What is Jesus really talking about when He says that the least person in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John? And why would He bother to even make such a statement?
In Luke 7:24+ Jesus makes a point of who John is, and then uses His remarks about greatness to offer some insight into Kingdom life. But what does He mean by “greater than”? In what sense could you and I possibly be greater than John? I’ve heard the standard responses to this question: “We have been given the Holy Spirit and John was not.” But that sort of contradicts Gabriel’s announcement that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk.1:15). The other traditional answer is that John was still under the Old Covenant and we are under the New. But what does that have to do with being “greater”? I really have trouble trying to connect with that. So I need to ask again, in what sense are we greater than John?
I think a clue can be found in the story where Jesus addresses the competition among His disciples and explains that true greatness means serving others. Assuming that Jesus Himself was the Greatest in the Kingdom, His greatest service included destroying the works of the enemy and restoring our relationship with God. Perhaps greatness could be defined as “being part of what God is doing to make the Kingdom a reality in this world.” And while that would include whatever ways we can assist others, it also means allowing God to bring light into our own personal world to transform us. Either way, we become more than we were before.
Of all the prophets in the Old Testament, John came the closest to actually ushering people up to the door of the Kingdom. That is why he was the greatest of them. Those who then enter this Kingdom are able to bring even more light into the world than John did. And since light always overcomes darkness, being a light in a dark world is truly a great thing. As we learn to participate in the Kingdom for both our own renewal and for the good of others, we become more and more who God created us to be. That is true greatness.