Question / Comment - Why was John the Baptist the greatest?
Why did Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man on earth?
thanks for the email. It is a good question. Though not the easiest! The reason being is that Jesus didn't clarify the statement so we really only have the one verse and surrounding verses to go on. But here it is again:
Matthew 11:9-11 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I
tell you, and more than a prophet. (10) This is the one about whom it is written:
" 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way
before you.' (11) I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has
not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the
kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Jesus was saying that John the Baptist was more than a prophet because John himself was even the subject of prophecy! Both Malachi and Isaiah had prophesied about John the Baptist's coming as a fore-runner to the arrival of the Messiah. Having said this, Jesus then says the statement that of those that are born of a woman, there has not arisen any greater than John. I guess the question is 'greater' in what respect? What was Jesus meaning? Was it greatest in terms of his character? Was it greatest in terms of his impact? Was it greatest in terms of his faith? Though John the Baptist was a giant in all of these areas, I doubt that was what Jesus was meaning because He goes on to say 'yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he'. Now the least in the kingdom of Heaven is not going to have greater character than John. Nor will he have greater impact or faith. And yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven must have something greater that John...
I think the answer is 'position' and 'privilege'. In terms of position and privilege there were none at that time greater than John the Baptist. All of the prophets themselves longed to look into the things of the coming Christ. (See 1 Peter 1:10-12) They saw different aspects of His coming and wrote down these prophecies, but none got to see it themselves. That position and privilege was given to John. He was the one that God gave the honour of preparing the hearts of Israel for the coming of the Messiah. John prepared the ground for Jesus' coming and he knew exactly what his role and calling was. It was the greatest position and privilege given to man on this earth at that time.
And yet, in contrast, Jesus says that even the least that are in the kingdom of Heaven are greater. Why? Because they are given a greater position and privilege. They are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. They are 'in Christ' and are therefore join heirs with the Son. They are sons of God! I don't think believers know how fortunate we are with the position and privilege God has given us in Christ.
That's how I see it anyway, hope it helps!