Jesus seems very severe towards John the Baptist, the Forerunner. John is however the one who called to conversion, announced the Kingdom of God, baptized in water by announcing the baptism in the Spirit and fire, the one who even baptized Jesus. Yes, John the Baptist is indeed the greatest of the prophets, and Jesus affirms that he is “the prophet Elijah” who, according to Malachi, “must come” to announce the advent of the Messiah (cf. Mt 17: 10- 13). And John the Baptist, in fact, called to “prepare the way of the Lord”.
Jesus now speaks of the Kingdom. He enunciated its charter (the Beatitudes), he enunciated its law (love of neighbor, love of enemies), said the requirements (alms, prayer, fasting), gave signs (healings and others) but without hiding its “narrow door”. Such is the radical novelty of the Kingdom, the absolute conversion that it presupposes. John the Baptist was “the greatest” in the fore-kingdom. But now, the Kingdom being inaugurated among men by Jesus, “the smallest” of those who choose the way is greater than John the Baptist.
In these Advent days, Christ urges us to open our ears to his message. Are we ready for the advent of his Kingdom? Are we, on a daily basis, the faithful craftsmen on whom the Church relies for the mission? The Gospel is never a threat or a too strict regulation: the Lord wants for all a reign of goodness, of tenderness (Ps 144). Let us dare to express our hope of it.