28 I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice,having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.
From Mark Driscoll's sermon John the Baptizer, Part 2:
You’ll find a little later in Luke 7, that some of John’s critics, in fact, said that he was demon possessed. The opinions and estimations of John varied wildly, but what really counts is Jesus’ estimation of one’s life, and that’s what we learn from John. People can say whatever they like, it’s what Jesus says about your life, mine, and John’s that truly matters.
And Jesus says that apart from his own life, the greatest person who has, or will, live is John the Baptizer, which is a curious statement because this statement is made during the reign of a man named Herod. He was the king and his nickname was Herod the Great. Jesus says, in fact, that John is greater than Herod. But unlike Herod, John is poor. He is not rich. He is very rural, not urban. He is very simple. He did not come from a premier family. He came from a humble family, yet, John is the greatest man who ever lived.
And what I would tell you is there is such a thing as godly, holy, redeemed ambition, not a selfish pride, but a desire to make your life count, to invest it wisely, to pour it out for Jesus nobly. And John serves as a great example of that kind of redeemed, humble ambition. He lives his life aggressively, passionately, purposefully for Jesus, and Jesus declares his life to be the greatest.
Sin is going too far. It’s not going far enough. It’s a hard heart, a stiff neck. Sin is living your life with anyone or anything other than the God of the Bible as the center of your identity, and the source of your joy. Sin is what we think, what we feel, what we do. It is what we fail to think, feel, and do. Sin is commission, where we do that which is evil. It is also omission, where we fail to do that which is right. Sin is not just action, it’s also conditioned. We are sinners by nature and choice. The Bible says, in fact, from our mother’s womb. It’s all the way down in the roots. Sin is the human problem that leads to all of the -isms: racism, classism. All of that is the result of sin. But sin is the root problem, and we can trace all of the effects. And if we don’t get to the root of the problem, which is sin, our lives, our cultures, our world never changes.
And so John is going right to the heart of the matter with his preaching. He’s addressing the issue of sin, and he is commanding, compelling people to repent of sin.
And again, some in this account of Luke, they receive it, and they go down to the river, and they say publicly with their actions, “I’m a sinner, and I’m repenting.” And others reject, and they become religious, and they fight, and they argue, and they defend themselves to their own shame and folly. And you and I are given this divine moment of opportunity to make that decision for ourselves. Will we declare God to be just, by ourselves declaring ourselves to be unjust, and in need of his justice through the cross of Jesus?
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 7:31-35.