by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
I am willing to bet that all of us have hoped for something and then became upset when things didn't seem to be turning out the way we had imagined.
At this point we find John the Baptist locked up in a cell. It would have been rather small, dark and damp cell. John had boldly spoken out to Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee, and told him he was wrong and needed to repent of a wicked thing. Antipas was angered at this and wanted to get rid of John. By this time the Jews had considered John a true prophet so Antipas couldn't just kill. Killing John would cause an uprising among the people. So, Herod Antipas, had John taken away and locked up in this cold, dark prison. Antipas had planned to let some time go by and once things had calmed quietly kill John.
A year later - a long, slow year later - John had become more than a prisoner of Herod in a physical cell, he had become a prisoner to his own thoughts. The only connection John had to what was going on in the outside world came by way of a few visitors here and there. The visitors were those who had followed him, now they were following Jesus. They would come to John reporting on what was taking place and to give him encouragement. John paid close attention, but I think the more he heard the more he began to get confused and that confusion even grew into doubt.
John believed Jesus was indeed the “One to come.” In fact, he had based his entire life on proclaiming that very thing. He had seen the sky split open, the Holy Spirit descend in some form that reminded him of a dove, and He had heard God's voice from above announcing to everyone that Jesus was His Son. But, John started to think, wasn't the Messiah suppose to come and set up a new kingdom? Wasn't He supposed to come and judge people and put an end to all that is evil?
In the dark loneliness of that cell, John the Baptist started to question (and after a year of that treatment I dare say we all would have). From everything he had heard Jesus was not conquering enemies. The Roman Empire was just as evil as ever and Jesus had done nothing to stop it. Things weren't happening as John had pictured. Is it possible he could have been wrong about Jesus?
Wanting an answer, John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus a question that was eating away at him: “Are you the 'One who is to come,' or should we look for someone else?”
When Jesus heard this question from John, He didn't get upset, He didn't get angry, He just gave them a simple but blunt answer to encourage and comfort John the Baptist. “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Everything Jesus told them to tell John was prophecies of what the 'One who is to come' would do. And, these were all things Jesus was doing. Then Jesus calmly added, “Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of Me; who doesn't lose heart when things aren't going as expected.”
Jesus was, of course, fully aware of what He had come to do and He knew God's perfect timetable for doing it. You see, John was expecting everything to happen all at the same time, but that was not God's plan. John was told to examine Jesus' life and actions and see how Jesus was indeed fulfilling prophecies.
John was to see the evidence and remain patient, trust God and not doubt. Even though things weren't going as John expected, they were going exactly as God expected. God is always in control and always sees the big picture. These were encouraging words brought back to John the Baptist. Reminding him of who is in control and that John's work had not been done in vain. Words John needed, as Herod shortly thereafter beheaded John the Baptist.
So, when times get rough for us and we don't understand what it is God is doing or why He is doing it a certain way, let's just believe. Remember who He is, and don't let doubt creep in, choose to trust and believe in Him and His promises.