Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11

The Bible record is very plain when it assures us that John the Baptist was a man sent from God.

Our generation would probably decide that such a man ought to be downright proud of the fact that God had sent him. We would urge him to write a book. Seminary leaders would line up to schedule him as guest lecturer.

Actually, John the Baptist would never have fit into the contemporary religious scene in our day—never! He did not keep his suit pressed. He was not careful about choosing words that would not offend. He did not quote beautiful passages from the poets. The doctors of psychiatry would have quick advice for him: “John, you really need to get adjusted to the times and to society!”

Adjust. That is a modern word I have come to hate. It was never an expression used to speak about human beings until we forgot that man has a soul. Now we have weird guys with mental “screwdrivers” adjusting one person a little tighter and another a little looser. John needed no adjustment. He gladly stepped down so that all eyes could turn to Jesus, the Lamb of God!

Lord, I pray that my church and other evangelical churches will exhibit the courage and boldness of John the Baptist and point many people to Jesus Christ.[1]

Continuing His praise of John, Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. To emphasize the unquestionable truthfulness of what He said, Jesus prefaced His words with verily (amēn), a term of strong affirmation often simply transliterated as “Amen.”

Born of women was a common ancient expression that simply referred to basic humanness, to identification with the human race (see Job 14:1; 15:14). Jesus’ point was that, as far as mankind is concerned, there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. He was the greatest human being who had lived until that time. From an earthly perspective, John’s character and calling made him the greatest man yet born besides Jesus Himself. In superior qualities as a human being, John was unequalled.

Arisen is from egeirō, which means to rise up or to appear on the stage of history and was often used of prophets, both true and false (see, e.g., Matt. 24:11, 24). Not only as a human being but as a prophet, no one had arisen to equal John, because he was sent on the very threshold of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus.

But lest the people misunderstand the nature of John’s greatness, Jesus added, yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Although he was a spiritual giant among men, John’s unique greatness was in his role in human history, not in his spiritual inheritance, in which he would be equal to every believer. Therefore, the least in the kingdom of heaven, the spiritual dimension, is greater than he, that is, than anyone in the human dimension, including John.[2]

11:11 The statement that “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” proves that Jesus was speaking of John’s privilege, not his character. A person who is least in the kingdom of heaven does not necessarily have a better character than John, but he does have greater privilege. To be a citizen of the kingdom is greater than to announce its arrival. John’s privilege was great in preparing the way for the Lord, but he did not live to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 11:9). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1243). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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