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Home » Daily Readings

None Greater than John

Submitted by on Thursday, 10 December 2009No Comment

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  • Reading I: Isaiah 41:13-20
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 145:1.9, 10-11, 12-13
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:11-15

It is to be noted that in verses 7-19, the Baptist is contrasted first with the courtiers of King Herod (reed swaying in the wind; one in soft clothing) and then with Jesus (vv. 18-19). The first comparison gives Jesus the occassion to highlight the Baptists’s role as the messenger who prepares the way. The quotation given is from Malachi 3:1, already used by Mark at the beginning of his gospel in combination with the other from Isaiah 40 to indicate John’s role as the forerunner. What follows is an assertion that can be puzzling:

Amen I say to you
  among the sons of women, there has been none
greater than John the Baptist;
  yet the least in the kingdom of heaven
is greater than he.

The contrast between "sons of women" and "least in the kingdom of heaven" have led interpreters like Augustine of Hippo (cf. Sermon 66) to identify the latter phrase with the "angels". In this sense, Augustine can say:

By the kingdom of heaven he meant "where the angels are", so whoever is less among the angels is greater than John (Serm. 66, 2b)

In Matthew, however, the phrase "least in the kingdom of heaven" (cf. 5:19) and "greatest in the kingdom of heaven (18:1.4) are used to refer to the audience of Matthew’s gospel, the baptized. Thus the baptized are greater than John in the sense in which the Israelites who entered the promised land are greater than Moses who was left behind (cf. Deuteronomy 32:48-52). This interpretation I think sheds light on the declaration that follows.

From the days of John the Baptist until now
the kingdom of heaven suffers violence
  and the violent take it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied
until the time of John.

The prophets and the Law were meant to lead people into the kingdom, but it is during the time of the Baptist that the kingdom of heaven is as it were besieged and captured by those who wish to enter it. In other words, John has done his role as messenger so well that people do not only enter into God’s reign, rather they take it by force. Thus the praise of John whom Jesus identifies as Elijah (v. 14) and who, like himself, is a work of Wisdom, an instrument of God’s will to save. Now matter how different his style may be to that of the apparently easy-going Jesus, he has his place in God’s design and he will also be vindicated.

More from this page:  http://biblista.albertesmeralda.com/mat11_2-11

Isaiah 41:13-20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
13For I am the Lord thy God, who take thee by the hand, and say to thee: Fear not, I have helped thee.
14Fear not, thou worm of Jacob, you that are dead of Israel: I have helped thee, saith the Lord: and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.
15I have made thee as a new thrashing wain, with teeth like a saw: thou shall thrash the mountains, and break them in pieces: and shalt make the hills as chaff.
16Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, in the Holy One of Israel thou shalt be joyful.
17The needy and the poor seek for waters, and there are none: their tongue hath been dry with thirst. I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18I will open rivers in the high bills, and fountains in the midst of the plains: I will turn the desert into pools of waters, and the impassable land into streams of waters.
19I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, and the thorn, and the myrtle, and the olive tree: I will set in the desert the fir tree, the elm, and the box tree together:
20That they may see and know, and consider, and understand together that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.
Psalm 145:1
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1I will extol thee, O God my king: and I will bless thy name for ever; yea, for ever and ever.
Matthew 11:11-15
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
11Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.
13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John:
14And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come.
15He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Malachi 3:1
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.
Deuteronomy 32:48-52
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
48And the Lord spoke to Moses the same day, saying:
49Go up into this mountain Abarim, (that is to say, of passages,) unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab over against Jericho: and see the land of Chanaan, which I will deliver to the children of Israel to possess, and die thou in the mountain.
50When thou art gone up into it thou shalt be gathered to thy people, as Aaron thy brother died in mount Her, and was gathered to his people:
51Because you trespassed against me in the midst of the children of Israel, at the waters of contradiction in Cades of the desert of Sin: and you did not sanctify me among the children of Israel.
52Thou shalt see the land before thee, which I will give to the children of Israel, but thou shalt not enter into it.

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