7As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind?8Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces.9Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet.10John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,and he will prepare your way before you.’
11“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!12And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.13For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time.14And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come.15Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!16“To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,
17‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’
18For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’19The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”
Of all the men the world had ever know, John the Baptist was the greatest! Look at this fairly accurate depiction of him. He wore camels hair, the worst of all clothing. He ate locust and wild honey. He lived in the caves and mountains and desert regions and never cut his hair. When Jesus said this, John was in a dungeon having literally preached himself to certain death. Face it – he was nuts! Most people of that time thought John was crazy and must of us would too. What was about John that made him so great in Jesus’ eyes?
John’s mission was simple. He told the people their “religion”, the Pharisees’ rules and their rituals and their pious fastings were all meaningless. He called people to each individually change their lives to prepare for God to come bursting into it. He called them to go into the river, confess their sins, and go under the water and come up a new person. They were to so radically change that it would be as if they were “born again”. And John was so committed to it, he didn’t care what he wore, or what he ate or where he lived or what he looked like. He wanted people to radically change their lives.
And what is this comparison of John and Elijah? Elijah was an Old Testament prophet who turned Israel back to God by being crazy. He prayed for a dought and left Israel starve for 3 years. He then held a contest with the false priest of Baal and killed 400 of them himself in one day. Elijah was a man full of zeal for God, ready to risk anything to bring about repentance and revival. The prophets after Elijah predicted that before the Messiah would come another prophet like Elijah would arrive in Israel to prepare the people to receive their King. Another crazy man – like John.
And how did most of the Jews react? They rejected the radical John who lived on the finges of society, and they rejected Jesus who lived right in the middle of society. They wanted their rules and their rituals and their pious public fastings, and they wanted nothing to do with changing their individual lives.
Lord, I know I can be like the Pharisees. I know I can let my faith life become ritualistic and judgemental. I know I like to fit in. I know I can reject the “crazies”. Call me to be radical Lord. Call me to reject the normal and cling to extremes that You and John represent. Change me Lord, change me. Beginner’s Online Bible Study *obbs*