Luke 7:24-30 (ESV)

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? f A reed shaken by the wind? [25] What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. [26] What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. [27] This is he of whom it is written,

” ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

who will prepare your way before you.’

[28] 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.” [29] ( When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, [30] but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

The greatest sinner ever born was John the Baptist. This is an amazing thing to say about a man who does not have a lot said about him in the New Testament. It is obvious in the opening chapters of each of the four Gospel accounts that John the Baptist is a very important figure. While he does not take up a lot of space, each of the four Gospel accounts goes out of its way to tell us about him and his work of announcing the arrival of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. But what made him so great as to merit the remarks by Jesus that he was greater than anyone ever born? His birth was announced by an angel and was a biological miracle, but there are others who could claim one or both of those things as well (Isaiah, Samson, Jacob and Esau). He was a bold, no holds barred preacher, but others could make that claim too. No, what made John the Baptist greater than Abraham, Moses, David, and all the other great heroes of the faith and, as Jesus says here, greater than anyone else ever born, is not the circumstances of his birth or his ability to preach.

Jesus tells us in verse 27 what He is referring to. It is because John is the one who comes before the Messiah and prepares the way for Him. What makes John great is that he directs people to Christ in a way no other prophet has ever been able to do. What makes him great is that he is able to take a back seat to the One who will die and save the world from its just punishment. John was able to point to the identification of the promised Saviour like no one else ever had or could. He can actually point to Jesus and say “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. What makes John great is his ministry of identifying Jesus. John the Baptist has just sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus is the Messiah he thought he was. Even the greatest of all men has his doubts. John was the greatest prophet up to that time but even he did not know everything about Jesus and His work. John doubted, perhaps because Jesus was not performing the way that John thought He would.

We however, know about the work of Christ. We know that Jesus did not come to overthrow Rome. We know that Jesus lived sinlessly, died as a substitute for His people and bore the punishment for their sins. We know that He rose from the dead and satisfied all the divine justice that our sins deserve. We know that no amount of keeping the Law can earn a person’s right to enter eternal life and fellowship with God. We know that Jesus returned to heaven and is coming back to earth. We know that all who repent and believe in Jesus have eternal life.

We have more of the Bible than John the Baptist had. Our work, as believers, is to give this whole Gospel to a world that so desperately needs Him. Our work is to direct people to the only remedy for their sin. We can give a more complete Gospel than even John the Baptist could. And that is why Jesus can say, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” What made John the Baptist great is what makes us even greater. What made John great was not who he was, but the message he was able to deliver. What makes it possible for Jesus to say that we can be greater than him is the same thing. We direct people to Jesus Christ. We can do it more completely than John did for we have the whole Gospel and a completed Bible to direct people to.

Want to be truly great? Give them Jesus.