Staying the Course

Today I was reading about John the Baptist’s arrest and imprisonment. He had openly announced the Messiah, proclaiming to his own disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He had seen that Jesus came as the “Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world” not merely as some political deliverer. John, perhaps better than anyone saw Jesus as the Spiritual Messiah, the Savior. And yet, as he languished in prison, John had the terrifying thought, “What if I’m all wrong! What if this man isn’t the one all of our prophecies point to. After all, I’m still in here. He hasn’t come to my rescue.” So he sends a contingent of disciples to ask Jesus point-blank, “Are you THE ONE, or should we wait for another?”

John’s question is viable. He hasn’t been around to witness the miracle. Further more, his life is hanging in the balance! If he has been wrong all along, he needs to know. John’s question comforts me. A man so close to Jesus, so respected by Jesus, is racked with questions in his hour of suffering. At least he is asking the right question. (And the right person!)

Jesus’s answer has always surprised me. This is his message. “Tell him what you see and hear—-tell him of the miracles, and then tell him, blessed are those who do not stumble because of me!”

It doesn’t seem like a very sympathetic or winsome answer. “Tell him all about the people being set free out here.” (Never mind that he’s locked up and likely going to die in jail.) And then almost a warning, “Don’t fall away because I’m not running to your rescue, because I’m not fulfilling your expectations.” Or maybe Jesus is saying, “Don’t let what you think I promised distract you from truly believing in me.”

We don’t get to see or hear John’s response. But we do know that Jesus told his followers that no one born among men was greater than John. We know that Jesus held his cousin in high esteem. And we know that John did die for his rugged, bold statements of the truth. Jesus didn’t stop that from happening. He didn’t save his own cousin from the ultimate sacrifice. And he didn’t save himself. Instead he stayed the course, so he could save a world. Because Jesus’ plans, his purpose, his intentions are even bigger than what John imagined. Maybe they far exceed my petty imagination as well.


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