I’ve read the following scripture many times and wondered why Jesus would speak so highly of John the Baptist and then follow up with what seems like a condemnation:
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
Jesus wouldn’t speak ill of the man who so faithfully prepared the way for His coming. There must be an explanation. My first thought is that the “least in the kingdom” is a reference Jesus Christ himself, considering the way he taught the Apostles about being the greatest:
46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,
48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
Another scripture to go along with that line of thinking:
24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
The other thought was that John was the last of the prophets to testify of the coming of Christ. Now that Jesus had confirmed Himself as the Messiah, John and his disciples would need to be disciples of Christ. Jesus was greater than all the prophets who preceded him.