What did the Lord mean by, "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John]?

What did the Lord mean by, "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John the Baptist]"?

Some take this to refer to the Lord Jesus. In the same chapter, He describes Himself as lowly (v 29). To consider that the most lowly of all is the greatest of all bows our hearts in worship! How wonderful and how wonderfully true! One difficulty with this interpretation is that we would normally think of the Lord Jesus as being the King over the kingdom, rather than in it. A stronger objection is the context. This is a contrast introduced by "nevertheless." The first part of the contrast deals with John’s official privilege and honor. In this interpretation, the Lord would be speaking about His person, not His office. To paraphrase, the Lord would be saying "no human has been given a higher privilege in service that John, but I am a greater person than others." That doesn’t seem balanced.

The first "sampling" is from the human family, "them that are born of women"; the second is from the kingdom of heaven. Could the Lord be contrasting greatness in terms of privilege? In the human family, no one has been more privileged than John in the work entrusted to him. In the kingdom of heaven, even one considered to be the least (in his service?) is more privileged through the grace bestowed on him than John was through the honored work he did. Greater than all we are privileged to do for God is the grace we have been privileged to receive from God.

D. Oliver