Jesus had more to say about John the Baptist, starting with a riddle.
Then he vented some frustrations of his own.


 

"Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has
not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in
the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

"From the days of John until now the kingdom of heaven suffers
violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and
the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it,
he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

[{Luke 7:29-30} Even the tax collectors justified God, having been
baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers
rejected the will of God for themselves.]

"To what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in
the marketplaces and calling to their companions, saying:
           
''We played the flute for you,
                       
and you did not dance;
           
We mourned to you,
                       
and you did not lament;'
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has
a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they
say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors
and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."

                                                  Matthew 11:11-19 NKJV, condensed 


                                        A New Measuring Stick

The question which John the Baptist raised (in the previous verses),
triggered a frustration button and Jesus is about to let loose. Listen!
It's not like it used to be under the Law and the Prophets. Since John
began preaching, who are the ones coming with eagerness to hear
the message of God's kingdom?

Here's who--those sick and tired and burdened down with debilitating
conditions. The masses of ordinary people who had never responded
to God before, started rushing forward to take the kingdom by storm.
They pushed and shoved their way through the crowds so they could
hear every word and not miss a thing. Using their elbows and knees
they jabbed their way to the front of the line. That's how excited and
earnest they were to receive the good news, welcome God into their
lives, and be included in the kingdom.

Jesus saw them in the crowds everyday. With similar fervor they
struggled to get as close as they could and grab hold of the saving
grace of their heavenly Father. But Jesus watched something else,
too, which disturbed him greatly--there were those who refused to
believe. It didn't matter how effective the sermon or how great the
miracle. Jesus could raise the dead, and still they would not concede
that Jesus did the works of God

Jesus concluded they were like children playing games in the
marketplace. You ask them to sing a happy song and dance around
and enjoy themselves. What do they do? They decline to get involved
in such merriment. You ask them to weep and mourn with you and
sing a funeral dirge. How do they respond? They turn down that
invitation, too.

John the Baptist came singing an austere song. He scorned the usual
creature comforts and opted instead for the harsh environment of the
wilderness. There he lived on locusts and honey, and made his clothing
from camels' hair. He preached a fiery message of repentance, telling
people to get ready for the soon-to-come kingdom of God. The masses
witnessed a new "Elijah" and heeded his warnings. But what about
the elders of the faith, the scribes and Pharisees? And the rich and
influential people of the community? Those who did not want to
acknowledge they even had some wrongs to confess? They just stood
and watched; they would not join the song of mourning for their sins.

Jesus came singing a song of jubilee. He lived in the towns and
villages of Galilee and mingled freely with anyone willing to receive him.
He ate and drank just like anyone else, and wore normal clothing. He
told people about his loving heavenly Father and celebrated forgiveness
and reconciliation. He healed many, all the while proclaiming freedom,
blessedness, and abundance. Again the masses poured in from
everywhere to join the festive chorus.

But where were the "righteous" ones who thought they didn't need
Jesus' message because they were just fine as they were? Oh, they're
out there in the crowd, but their hearts were unaffected, untouched.
They judged Jesus to be detrimental to society because he was
arousing the rabble, creating excitement where there was nothing to
be excited about.

These were the ones who could not give thanks with those who were
healed. They did not rejoice with the outcasts whose sins were forgiven.
What is wrong with these people! They won't laugh, they won't cry;
they won't dance, they won't go along to the funeral; they won't sing
any song at all. They simply will not participate! Instead they choose
to be unhappy, hot and bothered, cold as ice, hard as stone.

Jesus grieved over them. He held in his hand the gift of God's love and
the secret to abundant living, but you can't give a gem to someone who
will not receive it.

Since the days of John, it's been a new day.
            The blind see, the sighted are blind!
            Sinners are righteous, the righteous are sinners!
            The greater are less, the lesser are great!

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

Icebreaker: Describe one game you liked to play when you were a child.


The greatest on earth is one measure of a person. The greatest in
heaven is a different measure.
            Name some people who were/are considered great on earth but
                        will not likely be great in heaven.  
            Name someone not great on earth who will be with the great ones
                        in heaven.
            How do you measure greatness?
            Does God measure it the same way?


John's doubting did not diminish John in Jesus' eyes. He was still greater
than all others born on this earth.
            Why did Jesus think so highly of someone so different from himself?
            How valuable to you is Jesus' opinion of greatness?
What could Jesus mean by saying the least in God's kingdom is greater
                        than John?

 

When I first read the verses about taking the kingdom by violent force,
I thought of violence as negative. But after doing some research,
I concluded it referred to a zealous and passionate desire to possess
what Jesus was talking about.
            When was the last time you witnessed such zealous, passionate
                        desire?
            Is it more likely that you will see sleeping in church!
            How much zeal do you think is good?
            Is there such a thing as too much enthusiasm for God?
            Are you satisfied with your own level of passion for God?

 

Since there are excesses in all areas of life, and every good thing can be
abused, how do you establish a boundary line separating healthy religion
from dangerous religious thinking?

 

According to this passage, what does it mean to be righteous?
            Who are the sinners?
Do you think the "righteous" folks of Jesus' day would have believed even
if the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, came back from the dead to open
their eyes?

 

Do you know anyone who refuses to believe the validity of Jesus' words
and deeds?
            What are some things which contribute to their unbelief?
            Do you think they will ever change their thinking about Jesus?

 

Do you respond with joy when someone testifies to a miracle in their life?
            Do you rejoice when lives are changed by God?
            In what circumstances is your answer yes? When is it no?

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