Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11 NIV)
Jesus was talking to the crowd about who John the Baptist was. And he affirmed that while John was a prophet, he was more than that. He was the messenger that Malachi had written about (Mal. 3:1). The one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.
Jesus then told the crowd that, among those born of women, none were greater than John. The Jews looked to Abraham, Moses, and David as the heroes of their past. Jesus did not dispute their greatness. But he did elevate John to a position higher than them. They had each played their role in the establishment of the kingdom. But John was the one who had the privilege of ushering in the one who would have an eternal reign over the kingdom of God.
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. The key to understanding this is recognizing the two realms that Jesus refers to. Those born of women belong to the physical realm. While those in the kingdom of heaven have been born again and have spiritual life.
Jesus did not tell us here that Abraham, Moses, David, and John were not in the kingdom of heaven. Instead, he is giving us a new standard to measure greatness. It is not based on a person’s physical presence, accomplishments, or how other people view them. True greatness is found in a relationship with God.
Are you a child of God? If so, then you are greater than those the world considers great. Rather than strive for greatness and significance in this world, rejoice that you have membership in God’s family and his kingdom. And faithfully serve him, regardless of what your status is in this world.