December 9, 2015 Year C
We hear often about celebrities. Celebrities have a paparazzi who publicize their every move. They attract the attention of everyone. They rack up followers on social media outlets. People listen to Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber just as they would a teacher. Even political celebrities like Donald Trump attract people’s attention – especially of his controversial comments about Muslims recently which have been widely criticized.
John the Baptist was a celebrity prophet. People followed him in a similar fashion. Like Trump, John the Baptist created a strong following. However, unlike Trump, John was so successful that he got put in jail. The religious parties feared John. The Roman authorities were irritated at John.
John did so well in the beginning. Near the end of his life, he questioned his effectiveness (Luke 7:19). Jesus clearly told John that he started a movement that was going to change the world (Luke 7:22-23). Then Jesus makes a very interesting statement. He critiques the celebrity religious figures of His day. Jesus calls John the greatest person ever born (Luke 7:28). It was a great compliment. But then Jesus says something fascinating. Even if John is the greatest person, even if John is a celebrity Christian, the greatest person in the Kingdom of God – the one who is better than John the Baptist – is the least in the kingdom (Luke 7:28).
This is a nail in the coffin to the concept of celebrity Christianity. Jesus says that it is not the TV evangelists, nor the pop theologians who are the greatest in the kingdom. Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa and the many others on which we spend millions of dollars to ingest their comments are nothing compared to Jesus Christ. The greatest are the little old Sunday School teacher or the blue-collar worker who takes his spare time to lead a church as a bi-vocational pastor. Jesus encourages all of us to be faithful to Jesus, and not some spiritual celebrity.