Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
John the Baptist, the preparer of the way for Jesus, was in prison. He was imprisoned by Herod because he rebuked him for taking his brother’s wife. When he was in prison, he heard of the works of Christ (v. 2) and began to doubt that Jesus really was the Messiah. He wondered if they should still wait for the Messiah.
John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, and Jesus replied by reminding John of the miracles that He had performed, concluding by saying that the poor have the gospel preached to them. Jesus reminded him of the work he had been sent to do, to preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins to penitent sinners. He also assured him that whosoever is not offended in Him is blessed.
The Kingdom of the Weak and Poor
After Jesus sent these words of comfort and assurance to John in prison, He began to talk about John the Baptist to the multitudes gathered. Jesus said that John was that prophet of whom Malachi wrote in chapter 3, verse 1, saying that he was God’s messenger to prepare the way.
Jesus testified of John that no one greater than him had been born, yet he emphasized that he who is least in the kingdom is greater than he. He explained that God’s kingdom consists of those who find themselves to be weak, poor and unworthy rather than those who are proud and mighty. God’s children depend on the merit work of Jesus for their salvation, not their own works.
Jesus warned in verse 12 that throughout time, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and that the violent take the kingdom by force. Then, as now, the kingdom of God was attacked by those who consider themselves to be stronger and more powerful and to have more knowledge and understanding. They will not succeed, as God’s kingdom is for the weak, poor and lacking. These weak ones need the gospel of the forgiveness of sins continuously in their endeavor of faith.
Prepare Hearts for the Coming of the Lord
Jesus said that for those who receive John’s message, he is Elias who was to come. This also refers to Malachi’s prophesy, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (4:5). When the angel appeared to Zacharias and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son, John, the angel also told him the same thing. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Those who heeded John’s message of repentance, believed the gospel and began to follow Jesus were acceptable to God. The same is true today.
Jesus warned His listeners by asking whom He could compare this generation to. He compares them to noisy children in the markets who pay no heed to anything but themselves and what interests them and pleases them. They ignore and belittle the message that comes from God’s kingdom. They also ridicule the bearer of the message, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus, however, taught, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). Jesus approached and visited with the poor and unworthy, and this offended the self-righteous.
We Have Peace
Jesus said that wisdom is justified of her children. God’s children, who have no wisdom or understanding in themselves, depend entirely upon their Savior, who suffered and died on their behalf and took their sins upon Himself. We believe the gospel of the forgiveness of sins for our salvation. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).