What is up with Jesus’ statement in todays gospel from Matthew that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist? Was Jesus disrespecting the contributions of his cousin? Well … no. Pay very careful attention to what Jesus says.
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none 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 suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Jesus is distinguishing himself from the Old Testament prophets and kings. He knows that John will not live to see the Son of Man’s passion, death and resurrection. As great as John was, those who live in the Kingdom of Heaven ushered forth by the sacrifice of Christ are infinitely greater than all of the prophets, including the Baptist. Despite his appearance in the New Testament, the Baptist is most certainly the last of the Old Testament prophets.
Are we not lucky, my sisters and brothers? The prophets and kings of old longed to see what we have seen, but did not see it. Many longed to hear what we have heard, but did not hear it.
Maranatha! Come, O Lord!