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!

  1. John, The Predicted One

    1. 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

      1. 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.)

    2. 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!)

      1. 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!)

  2. John and His Work

    1. 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.)

      1. 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

    2. 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

    3. Read John 1:29-31. Did John fulfill his mission in life?

    4. 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.)

  3. John, the Man

    1. 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.)

      1. Do you think John entertained doubts that God was
        with him when he was imprisoned?

    2. 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?

    3. 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

      1. 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

      2. What was Jesus doing to overthrow the Romans?

      3. 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

    4. Read Matthew 14:6-11 and 2 Kings 2:11. Had God promised
      John a better fate?

      1. Why would Elijah be translated and the second Elijah,
        John, be beheaded in prison?

        1. Is John at fault here?

  4. John’s Lesson for Us

    1. Read Matthew 11:4-6. Given what John expected, would the
      proof Jesus offered satisfy John’s questioning?

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says in Matthew 11:6
        “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account
        of Me?”

        1. Is John in danger of falling away “on account
          of” Jesus?

          1. 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. )

    2. 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?

      1. 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.)

    3. 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!)

    4. 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?

  5. Next week: The Son of God Among Us.