John the Baptist
Wow, it is already moving quickly into a new year! I have been looking back at my devotions the Lord has had me write this past year, I am so amazed at how He was preparing my heart for something different. Don’t you just love that about the Lord? When you have time to reflect and regroup, you see God’s hand all along. Recently, I have been studying about discerning God’s will and what you do in the in-between time. Sometimes people in the unknown can ask hard questions. Does God love me? Does He know where I am? Does God have a plan? God steered me to just this topic through a series Andy Stanley preached. I wanted to share some thoughts with you over the next few weeks about the “meantime” through that series.
John the Baptist had prophesied for years about the Messiah coming to earth. When Jesus arrived John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God. I am not worthy to tie this man’s shoes.” He baptized Jesus and a dove descended from heaven. John the Baptist continues his ministry up and down the Jordan River pointing people to Jesus. However, John lands himself in prison because he angered Herodias, the wife of the King. She had him put in prison in Machaerus, which was on the easternmost side of the kingdom in the desert. When Jesus heard about the imprisonment of John the Baptist, what did He do?
Matthew 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali.
Don’t forget John the Baptist was a family member, he spent his life preparing the way for Jesus, and he baptized Jesus. All these things point to Jesus loving John the Baptist, but Capernaum was in the opposite direction of John. Do you wonder if John the Baptist wondered why Jesus did not come? Did he wonder why Jesus did not perform a miracle and break him out, or at the least talk to government officials? Did he wonder why Jesus did not come to see him in his time of trouble? Let's be honest: these things would start running through our minds. In modern day America, we think that prospering is physical and financial. Interestingly enough, God never promises to prosper us in our business endeavors, in our finances, in our property value, in our health, etc. God’s one purpose is to glorify His name. I think this is so hard for our human minds to comprehend. Essentially it goes back to the saying, “life is not about us, it’s about God.” Henry Blackaby says, “Seek where God is already working and get on board.” Basically, God has a plan and however it can most glorify Him is how it will work out. John has been sitting in prison day after day after day. The only way he is surviving is having people bringing him food and the necessities of life. His view is that of a desolate land in the desert. If you look at Jesus’ view in Capernaum, it was lush, rich land with an abundance of water. Sometimes we are tempted to compare our circumstances with others. Sometimes we think, God, why have You left me in the desert, yet You are prospering all those around me? Lord, I have been faithful to Your call, yet You allow me to suffer, and others to prosper. We could think of many statements that probably have run through our heads in a time of trial or that we have heard people say.
Finally after being in prison for at least a year and hearing all the stories about Jesus, John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah?” You almost wonder if he is thinking, I am still in this prison cell; was I wrong about You? Was I wrong to think You were indeed the Messiah? Solitude, Silence, and the Unknown can sometimes send our imaginations overboard. It can lay heavy on even the most devout follower, like John.
“2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus is saying yes, tell John the Baptized I am the one. I am healing the lame, blind and deaf. I am preaching to the poor. Basically John could have interpreted this as, I am doing this for all these other people, but not for you, John. Aren’t we there sometimes in our lives? Lord, have you forgot me? Lord, do you not see my pain and suffering? But don’t miss verse six- 6 Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. How could Jesus offend anyone; isn’t He sinless? Jesus is saying, “Blessed is the one who does not interpret my silence for my absence. Blessed is the one who I don’t answer the prayer for, but who still trusts me. Blessed is the one who continues following me, even though I don’t appear to be acting in his or her best interest. Blessed is he that does not lose faith in the hard times.”
As they leave, Jesus has this to say to the crowd about John the Baptist: 9“What did you go to the wilderness to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Don’t miss these verses. Jesus is confessing to the crowd that there is no one greater than John Baptist, among those born of women. Jesus loved John the Baptist very much. He was part of Jesus’ biological family. John dedicated his life to preparing the way for Jesus. Even though Jesus loved John the Baptist, He did not rescue him from prison. Why? We do not know the answer. John would later be beheaded on a whim of Herodias’ daughter. When Jesus heard the news, he withdrew to a private place. Once again we can see by Jesus’ reaction that he loved John the Baptist.
Is this a happy ending with the strings all tied up in a neat bow, and everyone lives happily ever after? No, but neither are our lives. Things in life don’t always happen the way we think they should, would, or could. But I think that is what makes this story so powerful. Even though we may not understand the plan, God has never forgotten our names or released His grip, nor is He unaware of our circumstance. Even though John was never set free, the scriptures indicate that he was still a man of the Lord. I am so thankful our trust can stay firm when we are faced with the unanswered questions of life.