John, the Baptist, tossed and turned in his prison cell. No doubt he had grown accustomed to the nights out in the Judaean wilderness, observing the stars and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. On his first night, the stench of loneliness filled his nostrils, causing him to question his circumstances. He gave Holy Spirit no preconditions in the desert, following His every word.
Obedience, coupled with no preconditions, resulted in him “cast into prison” (John 3:24). The word cast, or ballō, signifies he was given over to the authorities, uncertain about the result as one thrown or let go without caring where they fall.
“How did I end up here, in jail, of all places?” He murmured.
So, he called his disciples and said: “Go to Jesus of Nazareth and ask Him if He is the one we are waiting for, or should we look for another (Matthew 11:3)?”
Not What He Expected
John faced the reality that he would not live to see the Messiah liberate the world from sin, “disarm the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them by triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
The fiery righteousness that stirred deep within him, propelling him to call Herod’s and Herodias’ out for their sexual immorality (Matthew 14: 3-5), could not witness such spiritual powers become dethroned.
His physical body lay locked away by the enemy, the opposite of what he had expected. In effect, he asked Jesus: “Are you coming to liberate me?”
He didn’t appeal to John’s loneliness and disappointment. Instead, Jesus showed John’s disciples all His works and commanded them to tell him:
“The blind receive their 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. And blessed is he; whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (Matthew 11: 5-6).
Don’t Become Offended By Jesus
It’s a harsh reality to accept, but trials and tribulations will come (John 16:33). At times, the severity of the storm causes us to question whether the call to Christ is worth the pain. John, considered more than a prophet, greatest among those born to women (Matthew 11: 9-11), writhed in disappointment. “Why me, Lord?”
Although he had an abrupt ending, his life became a testimony to the ruling authorities that they chose wickedness over righteousness, earthly pleasure instead of spiritual treasures, calling good, evil and evil, good (Isaiah 5:20).
No doubt, Herodias recalled the account of Yael, wife of Heber (Judges 4) or perhaps the tales of Judith and Holofernes and compared herself to them. The righteous man, who prepared the way for the Son of God (Matthew 11:10; Malachi 3:1), suffered shame and dishonor at the hands of those who feigned holiness.
A Moment of Reflection
Like John, many times, we too question God, asking Him, why did this happen? How can this be? Examining our circumstances, we wonder if obedience is worth the cost.
John didn’t imagine he’d no longer have the beauty of silence with the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. Once more, he partook “of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1: 8).
Jesus always advises us to count the cost of following Him, for the road is not pleasant in a world that despises holiness. Not everyone applauds the decision to forsake all to gain Christ, but He is worth it all (Philippians 3: 7-8; Luke 14:33).
A Call to Trust; No Preconditions
Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We are assured that no matter the circumstance, His love knows no conditions, and we must let that saturate our whole being. “Jesus will never leave me.”
Surrendering to Jesus means that we give ourselves over to Him with no preconditions. We must trust Him completely, even if the journey forecasts danger and rejection. Our decision showcases whether we believe in His faithfulness and truth to be with us always (Deuteronomy 31:6).
So, the Master asks, “Are you willing to trust Me, no matter the cost?”