24 “After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written,“ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
This passage unequivocally projects the comments of Jesus about Saint John the Baptist. We are able to map how Jesus was affirmative about the quality of John’s leadership since he displayed it with a prophetic voice. “Prophecy” is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the realm of spirituality. In the current tele-evangelist world, many pseudo philosophies are propagated which focuses only on the self-prosperity of individuals and water-down the purpose of God or the Divine. We all are aware of the consistent discrepancies between the individual life and the collective life which are interwoven with numerous nuances. The individualistic prism negating the responsibility to the other, dismantles the wheel of celebration on the harmonious roads of life. The Kingdom of God is the sign of absolute harmony in human life, which Jesus' movement propagated.
By looking at the crowd, Jesus underpins the idea that materialistic paradigms do not communicate the truth of God. The words, “Expensive Clothes”, “Luxury” and ‘Palaces”, communicate a great hidden truth in this periscope. We live in a consumerist world where life is scaled by the amount of wealth one possesses. We live in a culture that prioritizes life in “making money” instead of making life a bearable one for all. The greed for property and power has ruined the basic fabric of a non-hierarchical order of God which grounds itself in mutuality, dignity, and equity of life to all. The order of God and Jesus’s Kingdom of God apparently has the identical essence. In generic terms, we can call this as the order of life which grasps the infinite into finite life and vice versa.
I feel the expression of Soren Kierkegaard about existentialism gives us a lucidity over the philosophy of life. Paul Tillich's theory of co-relativity nails our understanding of the finite things as an ephemeral one, however the permanent experience is possible by mending the infinite experience in a finite world.
Mistakenly for numerous believers, the “Kingdom of God” (KOG) is understood as a world/life after death. But I understand the words of Jesus to be explicit, to affirm the KOG is possible in the current finite world when we are connected to God. Connected to God is connected to Truth. Truth will not be silent; it is always active in one way or another and operates in a prolific way in transforming the fallacies and fallibilities during life. It is vociferous and one feels responsible to represent the order of
life structured with love, faith and courage. John became a great celebrity during the time of Jesus not because of his wealth but because of the truth he propagated.
Jesus clearly mentions the urge of the people in search of Truth and God’s path, which led them to a poor man, John the Baptist, who was pragmatic and simple. Jesus did mention to them that, “Baptist is more than a Prophet” because John, not only communicated the truth, but later he died for it. He prepared the way for Christ to die for justice, come what may. He never compromised. He was firm in approaching life with a moral responsibility. He was constantly engaging the people of God to introspect with a sense of doing good and to realize the ubiquitous nature of God’s order.
The last verse in this passage seems to be ambiguous and demands our attention. “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
1. He acknowledges him as the greater human being in the world. It is not only to John the Baptist, it conveys that whoever stands with truth and propagates truth, will be greater in the world. Greater here should not be understood in a hierarchical paradigm, it is a state of Good.
2. “Least in the Kingdom of God''- is another problematic expression if we take it literally. I feel that KOG does not have any “most” or “least” beings! Perhaps, it's an expression that says that everyone who realizes the Kingdom of God in their lives will be in the Truth. The doubt about the Christ in Jesus, did not allow John the Baptist to grab the Truth. Faith in Christ and His values enables us to realize the ultimate good in life.
3. The text theologically equates all in one ground and calls us to be prophetic in our life as John has done.
Are we ready to build the Kingdom of God, and the kingdom of truth in the world; Jesus constantly calls us to have courage to build it!
Amen, God bless these words.