INNER CIRCLE: Becoming Little

INNER CIRCLE: Becoming Little March 10, 2023

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Saying 46: Jesus said, “From Adam unto John the Baptist there has been none among the offspring of women who has been more exalted than John the Baptist, so that such a person’s eyes might be broken. But I have said that whoever among you becomes a little one will become acquainted with the kingdom, and will become more exalted than John.”


Unlike in Saying 12 when Jesus facetiously praises James the Righteous [or “James the Just”] as the one “for whose sake heaven and earth came into being”, here we see what appears to be a genuine praise for John the Baptist.


Here, Jesus says that no one “among the offspring of women has been more exalted than John the Baptist.” But why does he say this? Based on what we read about John in the Synoptic Gospels, there’s not all that much to suggest that he was a cut above every other person who has ever lived.


In what sense, then, are we to understand these words from Jesus about the exalted status of the Baptizer? Perhaps we are not meant to know exactly what John’s qualifications were for such an honor. Maybe he and Jesus were just really good friends? Or, maybe, as some have suggested, Jesus was originally a disciple of John the Baptist who took over for him after his beheading by King Herod Antipas. If so, that might explain why Jesus would go out of his way to emphasize the exalted status of John the Baptist in this passage.


Whatever his reasons for saying so, Jesus does indeed pay John a very high compliment here and then goes on to suggest that – as exalted as John was – it is still possible for us to “become more exalted than John” if we can just do one thing: “become a little one.”


What can this mean? How do we “become a little one”? Perhaps it’s just another way of saying that we must “change and become like little children (to) see the Kingdom,” as Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, or that we must return to the simple wisdom of “an infant barely seven days old” as he says in Saying 4 from Thomas.


The contrast between the “exalted” status of John and the “little one” posture of his disciples is not accidental. Those who humble themselves are exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled, as Jesus says in Matthew 23:12, echoing the wisdom of Proverbs 29:23 which says, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”


But, we can hardly leave it here without going back to question what Jesus could possibly mean by the cryptic statement above about John the Baptist being so exalted that “such a person’s eyes might be broken.”  What’s going on here? Why would Jesus add that phrase to this saying?


My best guess is that Jesus is warning us of the dangers of being so exalted among men as John the Baptist was since this tends to lead us into losing sight of our true nature.


In other words, once someone becomes regarded as a hero, or as a holy religious figure, it can blur our vision and blind us to the light of Christ within. We may start to loose perspective and begin to equate our own personal light with the all-surpassing light of Christ that shines within all of us.


Our pride can lead even someone as exalted as John the Baptist to forget that there is no “us and them” and when that happens we start to separate ourselves from those who are not as exalted, or holy, or righteous as we begin to believe we are.


When people around us start to exalt us above themselves – as fans and followers tend to do to those they admire and idolize – we become blinded by our own brilliance and forget our Oneness with Christ and with everyone else.


This, I believe, is why Jesus suggests that the only way to be “more exalted” than someone like John the Baptist is to “become little.” Because, if we can do that, then we will never fall into the trap of become so exalted we lose touch with reality.


Become little, then, and stay little, if you want to be truly great – not in the eyes of others, but in spirit and in truth.


Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” His latest book, SOLA MYSTERIUM: Celebrating the Beautiful Uncertainty of Everything is available now on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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