This text appears immediately after the one which was read yesterday and after Jesus had answered the question about Messiahship asked by John’s disciples. It contains Jesus’ assessment of John and John’s role and, in doing so, defines his own identity more clearly. The last two verses of this text are exclusive to Luke. In the three questions that Jesus asks concerning John, it is obvious that the first need not be answered because the answer is obvious. While reeds shaken by the wind might be found in the wilderness, no one would go into the wilderness to see them. The second is answered but its inadequacy is shown immediately. Those who wear fine clothes are not found in places like the wilderness, which is where John preached. The third answer, that John is a prophet, is also inadequate because John is more than a prophet; his coming was prophesied by scripture. John is not merely a prophet, but also the messenger who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He is the forerunner of the Lord and is thus, by implication, Elijah, and so is greater than any other human being. However, as the forerunner, John is outside the kingdom since he announces its coming. Thus, even the least that is in the kingdom is greater than John. John was great and impressive. Jesus is greater and more impressive. John is the precursor; Jesus is the one whom John announces.
There are times in our lives, especially when things do not go as we plan, when we turn to faith healers and others in the hope that they will do for us what we desire. These are like reeds shaken by the wind or, those who, because of their desire to wear fine clothes, milk gullible people of all that they have. This pericope, therefore, moves the reader from searching for figures or movements that will satisfy their spiritual needs, to finding and accepting God’s justice and God’s purposes. The answer is not in our attachment to any movement or human figure, but in our submission to God’s claims on us. The two are radically different. It is important that we recognize the difference, and check our personal questing from time to time, to be sure that we have not been fooled into substituting one for the other. To be even the least among those who have submitted to God’s sovereignty is to be greater than any of the prophetic figures outside the kingdom, regardless of their appeal or their following.