Upon the departure of these disciples, Jesus took advantage of the circumstances to instruct the multitude concerning John the Baptist.  Indeed, he was a great figure, one prophesied of both by Isaiah and Malachi, one long expected by the Jewish nation to prepare the way for their Redeemer.  But they had not received John as they ought.  Christ challenges them, “What went ye out for to see?”  Though some were converted through John’s ministry, it appears that the majority of his hearers were “a generation of vipers.”  Jesus reminds them that John was no “reed shaken with the wind.”  He was no cowardly preacher, swayed from this side to that by the varying opinions of his hearers.  He steadfastly preached the truth of God without an inch of compromise.  He was no pampered prince’s son, but a wild man who grew up in the desert, a man very much in the mold of Elijah.

So great was John’s station in the operations of God’s scheme of salvation, that Jesus says he was “more than a prophet.”  Christ would place him even higher (in honor and privilege, I think) than any of the great prophets of the Old Testament.  It was John’s privilege to bridge the gap between the Old Testament and the New, to prepare the way for the Messiah, by preaching the Gospel of Christ before Christ appeared on the public scene.  So great was John, that Christ proclaims him to be greater than any man ever born of woman.  It is thought by some, and not without reason, that John was regenerated from his mother’s womb.  We have no reason to think this of any other person.

And yet, mysteriously, the Lord also says that he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.  Again, I believe He is speaking of privileges, rather than of personal holiness or virtue.  Certainly we cannot imagine that every believer from that time thenceforth was holier and more devoted to God than John the Baptist.  It can only mean that those who enter into Christ’s kingdom by faith enjoy greater privileges than John, or any of the Old Testament saints who went before.  Our privilege consists in having the Spirit of God poured out in our hearts, and having a complete understanding of the nature of Christ’s work.  John had a glimpse of these wonderful mysteries, but we, by the grace of God, have entered into the full enjoyment of them.