Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Greatness of Jesus compared to John the Baptist - A Response to a Heckler

In response to my earlier Question for My Muslim Readers, one heckler (he was anonymous, so I do not wish to accuse of Islam of being associated with him) tried to provide a counter-argument:
In Luke 7:28 Jesus say "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

So, either John is greater than Jesus or Jesus wasn't born of a woman. See, two can play at this game.
(all errors in original)

This kind of comment would be very puzzling for a Muslim to raise. After all, is there any doubt that, within Islam, Jesus is a greater prophet than John the Baptist? If so, why even raise this verse? Is it just to try to make Christians uncomfortable? I cannot see how it would be raised by a Muslim who was seeking the truth.

So, perhaps our anonymous heckler was not a Muslim.

What then, within a Christian understanding, did Jesus mean by His claim? Well, the most obvious understanding is that Jesus means that John held the role of greatest honor among the prophets because he was the immediate forerunner of Christ. While Christ did prophesy, Jesus Christ is not viewed as being one of the prophets.

This, of course, is a difference between Christianity and Islam. The Bible presents Jesus, not as a mere prophet, but as the Son of God. Thus, it is natural for Jesus not to include Himself in a list of the prophets, since they were the messengers of God, but He was God in the flesh.

Likewise, the second half of the verse clarifies that Jesus is speaking of those within the kingdom of heaven, but Jesus Himself is the king of that kingdom. So, naturally, He is not within the group of those who are of the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, when Jesus spoke of "the prophets," Jesus generally referred to those who came before Him. Thus, for this additional reason, it would be natural for Jesus

But Jesus did speak to his own excellence:

Jesus is Greater than the Temple
Matthew 12:6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Jesus is Greater than the Prophet Jonah
Matthew 12:41 (and Luke 11:32) The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Jesus is Greater than King Solomon
Matthew 12:42 (and Luke 11:31) The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Jesus is Greater than the patriarch Jacob
John 4:11-14
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Jesus is Greater than Abraham
John 8:49-58
49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

And Jesus did make a comparison between himself and John the Baptist:

John 5:33-36
33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

How could the witness of Jesus be greater than the witness of any prophet? How could Jesus be greater than King Solomon, the greatest earthly King that was? How could Jesus be a greater prophet than Jonah, who converted the gentile city of Ninevah? How could Jesus be greater than the patriarch Jacob, who fathered all of Israel? How could Jesus be greater than Abraham and be before Abraham?

The answer is simple: Jesus was not a mere prophet, He was God incarnate. This is the teaching of Jesus, and to be a follower of Jesus and a follower of God, once must accept this. This is no game, for if you reject the Son of God, on the day of judgment that you know is coming, He will reject you.

Think about it.


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