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?”
I’ve always found this question from John the Baptist fascinating. John had seen the Holy Spirit of God come down and rest upon Jesus at his baptism. John knew that this was the sign promised to him by God that he would prepare the way for the Lord’s anointed, the promised Rescuer from God. Yet, here John asks Jesus if he was right. Was Jesus really the one God has promised?
Why would John ask this? John was suffering. John was in prison. John was about to be executed. An evil human ruler had put John in jail, would soon take off his head, and was facing no apparent consequences. The man John had proclaimed as the coming King promised by God was doing nothing to put a stop to this.
Why was John confused? He wanted Jesus to turn the world upside-down. He, like others of that day, wanted to see Jesus set up an earthly kingdom that would set right the wrongs of the world and put down the oppressors of God’s people. John knew that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” However, John did not know how this would all work out any more than did Jesus’ disciples who showed constant confusion about Jesus’ ultimate plan until his resurrection. John was confused, because things did not at all work out like he had hoped.
Jesus responds to John’s messengers with the reminders of the way that Jesus was pushing back the darkness in the world. Jesus was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, healing those who could not walk, and even raising the dead. IN all that he did, Jesus was defeating the effects of the fall of man. Jesus was bringing the Kingdom of God, but in a different way and in a different timing than John expected. But, John was not to doubt, Jesus is exactly who John had proclaimed earlier, the Promised One from God.
There is something that we should consider as we think about John’s question and his predicament. John knew Jesus. He proclaimed Jesus. Jesus himself would declare that John was among the greatest born of woman. Yet, for all this, John suffered. John’s life did not go smoothly. He was abused. He was eventually murdered. No matter how faithful John had been, he did not find the payoff in this life.
The truth is, we will not always have it easy. Some faithful Christians suffer greatly. Others suffer in small ways. For some, ministry is a joy. Others suffer great hardship and pain. Some see churches grow. Some feel the betrayal of those they have trusted. Some live in financial peace and give to kingdom causes. Others suffer poverty. Some are free. Some are persecuted. Some have big families. Some never find a spouse though a family is their desperate desire. Some are healthy. Some are sick. Some seem to succeed. Others never seem to get it together.
Christians, knowing and loving God is no guarantee of ease in this life. Suffering is often part of the life of a believer. This is not a sign that Jesus is not who he claimed to be. Jesus always told us that we would suffer for the sake of the kingdom. Until Jesus returns and sets everything right, finally right, we will wrestle through hardships and joys, tragedies and triumphs, as we march on toward the promise of the Savior.
John was discouraged and a little confused. Jesus reminded him that John’s original view of Jesus was correct. Even though John suffered, Jesus is still the Savior and the Promised Rescuer. We too need to press on and continue to trust Jesus, even when things do not find our picture of how life should go.