As we discussed in the last post, the challenge is trusting IN God regardless … regardless of whether He alleviates our persecution … our suffering … our trials and tribulation … in this temporal world. We then looked at the account of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. Today in part 2, let’s look at the tale of John the Baptist. You might want to consider reading Matthew 3 to begin with … there we find out that
- John came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- His preaching was the fulfillment of words spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah.
- Many came from throughout the area of Jerusalem and Judea, confessing their sins and being baptized by John in the river Jordan.
- He foretold the coming of Jesus … the Lamb of God.
- To fulfill all righteousness, John baptized Jesus … and he saw the Spirit of God descending from heaven like a dove and coming to rest on Jesus … and he heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Let’s face it … John the Baptist had a pretty incredible resume of faith. Note what Jesus had to say about him in Matthew 11 …
Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ 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. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. vs 7-14 (ESV)
Thinking about this from a modern day perspective … Jesus really gave John a remarkable performance review, didn’t He?
Nevertheless, John found himself arrested by Herod the tetrarch and imprisoned … as the ministry of Jesus grew. We can’t help but think (and wonder what John thought) that certainly based on all that John had done in the name of God … that Jesus would free him from prison.
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciplesand 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.” Matthew 11:1-6 (ESV)
What do you think prompted the question posed by John through his disciples? Was he beginning to doubt that Jesus was the Christ … since He had not freed him from prison?
This is not a question being judgmental of John … don’t we all sometimes doubt God to various degrees when he doesn’t rescue us from our persecution … our suffering … our trials and tribulations in this temporal world?
I for one will confess ‘Definitely!’ And it would seem that Jesus is warning us all of just such a lack of faith … “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” After all, look at what God is doing for all those other people … why doesn’t He do the same or more for me?
Remember what the resurrected Christ said to Peter when he questioned Him about the future of John …
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:22 (ESV)
Don’t be focused on the blessings of others … what happens to any and all of us is based on the will of the Father … ‘You follow Jesus … REGARDLESS!’
I think the lessons we learn thru John’s prison ordeal regarding faith are very similar to what we learned from Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego?
- The God whom John served is able to deliver him from prison (we know He is able because He did just that with Paul and Silas – Acts 16}
- The God whom John served will deliver him out of Herod’s hand – God is faithful and will deliver His children from the hands of evil men into the hands of the King of kings, the kingdom of God, salvation and eternal life – He will NOT lose a single one that the Father has given Him -Praise God!
- But if God does not deliver John from prison, he will NOT bow down to Herod’s demands … he will stand firm in his faith … enduring until the end
Oftentimes we live in this temporal world and have expectations for life in this temporal world as if it is our ultimate destination … but children of God are simply pilgrims passing through … the place that God is preparing for us … well, this temporal world pales in comparison to our ultimate dwelling place with God!
John’s temporal outcome did not compare to that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego … John was beheaded by Herod on the whim of Herodias, Herod’s adulterous companion.
Yet when you think about it, which would you prefer? To be delivered out of a temporary trial into an evil world and more trials and tribulations? Or to be delivered out of an evil world into the kingdom of heaven and presence of God?
What did Paul write?
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
BTW … Christian tradition also holds that Paul died a martyr … he was beheaded.
Despite or in spite of all our circumstances, may we all be blessed of God with a faith as strong as that of John the Baptist and the apostle Paul!