24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
28 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.”
29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
People don’t see greatness in the same sense that God does. People see men with power, with wealth, with natural talent, and ascribe greatness to them. God looks past the finery we cloak ourselves with and sees our character and what we do for others.
John was the greatest prophet in God’s eyes. He was faithful his entire life to his calling. He faithfully and humbly yielded before Christ, knowing that Jesus was the One, that he had been sent to proclaim.
To people, however, he was a monk who dressed funny and lived out in the desert. To some, he was a spectacle. There wasn’t TV in those days, so he was the day’s entertainment. And others, when they heard this odd man speak, they knew the truth of his words and they responded humbly submitting to baptism to show the end of their old ways and habits and the beginning of their new life.
And there were those who did not see the need to change at all. They were self-satisfied with their religion.
I don’t think Jesus’ statements mark delineation between Old Testament saints and New Testament ones, as much as it marks a change in humanity’s status with God as a whole. Something dramatic is going to happen, and all of mankind, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, great and small, would be changed if they accepted the Kingdom as their Kingdom.
31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
People will always find fault. John was an aesthetic, a Nazarite, and those who would not accept his message mocked him as being possessed by a demon.
Jesus, on the other hand, went to feasts, drank wine, and lived among people in the cities as a guest, and the people who rejected Him and His message condemned Him for being a glutton or a drunkard or worse, a friend of sinners and outcasts.
No one likes to hear that they’re on the wrong path and they need to change. So to discredit the messenger, people will watch how they live and criticize them. Which is why later on, advice is given to the Christian to try to live at peace with all men and to try to live blameless lives. And yet, people will still try to find fault and slander sometimes, at which point, it’s best to remember the example that Jesus sets for us, to bless those who curse and to not repay evil with evil, but with charity.