Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Mat 11:2-6 ESV)
So what do you do when God lets you set? What do you do when the one you were promoting forgets you exist, or so it seems? You’ve promoted Jesus and His Kingdom. You have called many to repentance, and spent your life for the cause of Heaven and now you’re stuck and help doesn’t appear to be on the way. Nothing is happening. This is where John the Baptist found himself.
John was a man who denied himself the comforts of hearth and home to roam the wilderness and proclaim the advent of Christ. He boldly proclaimed a message of repentance and even challenged the religious leaders to show proof of their repentance by the fruit of their lives. He is the one who stood boldly against the adultery of a king and wound up in jail for it. How discouraging!
To make it worse, the very man whom John had proclaimed to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, is now out doing nice things for people, preaching and healing them. He is casting demons out of people and setting things right in their lives, but he is letting John sit in prison. John is hurt and a little confused. He seems to be asking “What’s up with this? What’s wrong with this picture?”
It’s like, “Yo, Jesus, remember me? I am the guy that you came to for baptism. You know, you and me dipping in the Jordan? Hey I am kind of tied up right now. How about proclaiming liberty to this captive?”
There are times like this in the Christian’s life. It seems that Jesus is doing things in every life but mine. Others seem to be living in the wonderful power and joy of the Lord, but I am stuck in a prison of hurts, or rejection or cancer or some other disease. It may be a prison of circumstance and situation or simply a relationship that doesn’t turn. I have poured out my heart for Jesus, I have served Him and tried to please Him, but He is letting me set.
John had an interesting question for Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Have you ever felt like this?
John is apparently saying, “It’s getting really old in here. Come do your miracle thing over here and bust me out of this prison.” Are you the one to do this or should I look for another savior?
This story is troubling for me mainly because of my pride and selfishness, but also because of the reality of what Jesus does in our lives. There are times when we can’t imagine why we are in a certain situation. It just seems to defy any rational argument. For Jesus to say “Assuredly … among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist…” and yet leave him in prison doesn’t make sense.
Earlier, John had made the statement about Jesus that “…He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” The implications of that statement are big, but I am sure that John never expected them to be this big. And he might have thought since he understood fact that Jesus is to increase, the decreasing would be less painful.
Why does decreasing have to be so painful and lonely? Can’t Jesus just let me, sort of, slowly fade off with honor? Why prison? Why pain? Why loneliness? Why injustice? Why doesn’t He rescue me? Why do others get help but not me.
What does it mean to be Jesus in this situation? What does it feel like for our God to watch over the confusion and pain of our lives even as His plan is for it produce a“…greater weight of glory?” What does it feel like for Jesus to be restrained by the will of His Father from releasing John?
For John to be sitting in the prison, must have felt like Jesus was lacking in power, loyalty, sympathy and kindness. Why would Jesus leave such a good man sit in prison? Why wouldn’t he use him in ministry? Why waste his talents?
Perhaps John had been looking forward to working with Jesus. Perhaps that was the reason he had been so bold as to confront king Herod in the first place. Maybe John was already trying to push the political buttons. I don’t know John’s motivations, but I do know that he was in place of loneliness, pain, and confusion. It was here that He asks a question that many of us are tempted to ask, “Should we look for another?”
Here is the difficult thing for people of God. We can go from being the promoters of God to trying to be His manager. John’s calling from God was to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and announce its King. Like a royal herald, John had accomplished his calling from God in proclaiming Christ, But now he was learning that he would do the most service to the Kingdom by being out of view in the place where God placed him.
Ouch! I don’t like that last paragraph.
Jesus’ response to the John’s questions was to show God’s power and glory in healing lives. Then He sent the disciples back with the evidence of God’s power at work. In essence, He told John, “Yes, I am the one, I know where you are and My Father has reasons for you to be there. You will be blessed if you are not offended by His will for your life.”
The truth here is that the Gospel of the Kingdom is about Jesus fulfilling the Father’s Business. The Father’s business is redeeming and restoring lives and relationships.
I was discussing this story the other evening with a friend. I asked him for his thoughts and this is what he texted me following our conversation.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24. John’s calling was completed. Sacrifice releases power. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the power released.” To the eyes of casual onlookers who do not hold kingdom values, the gospel is a waste. They see the life of Jesus and others as tragically “cut short.”
I like this thought. Perhaps when it feels like we have been left set by Jesus, He merely wants us to germinate and produce more seeds. I take great comfort in the fact that Jesus and the Father knew exactly where John was and by the words of Jesus describing John, I believe the Father was pleased with him.
Wherever you find yourself today, look to Jesus, perhaps it feels like your life has been put on hold, perhaps it feels like you have been abandoned. Remember, He is the One. Don’t look for another! Let Him determine your times and the seasons of your life and “blessed is the one who is not offended by HIM.”