“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it” (Matt 11:12).
What does it mean that the kingdom of heaven is subjected to violence and that violent people have been raiding it? I used to have Mad Max-esque scenes in my mind when I thought of this verse.
Somewhere Dallas Willard said that the idea this word picture is meant to convey is that ever since John’s announcement about the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, “people have been climbing over themselves to get in.”
They couldn’t believe their luck, and they were rushing to come in. There were so many coming, it seemed like a raid!
So in the larger context of this passage, Jesus is saying that no one is greater than John the Baptist. He is the Elijah to come, the greatest of all the prophets, to end the prophets.
But, the change that is underway through the ministry of Jesus is so earth-shattering, so epoch-making, so discontinuous with what has come before, that the very least person in the kingdom of God is greater than the greatest prophet who ever lived.
What John prophesied is coming to to pass, and those who belong to the fulfillment are receiving everything the prophets foretold… and more! We share in the very life of God. It is a deeper participation than we anticipated.
But it’s also less. This is reflected in John’s question to Jesus from prison at the beginning of the passage: “Are you the one to come?” We look at the ministry of Jesus, and… well, it’s less than we hoped. It doesn’t involve the outward coercive military and political power we envisioned it would.
So this kingdom that people are climbing all over themselves to get into is simultaneously more and less than we thought. And you don’t really experience the more until you embrace the less. You discover the more by going through the narrow gate of the less.
That’s why the person who doesn’t stumble on account of Jesus is blessed: because they see the more of the kingdom and realize that it’s way better than the less they’re leaving behind!
And once you realize this, it’s reasonable to rush toward it with all the strength you have, because this is the luckiest day of your life! No wonder they were climbing over themselves to get in. Once they realized there was a treasure in that field, it was a no-brainer to sell everything they had to buy the field.