English: Mary and Jesus
Mary and Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew 11:2-11
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, β€œAre You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, β€œGo and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus’ Tribute to John

7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, β€œWhat did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

β€˜Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’

11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Commentary

John the Baptist was no ordinary guy. He was something of a wildman, eating locusts (grasshoppers) and an uncultivated substance that tastes like honey. He wore rough cloth made of camel’s hair. Today, he’d be like a self-sufficient hobo, livingΒ away from the city, offering salvation to sinners. Authorities would probably shoo him away to somewhere he couldn’t be seen and “bother” people. Maybe even issue a citation or arrest him if he failed to comply. And I don’t think Jesus would have won any fashion contest, either. The issue of clothing is brought up in today’s reading. Jesus notes that royalty wears fine clothes but, for the people of God, it really doesn’t matter what we wear.

Jesus proceeds to tell us that John is simply the best human being ever to walk the face of the Earth. We can assume that Jesus is excluding himself in that assessment. But here comes the clincher… Jesus adds that, although John may be the best, he can’t compare to the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. Wow. Can you get your head around this? What Jesus is saying is that heaven is so fantastic, so altogether different from this world, that we just can’t imagine it. We may have glimpses through moments of grace. But on the whole, heaven is a completely different order than this physical universe, and all the conventional judgments that usually go with it.

So with Christmas coming, it’s great to see family, friends, and enjoy giving and receiving whatever toys may come our way. But most important, Christmas is a time to remember what it’s all about. What’s behind and above it all. What counts. What makes it possible for us to enjoy all the lesser, temporary things of this world.

And what’s that?

Well, the Lord. And for most Christian believers, Christmas is a time to remember how God came to us as Jesus Christ. Myself, I can get so caught up in the tree, the lights, and the idea of “Christmas Cheer” that it takes a while for me to get in that quiet space where I just think of a young teenage woman, Mary, giving birth to God-in-the-flesh amidst all kinds of persecution and resentment. (Remember that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus, even as an infant). But when I do get in that headspace, that’s when Christmas takes its most noble and holy form.

—MC