While looking at Matthew 11:11, I decided to see where else the phrase “least in the Kingdom” was used. We saw previously it’s use in Matthew 5:19.
Matthew 5:19 (ESV) Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Then again in Matthew 11:11.
Matthew 11:11 (ESV) Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And in Luke 7:28.
Luke 7:28 (ESV) I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
I like Martyn Lloyd Jones‘ explanation about the Kingdom:
It has come; it is coming; it is to come. It was here when He was exercising authority; it is here in us now; and yet it is to come.
So why was the least in the Kingdom greater than John the Baptist?
My best understanding is that while John the Baptist was the forerunner and proclaimed Christ to the Jewish Nation, he did not live to see the completion of Christ’s work. John the Baptist may not have even understood the full manner in which Christ was to fulfill the prophecy, just like the disciples didn’t until after the resurrection. Yet, the disciples of Jesus and maybe even some of John the Baptist’s disciples were able to see the death burial and resurrection of the Lord. Not until then did they really understand. (Ma shared the following verse which I had forgotten.)
Luke 18:31-34 (ESV)
31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.
32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.
33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
We have a better knowledge, a clearer hope and a Messiah who said “It is Finished.” We get to live in the completed portion. John the Baptist began the foundation, but he didn’t live to see the completion of Christ’s work.
We can proclaim the full and complete Gospel to everyone of every race and nationality. John the Baptist was just giving the advance notice; we have the full Good News. Even the youngest, weakest believer has what John the Baptist was looking forward to.
John the Baptist proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) It was at hand for him.
We can proclaim the Kingdom (Acts 28:31) in boldness because it cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28) and testify (Acts 28:23) that it is here.
Just think of what we have revealed to us in the NT, which John the Baptist didn’t have.