To say that Moses was an ENORMOUS figure in the Old Testament would be an understatement.
He was educated as a royal Egyptian aristocrat, met God personally via the burning bush, performed incredible miracles in Egypt before the Pharaoh, led over a million Israelites out of slavery, parted the Red sea, received the 10 commandments and the holy Jewish law, was known as the one who “spoke to God as one speaks to a friend”, performed miracles in the wilderness, and brought the Israelites to the entrance of the promised land. Within Judaism the first five books of the Bible are even considered to be written by Moses. Oh, and to top it off, one time when Jesus went up onto a mountain to seek God it was Moses who materialized and chatted with Him alongside Elijah!
That’s an amazing resume! Moses has quite the highlight reel of accolades.
For many of us Christians we see Moses as someone who was uniquely special. A person whom God must have really liked. Someone who was super-righteous. Someone who was ultra-spiritual with a special personal relationship with God. Moses must have been GREAT in the eyes of God— far greater than any of us have been or probably will be. Surely God must consider Moses to be far above all of us in spiritually, value, significance and regard.
That’s how we often think of Moses. Isn’t it?
But consider the absolutely dumbfounding words of Jesus that we find in Matthew chapter 11 verse 12:
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
WE ARE “GREATER THAN HE” (John the Baptist)
First, Jesus says that John the Baptist, not Moses, has been the greatest person born among all others in history.
This is contrary to our natural human judgments because compared to Moses, John just doesn’t seem that great:
– John the Baptist had no recorded miracles
– was not involved with the parting of a great sea
-did not lead a great mass of people out of physical captivity or through a vast wilderness
-did not receive the Law or the 10 Commandments
– did not encounter God in a dramatic way through a burning bush
What then is so great about John the Baptist if he didn’t do anything special? We will come back to that question and get to that later. But, for now, just remember that Jesus stated that John was greater than all other people born up to that point, including Moses.
ANYONE IN THE KINGDOM IS GREATER!
Secondly, Jesus tells us that anyone who is in the kingdom of heaven, that is, those who have become followers of and believers in Jesus, are regarded as great. So great that they are greater than even John the Baptist!
What adds to the shock of this passage of scripture is that Jesus doesn’t say that super-spiritual believers are greater, or those who perform miracles are greater, or that pastors or church leaders are greater. Jesus says that the least of us who believe in Him are greatest!
This means that the person who is trying to follow Jesus but struggles with recurring alcoholism or drug abuse is regarded greater. This means that someone who fights with personal doubts about God’s very existence yet still choose to believe in Jesus despite their coinciding unbelief is still greater. This means that those in prison, the poor, the homeless, those addicted to porn, those who we would consider as lowlifes, and so on, are all GREATER than even Moses!
And how is this qualification made? By only one merit, and that one merit alone: if the person is counted among those who are in the kingdom of heaven.
If this is true then we must ask: What is so great about being in this kingdom that raises us up in the ranks above such biblical greats as John the Baptist and Moses??
At the time of Jesus’s arrival many Jews were looking for a savior. They were looking for a person who would rise up and defeat their oppressors and free them from bondage and restore the nation of Israel to autonomy and peace. Many Israelites were looking for an outward manifestation of the kingdom of God— that is they were seeking a deliverer who would free them from the rule of foreign physical nations and the surrounding enemies that afflicted them.
Furthermore, this national redemption via a savior was the mind-set of Jews throughout the Old Testament regardless of what time period they were living in. The need for a savior continually arose based upon the different oppressors who afflicted them through their history:
– while in Egypt they needed someone to deliver the nation of Israel from Pharaoh,
– in the “promised land”, the nation of Israel needed someone to fight and defend the nation from their constant enemy attacks
-while in captive exile they needed someone to save the dispersed nation of Israel from the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Babylonians and help them gather and restore the nation in their homeland
And in 1st century Judaism, during Jesus’s time on Earth, they needed a savior as well. This time to free them from the oppressive rule of the Roman empire.
But, when Jesus came, and preached/announced that the long-awaited arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven had come, He did not bring about the violent revolt against the Romans that the Jews were hoping for. Jesus didn’t preach a message whose eventual aim was to aggressively fight off outward enemies in order to reestablish the physical nation of Israel. The Kingdom of God was apparently going to be something completely different than what everyone was expecting.
If the promised savior wasn’t going to physically destroy Israel’s enemies, then what was the arrival of the kingdom of God going to be?
When Jesus walked the earth He preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15)— at hand as in the Kingdom wasn’t far off, or something yet to come through a violent overthrow of the physical rulers of the earth, but it was occurring RIGHT NOW and was available to be entered into NOW.
In another place Jesus says this about the Kingdom:
“One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” – Luke 17:20-21, NLT
This great Kingdom and new reign of God that had been promised century upon century beforehand was right there before the Jewish leaders’ eyes. God’s Kingdom wasn’t going to be brought about via a violent uprising over the Romans, nor through something that would be institutionally setup in the visible world. The Kingdom was literally already in their midst.
The Kingdom of God to which Jesus was referring was in fact Jesus HIMSELF! His very PERSON and His very BEING was the manifestation and arrival of God’s great Kingdom! The long-awaited Kingdom of God was here, fully revealed, and summed up in the personhood of Jesus Christ.
But what was so great about this Kingdom arriving? If Jesus was the Kingdom, then what is so great about that? What would make His coming so great in that those who followed and believed in Him were now to be credited as being greater than Moses or even John the Baptist? Especially if He wasn’t bringing about the destruction of the outward oppressing rule of the Romans?
