Gospel: Mt 11:11-15
I tell you this: no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among the sons of women; and 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 is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.
Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy: all the prophets and the law. And if you believe me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!
John the Baptist is truly an Advent figure. He gives us a sometimes uncomfortable reminder that Christmas is much more than a time to make and spend money. Christmas has nothing to do with material gain; it is a challenge to renewal and repentance.
We are struck by the tremendous tribute which Jesus pays to John. There has been nobody greater than he. But this praise is followed by the startling phrase that, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he“. What can this mean? It is something I have often wondered about.
William Barclay gives the best answer. He says that something was lacking in John. He had never seen Christ on the Cross, the deepest expression of God‘s love was missed by John. The humblest Christian is greater than John simply in the chronology of events. John died ahead of Jesus. The Christians came after the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are indeed great. We reap the unmerited fruits of Christ‘s sacrifice.
We are blessed but not necessarily better than John. Our blessedness will be in vain, if we will not be moved to renewal of life and to love God alone in Jesus. John heroically fulfilled his role to prepare the people for Jesus‘ coming and proclaimed Jesus when He came. Ours is the call to follow Jesus‘ way and to give witness to his love to all people.