"I'm telling you the truth: John the Baptist is the greatest mother's son there ever was. But the least significant person in Heaven's kingdom is greater than he is." Matthew 11:11
This verse can be uncomfortable if we misunderstand it. Is Jesus encouraging sibling rivalry in God's family? Why does He appear to rank God's children?
If you ever felt like you were not the favorite child in your family, you will likely find this scripture passage provocative. Have no fear. This statement is not about individual favor but the significance of time in the story of God, His people, and the world.
God does not love John the Baptist more than anyone else. The point of this statement is Jesus' insistence that Israel and the world had arrived at the climax of history. John was the "greatest" prophet in the sense of the role he played in history as the forerunner of the Messiah. Jesus is talking more about time than He is about John as an individual. Jesus immediately moved on from the time of John, pointing forward and saying, "but the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is." "The Gospel," according to the gospels, is the good news of the arrival of God's kingdom. Again, Jesus emphasized that the greatest moment in history has come in Him.
The disciples who heard these words and each of Jesus' followers today are "greater" than John the Baptist, not because we have more value or favor with God but because we live on this side of the cross and resurrection. We have access to the Holy Spirit and power in a way our forefathers did not.
In John's Gospel, chapter 14, verse 12, Jesus said this:
"Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father."