ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
“…Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is taken by force (βιάζεται), and the forceful (βιασταὶ) seize it (ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν).” (Mt 11: 7-12)
John the Baptist was a celebrity for these people. But look at John, says Jesus. – John was no pretty picture. Because John’s unique love of God, and his whole-hearted response to God’s call to him, to his vocation as Forerunner and Prophet, led him to forget himself and his practical needs, like food and clothing and probably sleep, almost entirely. John’s forceful, even messy love of God reminds me, rather inappropriately, of REO Speedwagon’s old song, “I don’t wanna sleep, I just wanna keep on loving you, …’Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do…”
And yet John’s “force” was not enough to open to him, or to any other human being, the kingdom of heaven, the gates of which were yet to be opened. They were to be opened by One far “greater than” John, and “mightier than” the Forerunner (Mt 3: 11); by One Who, in His divine humility, calls the Father “greater” (Jn 14: 28), and humbles Himself even unto “the least in the kingdom.”
So, despite all the “force” and “seizing” done of the Kingdom, by righteous men of God before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, these efforts did not actually gain them entrance into it, as He says, “until now.” He was inaugurating a new era, which was to change forever not the messy nature of our love for Him, but its consequences. “Now” we do gain entrance into the Kingdom, already in our “now,” but not because of our efforts, but because of His. Glory be to Him.