John had sent messengers to inquire concerning Jesus. Was John doubting? Was he second-guessing either Jesus or his own ministry, or both? Did those who heard the questions from John consequently have the same doubts? Jesus proactively addresses the issue with this address to the crowd.
Main Point Summary
The starkness of the Concessive in v.28 highlights the Progression to this verse as the Main Point of Jesus' message (v.24–28): Do not doubt John's integrity. He is the greatest of the prophets. Nevertheless, as his whole ministry was only to point to Christ, even the least among those who believe in Christ is greater than John. (This may run counter to all human expectations, but God's wisdom will be proven out in the end.)
Even John wrestled with his faith—and Jesus responds by standing as his Advocate. In context, the concessive at v.28 is very surprising (and on the face of it contradictory). Though John is great, Jesus remains the center. It is faith in him that is the measure of "greatness" in the kingdom. (see also Luke 9:46–48) Whereas human wisdom proves fickle and inaccurate, all God's wisdom, in every facet will be proved true and perfect. We can fully trust him!
When John’s messengers had gone,
After John's messengers had come with his questions and had then gone back to John,
Jesus 1 began to speak to the crowds concerning John:
Jesus addressed the crowds concerning John and the things they were hearing about him:
“What did you go out e into the wilderness to see?
What was it about John that had everyone talking, that captured your attention, so that you just had to go see for yourself?
f A reed shaken by the wind?
That he was a man of fragile stature or weak character? No !
What then did you go out to see?
So, what was it then?
A man dressed in soft clothing?
That he was a genteel man of finery? Certainly not ...
Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.
... because you will not find such men in the wilderness—they are sitting in the company of kings.
What then did you go out to see?
So, I ask you again : What was it that drew you out to go see and hear for yourself?
g A prophet?
That there was a man of God proclaiming the truth from God?
Yes, I tell you,
Yes. It was exactly that... a prophet.
and more than a prophet.
and furthermore , not just any prophet!
This is he of whom it is written,
That is , even the Scriptures testify concerning John saying,
h “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
"Here he is! I send my spokesman just ahead of you (Messiah),
who will prepare your way before you.’
so that he might pave the way before you."
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.
Indeed , there is no mere man greater than John (in light of his ministry as forerunner to the Messiah).
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Nevertheless , even most insignificant person in the whole of God's people is greater than John.
( i When all the people heard this, and j the tax collectors too,
When all the people gathered to Jesus—including the tax collectors—heard him say this,
they declared God just, 1
they responded with a declaration, "God always does what is right."
j having been baptized with k the baptism of John,
They understood this about John because they had paid attention to what John actually said, and accepted his message, and were baptized by him.
l but the Pharisees and m the lawyers n rejected o the purpose of God for themselves,
On the other hand , the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected the very intention of God for their lives,
not having been baptized by him.)
because they had turned a deaf ear to John, and would neither accept his message, nor humble themselves in baptism.
“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?
Jesus then addresses the nature of these two drastically different responses to John's and his teaching... by asking , "What analogy can I make that fits (those who are blind to the truth)?
They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
Answer: They are like children who, in their superficial game play, demonstrate a lack of understanding and insight.
For John the Baptist has come p eating no bread and q drinking no wine,
Here's the proof: John's manner was austere,
and you say, ‘He has a demon.’
and in response you reject him as having demonic influences.
The Son of Man has come r eating and drinking,
While on the other hand, I come to you and my manner is genial,
and you say, ‘Look at him!
and in response you stand there gawking, saying,
A glutton and a drunkard,
'He's nothing but a friend's friend looking for the next free meal (and drink),
s a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
and a friend of those making their living by taking everything they can get!'
Yet t wisdom is justified by all her children.”
Nevertheless, there are those who see: the children of wisdom will recognize true wisdom."