After John's disciples had departed, Jesus himself began to praise John the Baptizer. (Perhaps John never heard of these praises.) He did this by asking three questions: "What did you go into the desest to see?"
"A reed swayed by the wind?" Jesus was telling everyone that John was not in jail because his teachings and exhortations were false, but rather because he would not bend in the face of the powerful or evil. John was a strong reed, a courageous martyr.
"A man dressed in luxurious clothing?" John is not like those people who are found in royal places (the ones who cast him into prison). Instead, he is a man of asceticism and holiness. He is a light pointing the way to the kingdom of God. He is calling us to conversion by doing penance himself.
"A prophet?" Yes, John has all of the characteristics of a prophet and is indeed a prophet, but much more. The prophets preached in the name of the Lord; John is announcing the imminent coming of the Lord. John is the link between the Old and the New Covenants.
Jesus closes his praise with the declaration, "I assure you, there is
no man born of woman greater than John. Yet the least born into the kindom
of God is greater than he." The Lord is assuring us that if we personally
believe in him and commit ourselves to the kingdom of God, we can be even
greater than this holy man of the desert, John.