how the ancient Christians thought about certain Bible passages. When I start wondering about these things, I research what they wrote. Did I ever find some good things out about John the Baptizer!
Augustine, one of the greatest Christian thinkers, wrote that John the Baptizer was indeed greater than anyone born to a woman. That sounds strikingly close to what Jesus said. But it gets better from Augustine. When he read about the Kingdom of Heaven, he had the idea that the inhabitants of that kingdom are currently angels. This would mean John the Baptizer is a little lower than the lowest angels!
Another Christian thinker, John Wesley, wrote along the lines that John was both the subject of prophecy and a prophet. John the Baptizer was preparing the way of the Lord. Plus he was able to meet Jesus!
Some modern Christian thinkers gave me another idea about John the Baptizer. John was less than the least in the kingdom of heaven because even though he knew and believed in Jesus, he didn’t get a chance to know about Jesus’ death and resurrection. We today have that advantage over John the Baptizer.
He had heard God speak from heaven (3:17) that Jesus is God’s Son. But now John is wondering what type of Messiah Jesus was going to be. I don’t think the Baptizer was going to fall away from faith in Jesus. But the rest of us have had opportunity to fall away from faith in Jesus. So, how do we not fall away?
A. We desire to not fall away (Matthew 11:2-6)
1. John the Baptizer questioned if we are to have another kind of savior
2. Jesus said – what was talked about in Isaiah 11 was happening now
a. Blind see
b. Lame walk
c. Lepers cured
d. Deaf hear
e. Dead live
g. Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at Jesus
3. John’s disciples went to ask Jesus about Jesus being the Messiah. Jesus is not the Messiah to use military strength to overcome Rome. Jesus is the type of Messiah that brings God’s ways into this world. There is no other Messiah that we need. Jesus has John’s disciples relay to John confirmation about what John has heard what Jesus was doing. This is a way for John to know that he need not fall away. But what about the rest of us, do we need to fall away?
B. People were looking to see John, a prophet (Matthew 11:7-11)
1. Jesus confirms this idea with the crowds
2. John was not a reed blowing in the wind
3. John was not in soft robes and in a palace
4. John was more than a prophet
a. Prophets wrote about John preparing the way (Malachi 3:1)
b. John fulfilled this prophecy (Matthew 3:2)
5. John the Baptizer is greater than any born of woman
6. The least in the kingdom is greater than John the Baptizer
a. Augustine – the angels are in the kingdom of heaven at the speaking of Jesus; the least of the angels are greater than John the Baptizer
b. John Wesley – John was part of prophecy & he was a prophet
c. Matthew 5:19 – the least in the kingdom of heaven are those who break the commandments and teach others to do the same!
7. With the promise of the Lord coming true in our presence, then we have every reason to stay true to God. At least that was true for John the Baptist. It can also be true for the rest of us. We realize that John the Baptizer was paid a great compliment by Jesus. Jesus was commending John for preparing the way for the Lord. Maybe if we were obedient to God as John the Baptizer, we could hear such words of encouragement from Jesus. Maybe if we were obedient to Jesus, we wouldn’t fall away from Jesus.
John the Baptizer was the prophet who introduced Jesus to the world. The Messiah, Jesus, is the one who works to make sure the people of the world get to know the kingdom of heaven. Jesus does this by healing people and bringing good news to the poor. Not falling away from Jesus, not being offended by him, means we keep following Jesus.
As the least in the kingdom of heaven, we know that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. John the Baptizer didn’t live to know this fact. In a sense, that makes us greater than John the Baptizer. Let us continue to follow the Messiah. Let us be ready to live in the kingdom of heaven. Don’t take offense at Jesus. Believe in Jesus and all that we see and hear Jesus doing today.