"I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28, NIV)
John the Baptist sat in prison. The cousin of Jesus, the one whose mission it was to prepare the nation of Israel for the coming of the Messiah languished in a dungeon. Yet John’s service for God was incredibly significant. Jesus himself says here that he wasn’t just a prophet, he was the greatest of all men. However, John was now a prisoner and condemned to death. What might he have been thinking? I can imagine that his thinking went like this: "If Jesus is the Messiah whom we had hoped for, why am I, his cousin and ministry colleague in this place?" John’s expectations didn’t match the circumstances he was in. The hope that had been born in him when Jesus had been revealed as the Messiah was in danger of being crushed. So in his anguish he sends two of his friends to Jesus and asks, "Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:19)
Why does Jesus let such a significant servant of God sit in prison condemned to death? This question has broad implications for me. I may need to re-examine what to expect from this God in whom I place my hope, just as John needed to do. Is Jesus of Nazareth who I think He is or not?
Jesus answered John by describing how He was doing exactly the same things as the Lord God whom the Old Testament reveals (see Psalm 146:5-10). Then He adds, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me" (Luke 7:23). The fact is that the Kingdom of God is unlike all the kingdoms we know, and the rights of Kingdom citizens are unlike the citizenship rights we are used to. Because God’s Kingdom is an upside down kingdom. In His Kingdom the last are first and the first are last. Even our King didn’t come to "be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). And He says to us who follow Him, "Do you want to be great? Then serve others." Even if it leads to our own obscurity.
My youngest daughter works as a cashier at the Giant supermarket chain. Not too long ago she was talking about a young man who works with her. He’s intellectually challenged and he works as a bagger. She told me that this fellow always entertains people with his smile and the funny things he says. "We call him the mayor of Giant," she laughed. "Because," she continued in her affirming way, "he is better than most politicians. He actually knows how to make people happy."
Politics in the Kingdom of God are different than they are in the kingdoms of this world. Those who are leaders in God’s kingdom are they who serve in the spirit of the one who came to "lift up the fallen" and "announce good news to the poor." And we who want to be great in God’s eyes lift up people like "the mayor of Giant" even though the cost may be that we stand in their shadow and become invisible. For the least in God’s Kingdom are most important.
"Blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God." (Psalm 146:5)
What does it mean to you to hope in God?
How might your expectations of God need to be realigned?
Is there a "mayor of Giant" in your life which God may be calling you to lift up, even if it means your own obscurity?