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Matthew 11:11 - How is the Least Greater than the Greatest?

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August 14, 2014

A question common to Matthew 11 is that of what Yeshua meant in verse 11.

Matthew 11:11
Verily I say to you, Among those born of women, there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptizer: yet the small one in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he.
On the surface it appears Yeshua is saying John the Baptist is next to nothing in the kingdom of heaven.  Yet this seems to contradict the context of previous passages where Yeshua is identifying John the Baptist as being more than a prophet.  He did go so far as to say John the Baptist was the greatest among all born of woman; remember this would include Yeshua himself!  So how is it John the Baptist is less than even the lessor in the Kingdom and greater than Yeshua?  The answer may surprise you.
What is truly being compared here is not John the Baptist vs the least in the kingdom of heaven.  Rather the comparison lies between those living in the flesh on earth versus those who have attained admittance into the kingdom of heaven.  John the Baptist was indeed the greatest of those born of women, but greater are those who have shed the flesh and been raised again into the kingdom of heaven, the eternal kingdom. 

The statement was made prior to the beheading of John the Baptist, it was really a bit of a low point for him as he had just questioned if Yeshua was truly Messiah.  As great as John was while alive on earth, he was nothing compared to someone who had already run the race and made it into the kingdom.  We know from life that there are those who are least and those who are greatest on earth.  As the physical teaches the spiritual, we find out that there is a hierarchy of least and great in the kingdom as well.  Yeshua is again reminding us that what is on earth is nothing, what is on earth may be destroyed by moths but what makes it into the kingdom is eternal.  We need to take our focus off of what it means to be great and successful in this world and instead focus on what it means to be great with our Creator and King in eternity.