Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Matthew 11:11.
The tall reeds that grew beside the Jordan, bending before every breeze, were fitting representatives of the rabbis who had stood as critics and judges of the Baptist’s mission. They were swayed this way and that by the winds of popular opinion. They would not humble themselves to receive the heart-searching message of the Baptist, yet for fear of the people they dared not openly oppose his work. But God’s messenger was of no such craven spirit. The multitudes who were gathered about Christ had been witnesses to the work of John. They had heard his fearless rebuke of sin. To the self-righteous Pharisees, the priestly Sadducees, King Herod and his court, princes and soldiers, publicans and peasants, John had spoken with equal plainness. He was no trembling reed, swayed by the winds of human praise or prejudice. In the prison he was the same in his loyalty to God and his zeal for righteousness as when he preached God’s message in the wilderness. In his faithfulness to principle he was as firm as a rock….
In the announcement to Zacharias before the birth of John, the angel had declared, “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord.” In the estimation of Heaven, what is it that constitutes greatness?—Not that which the world accounts greatness…. It is moral worth that God values. Love and purity are the attributes He prizes most. John was great in the sight of the Lord, when before the messengers from the Sanhedrim, before the people, and before his own disciples he refrained from seeking honor for himself, but pointed all to Jesus as the Promised One. His unselfish joy in the ministry of Christ presents the highest type of nobility ever revealed in man.46The Desire of Ages, 218, 219.