Herein lies the crux of the greatness of the kingdom of God as realized through Jesus Christ.
THE FULLNESS OF GOD IN YOU!
The message that John the Baptist preached was that another person was coming – someone who wouldn’t just baptize people with water, but who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). This coming savior, though veiled in the Old Testament and conspicuously hidden behind the ruse of a soon coming violent conquering national warrior, was here to free humankind’s captivity to sin and usher in something complete new that had never been realized on earth before: the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within the believer’s life.
Believers in Jesus were not being invited into God’s Kingdom just to have their sins forgiven so that an angry God would not send them to hell, but rather so that God could finally restore the one thing that had been escaping Him since the beginning of creation: intimacy and relationship with His people.
And this long-awaited intimacy with God would be realized by way of Jesus baptizing those who followed Him with the personal indwelling of His Spirit.
The baptism of the Spirit would be the tangible and relational presence of God residing in each believer. Something that had never been realized from the beginning of time until the coming of Jesus. Something so great that it would set us apart and raise our potential for relationship and intimacy with God even above all of the great men and women found within the pages of the Old Testament. Something so great that the historical figures in the Old Testament could only dream of it. Something so great that Jesus would give His very own life for us to share in.
And so incredibly great would be the personal baptism of the Spirit that Jesus even said that it would be better for His bodily presence to leave the earth and go back to the Father so that the Spirit could come to be with us instead (John 16:7)! Now, ask any person what would you rather have, Jesus standing next to you in real life so that you could actually grab onto Him, or the intangible presence of the Holy Spirit living on the inside of you? Every person in the room will raise their hand at the first option.
Yet, Jesus remarkably says that it’s better to have the Spirit inside you than Him in the flesh—unbelievable!
SEEING THE KINGDOM OF GOD CLEARLY
NOW we see what all the fuss about Jesus’s Kingdom was.
Anyone living in this new Kingdom— that is those who have received Jesus and been subsequently baptized with His Spirit—have something far greater than anything that had been experienced among men before. They have the Living God actually living inside them and the ability to tap into a relational level with God on deep a spiritual plane like never before.
No longer do we have relationship with God through observing special days or keeping festivals of the year, of by keeping strict dietary laws, of by following religious rituals, offering animals sacrifices, giving money and going to a church, or by praying certain prescribed prayers all in an attempt to contact a God who is far off in heaven in hopes He will hear and visit us with His favor.
Instead, we now have God’s own very presence living inside us where we can continually hangout with, and be intimate with Him at any moment, and in any place, in any condition, through the gift of His Spirit.
Now we are able to offer sacrifices and worship God not from the physical realm, using the meager physical elements of this world, but from the inward realm of the heart. And now we do not pray to a far-off God hoping His presence will come down to us— but, we pray with a God who is now present in us through His Spirit.
Furthermore, through Jesus’s finished redemptive work on the cross, we no longer live in any fear or doubt that our sins will separate us from the the wonderful presence of God. He will never leave us or forsake us (Matt 28:20). His Spirit is here to stay as we maintain our faith in Him. Sin has been dealt with, we have been forgiven, and we have been united with the Lord in one Spirit.
YOU ARE GREATER THAN MOSES!
Knowing God and having relationship with Him through the Spirit who He has given us is far better than having peace with neighboring countries, more wonderful than independence from an oppressive ruler, more glorious than performing miracles or parting the Red sea, and much more to be valued than even all the wisdom and riches of Solomon.
This is precisely why John the Baptist was considered to be the greatest among men and above those of the Old Testament.
Firstly, because he knew, saw, recognized, and completely believed in Jesus as the coming Messiah, and secondly because He was the only person filled with a measure of the Spirit before He was even born (Luke 1:13-18). John the Baptist lived in the truth of the presence of God by way of the indwelling of the Spirit — more than anyone else had before him.
And this same blessing of the Spirit, the long-awaited promise originally given to the patriarch Abraham (Galatians 3:14), is now available to ANYONE who comes to Jesus and enters into life with Him. Whether they be great in stature, or small, a or banker, a prostitute, an inmate, a CEO, a musician, a drug user, an intellectual, someone with low IQ, or ANYONE!
Anyone can now experience God in a far deeper way than even Moses did.
If you are a believer in Jesus, and have received the gift of His Spirit, you are GREAT! You are highly esteemed and highly regarded by the Father— even if you are least among other Christian and the worst backslider in history! You have a special gift and a greater potential in the Spirit than even Moses.
You don’t need to be a person who performs wonders or great acts as a Christian to be considered great. You just need to know Jesus and His Father who sent Him, and be filled with the wondrous promise of the Spirit. And God is simply overjoyed to give you the Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13)!
Just as it’s an earthly father’s joy to provide a filling and life-giving meal for His family, so it is the same joy with God when He provides His Spirit to His children.
Even though you and I may be the least of all in the Kingdom of God, we who are in Christ are walking in a far greater blessing than anyone in the Old Testament could have ever even imagined. Moses was indeed great, but being found in the Lord Jesus and experiencing intimacy with Him is even greater!
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!
This is such a great reminder of who we are to God through Jesus Vinnie, thank you! One of the things that it can take us a while to get our head around is that Jesus turns our views upside down. He never does what we expect from a human perspective, he always does more. His plan is perfect. As you said the least are the greatest and what matters is our heart. I love that after you get to know him and trust him you can put aside control and expectations and just get excited to see what he’s going to do next. God is amazing!