We pick up our reading today in Luke right after John the Baptist’s disciples leave. They have gone back to John to report the things Jesus has shown and told them. Jesus made sure they had plenty of first hand evidence to bring back to John. Now He addresses the crowd and talks to them about John.
John was very unusual for his time. He would have fit in great with the prophets of old. They were famous for their unique ways of getting their audiences’ attention. Eating scrolls, burying then wearing the same garment for an extended period of time, calling down fire from Heaven and many other bold behaviors. Another thing they all had in common was their boldness. John fit right in there too.
God had been silent in the “prophet department” for over 500 years when John arrived on the scene. The people were anxiously waiting for Him to speak again. They really needed a Messiah about now. Enter John the Baptist. Dressed in camel skin. Eating locust and wild honey. BOLDLY proclaiming the message of repentance. People came running to hear him. Many believed him and received what he had to say. But, just like the prophets of old, the religious leaders refused his message. One would think they might have learned something from their own history.
When Jesus is addressing the crowd He is talking to people from all walks of life. From the common man down to the religious leaders; they were all present that day. Jesus asked them what they expected to find when they went out to see John. A wimpy man dressed in fine clothing? Certainly not! They expected a bold, in your face, walk on the wild side sort of man. That is just what they got.
John was the man God sent to get their attention. His job was to grab the hearts of the people and focus them back on their God. God was sending a “wake-up” call out to His people so they wouldn’t miss THE most important event in history; the coming of His Son. Those who heeded the call were nodding at Jesus’ words. Those who didn’t were harrumphing still. Jesus knew they wouldn’t get it. They weren’t supposed to, because of the part they still had to play. Knowing the part they were going to play didn’t absolve them of their sin for rejecting John or Jesus, but it did explain it for us later.
Jesus makes a very bold statement about John. “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (verse 28a). It is probably a good thing John’s disciples were already gone or this part might have swelled their heads and hearts for a moment. John was amazing. John is the only prophet who was called from before birth. Samuel was dedicated at a young age but John was announced by Heaven itself. Zechariah received the message about John before he was even conceived. Isaac and Jesus are the only other pre-birth announcements that come to my mind from the scriptures. That puts John is very slim company.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Next He says, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (verse 288b). Ok. Why? Because John was the end of the old promise. He was heralding in the beginning of the new covenant promise. John didn’t live to see Jesus complete His work on the cross. He died at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He joined all the saints who had gone before him; waiting in Abraham’s Bosom. They had to wait for Jesus to come and personally set them free during the time He was in the grave. They were still stained by sin. Jesus had to wash them with His blood first. THEN they could be with the Father in Heaven. But those who died AFTER Jesus had completed His work went straight into God’s presence. No waiting time needed. We were made clean at Calvary. We get the gift John and all the prophets of the Old Testament were waiting for. They would receive it too, but we don’t have to wait for it.
Jesus concluded His talk on John by contrasting His and John’s style and how the religious leaders viewed them both. John came exhibiting a very restricted lifestyle. He ate only locust and wild honey. Jesus came freely partaking of all food and drink permissible in His society. Yet neither was acceptable to the Pharisees. They said John had a demon for his behavior and Jesus was a glutton and a drunk for His. WHAT DO YOU WANT! No one can please this bunch! The old saying holds true, “You’re damned if you do and dammed if you don’t.” There was no pleasing the religious leaders. It’s time to tell them to “talk to the hand.”
Father God, You are SO patient. You put up with us now and then. So many times You sent Your word right into the midst of the people and they refused to listen. You could have washed Your hands of us and moved on, but You didn’t. You kept reaching out, kept sending messages, until finally You sent the most important Messenger of them all; Your Son Jesus. Still the people didn’t listen. I am SO sorry for what that cost You. So many people today still refuse to listen. The religious leaders of Your own people being chief among them. Lord, I’m sorry for the pain that causes You. Someday they will open their eyes but it will most likely be too late by then. Please don’t let it be too late for my children and grandchildren. Open their eyes please Father.