Introduction: Would you like Jesus to say great things about you?
What if He said “Among the human race, no one is greater than [insert
your name].” Nothing could be better, right? The problem, of
course, is that you are a sinful person, whose faith sometimes fails.
Did you know that Jesus made that remark about John the Baptist? (Matthew
11:11) Clearly John was this great missionary with absolutely no
faith problems, right? Or, wrong? What kind of person was John? What
can we learn from his life to give us comfort in our failures? Let’s
dive into the lesson and find out!
- John, The Predicted One
- Read Luke 1:5-7. What do you learn about this couple from
these verses? (They are righteous people who have a
religiously superior blood line. They are both descendants
of Aaron, which means they are part of the family of
- What problem do they have? (They have no children.
The odds of having any were low because of their age.
Parenthood had passed them by.)
- Luke goes on to discuss what happened one day when
Zechariah was serving as a priest in the temple. Let’s
read Luke 1:11-17. Had they prayed for a child? (Yes!)
- What kind of child were they getting? (One who would
be like Elijah and would turn the people to God and
prepare them for their Lord! Wow. This was going to
be some son!)
- John and His Work
- Read Luke 3:2-3. What did John do to turn the people to
God? (God spoke through him. He preached a baptism of
repentance for the forgiveness of sins.)
- Is that our first step in being missionaries? To
preach to others to repent of their sins? (No. Did
you notice in Luke 1:15 it says that John was filled
with the Holy Spirit from birth? Luke 1:80 suggests
that John lived in the desert while the Holy Spirit
prepared him for his mission. Be sure your heart is
Spirit-filled and properly prepared before you start
calling others to repent of their sins. See, for
example, Luke 3:7-8, for the kind of talk used by
- Let’s continue by reading Luke 3:4. How long had God
planned for the work of John? (Isaiah prophesied about
John! This prophecy was confirmed to John’s father before
John was conceived! ( Luke 1:13-17 and Luke 1:23-24) Before
you abort your child, consider what plans God has for that
- Read John 1:29-31. Did John fulfill his mission in life?
- Read John 1:32-34. How did John know that his mission had
been fulfilled and Jesus had come to baptize people with
the Holy Spirit? (God told him.)
- John, the Man
- Read Luke 3:18-20. Do you think, given the prophecies
about him, that John expected to end up in prison? What
happened to Elijah in a similar situation? (In 1 Kings 19
we learned that Elijah was able to escape to the
wilderness to avoid the being caught and killed by Queen
Jezebel. John would reasonably expect the same.)
- Do you think John entertained doubts that God was
with him when he was imprisoned?
- Read Matthew 11:2-3. What is happening to John’s faith
while he is in prison? He was previously told by God that
Jesus was the One for whom he was preparing the way. He
had seen Jesus face to face. Why would John doubt now?
- Let’s go back and consider something that we skipped over
before. We will read what the Holy Spirit caused John’s
father, Zechariah, to prophesy about his son and about
Jesus. Read Luke 1:67-79. As you look at this prophecy, it
seems that verses 68-75 are about Jesus and verses 76-79
are about a combination of John and Jesus. Assuming that
Zechariah and John talked about what God had revealed to
dad, what do you think was their understanding of the work
of Jesus? ( Luke 1:72-74: to remember the covenant with
Abraham and to rescue them from their enemies so they
could serve God without the fear of other people. Jesus
would throw off the yoke of the Romans and He would return
the land to the Jews so that they could properly worship
- If Jesus was supposed to overthrow the Romans, how
does John’s imprisonment fit into that picture? (It
would be logical to expect that Jesus would never let
“His Elijah” be imprisoned. Instead, John should be
an honored and important part of the new Jewish
- What was Jesus doing to overthrow the Romans?
- Was all of this prophecy stuff about John and his
work a big misunderstanding? Was God untrustworthy?
Had John spent his life preaching in the desert for
- Read Matthew 14:6-11 and 2 Kings 2:11. Had God promised
John a better fate?
- Why would Elijah be translated and the second Elijah,
John, be beheaded in prison?
- Is John at fault here?
- John’s Lesson for Us
- Read Matthew 11:4-6. Given what John expected, would the
proof Jesus offered satisfy John’s questioning?
- What does Jesus mean when He says in Matthew 11:6
“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account
- Is John in danger of falling away “on account
- If you say, “yes,” why? (John was in
danger of falling away. John expected a
different Jesus. Jesus’ proof that He was
the Messiah consisted of great miracles
that could hardly represent the work of a
mere prophet. These miracles showed that
the enemy ( Luke 1:74) from whom Jesus was
rescuing the people was not a mere human
(the Romans), but rather Satan and death,
our true enemies. )
- Read Matthew 11:11-13. Remember that I started out asking
you whether you would like God to say that “Among the
human race, no one is greater than you!” God said that
about John, but now Jesus says that you are greater than
John. In what way are you greater?
- Matthew 11:12 is very difficult to understand. Read
it in several different translations. The English
Standard Version says: “From the days of John the
Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered
violence, and the violent take it by force.” Has this
anything to do with the prior subject of John
doubting whether Jesus is the Messiah and John’s
reasons for doubting? (I’ve not seen a commentary
that agrees with me, but I think it does. Remember
that John began to doubt because he expected the
Messiah to use force to restore the Jewish nation and
defeat the Romans. Jesus says the kingdom was
previously about force and violence (conquest), but
no longer. If you understand that the Kingdom of
Heaven is about Jesus giving up His life to defeat
sin and death, you are greater in understanding than
those (like John) who think the Kingdom of God is
about earthly conquest.)
- What lesson should we learn from John the Baptist? That
even the greatest can become confused and doubt? That our
life may take unexpected, and unpleasant turns? That God’s
kingdom is about self-sacrifice – and that includes you
and me? (All of the above!)
- Friend, will you keep your heart and mind open to the
leading of the Holy Spirit? Will you determine to trust
God even if your life is not turning out the way you
expected? Will you be greater than John the Baptist and
welcome Jesus’ kingdom of spiritual warfare?
- Next week: The Son of God Among Us.