Hear It

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
(Matthew 11:11-15)

Scripture Study

11:11 among those born of women Jesus indicates that John was the most important person who had lived until that point. The last part of the verse provides Jesus’ reason for this statement: The lowliest member of the kingdom of heaven—the most humble and God-serving—is greater than the greatest man who ever lived. Jesus is not making a moral distinction between His disciples and John; He is contrasting heavenly and earthly conceptions of greatness.

11:12 the violent are taking it The kingdom of heaven and its workers have suffered at the hands of violent people who try to prevent or usurp God’s rule.

11:14 he is Elijah The prophet Malachi had foretold the coming of a messenger—Elijah—who would prepare the way of the Messiah (Mal 3:1; 4:5); consequently, some Jews expected the return of Elijah himself (e.g., John 1:25). However, Jesus explains here that Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, who ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; compare Matt 16:14).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel affirms the greatness of John the Baptist. I think it’s fair to say that you cannot really understand Jesus without understanding John, which is precisely why all four Evangelists tell the story of the Baptist as a kind of overture to the story of Jesus.

John did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a preparation, a forerunner, a prophet preparing the way of the Lord. He was summing up much of Israelite history, but stressing that this history was open-ended, unfinished.

And therefore, how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the Temple. Moreover, behold the Passover lamb, who sums up the whole meaning of that event and brings it to fulfillment.

And this is why John says, “He must increase and I must decrease.” In other words, the overture is complete; and now the great opera begins. The preparatory work of Israel is over, and now the Messiah will reign.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.