Sometimes, wisdom and true greatness are not recognized until they have passed off the scene.
In this chapter, Jesus has just given the multitude around Him His personal evaluation of John, culminating with the unprecedented, unequivocal statement, "Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist" (v.11). He knew full well that the people of His day considered John to be crude in dress, rude in manner, and just plain odd, in general. Jesus used this opportunity, however, to point out that although He and John did things very differently (vv. 18,19), neither one of them was accepted by the Pharisees; which only goes to prove my mother-in-law's old saying, "You couldn't please some people if you hung them with a new rope!"
That's why, as He says in our text, it very often takes another generation to realize a man or woman of wisdom and consequence has walked among them. The writings of A.W. Tozer are regarded as spiritual classics today and widely disseminated. Yet, to his own admission, by the time he died, Tozer had, in his words, preached himself off of every major conference platform in America. And, of course, the words Jesus spoke while here on earth, considered by multitudes today to be sacred, indeed the very words of God, were, nevertheless, seen by the majority then as either the teachings of just another would-be "messiah" or the rantings of a megalomaniac.
What does this say about us? For one thing, it says we're not as smart as we think we are and not nearly as perceptive as we ought to be. We make snap judgments because of pride, prejudice, and general unwillingness to take the time to consider the validity of the statement, not just the appearance and amiableness of the speaker.
Oh, yes, time will tell; but it may represent lost time where you and I are concerned. We should be listening for the voices of wisdom and instruction God, in His grace, may put in our paths, no matter how odd they may seem at the time.
Some people draw others to themselves; some people draw others to God, and only those who desire God are drawn to them.