The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35

The Advantage in Being the Least – in the Kingdom, That Is

Today’s lesson centers around John the Baptist.  By this time, he had been thrown into prison by Herod Antipas for rebuking him for his adulterous marriage, and that at the instigation of his adulterous wife.  John had once called Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  But now, in prison, he doubts.  We don’t know why.  Perhaps John thought that Jesus’ ministry would execute judgment on the wicked right away (Matthew 3:12), or maybe prison was simply breaking the poor man down.  At any rate, John sends two disciples to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  What is remarkable to me is Jesus’ patience in receiving John’s question; after all, this is John the Baptist who doubts, the one who prepared the way!  Jesus might have thought that he could at least depend on him.  But instead Jesus shows and then tells John’s disciples what they hear and see: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.”  Again, Jesus’ deeds confirm his Messianic office as the One sent from God (John 5:36; 10:25, 38).  Only remember, in Jesus’ unique case, it is the man and his message which prove the deeds, not the deeds that prove the man.

Jesus then extols John before the people and assures them that John was the “Elijah who [was] to come,” as prophesied by Malachi and expected before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6).  Indeed, Jesus even says of him, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  But then Jesus adds something truly amazing: “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  Now this is important.  What does this statement from Jesus mean?  Jesus is the dividing line between the old and new covenants.  The first covenant was made with God’s people and recorded in the Old Testament.  The promise of coming redemption was made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) and Abraham (Genesis 12:3), filled out in the Law given to Moses, and reaffirmed through the prophets time and again.  But through Christ, the promise reaches fulfillment.  John’s ministry marks the end of old covenant expectations while Jesus’ very person and work marks the beginning of the new covenant age of blessing (1 Corinthians 10:11).  So Jesus can refer to that one who is “least in the kingdom of heaven” as being greater than John, not because that person is better than John (far be it), but because that one who is least is a present member of the kingdom that Christ instituted through his life, death, and resurrection.  Isn’t it wonderful to live on this side of the cross!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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