Go ahead. Ask.
“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee.”
Jesus knows John has been arrested, but doesn’t come to John’s aid. Jesus doesn’t rescue his own cousin, the wilderness guy who not only baptized him, but also prepared the way for him. Instead of succeeding with a prison escape plan that could be directed 2,000 years later by director Ron Howard in some major motion picture, Jesus leaves Judea and returns to Galilee. Now, speaking of films, John’s ending in jail is like one bad horror movie. He’s beheaded.
In prison, John is able to send two of his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else (Matthew 11:3)?”
Why would John ask this? Remember, he was right there at Jesus’ baptism. Like the crowd, he must have heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved, from whom I am well pleased.” After all, he was right beside Jesus. So why ask? Was he scared in prison? Was he afraid of his fate?
The truth is we don’t know.
Theologians are over the map with answers to the “Where was Jesus?” question. After time and prayer, I think John knew why miracle-producing Jesus didn’t show: his ministry had fulfilled its purpose. Of course Jesus cared for John, but he didn’t rescue him because, like John, Jesus had a job to do. His job was to follow His Father’s will.
Enter us. We’ve prayed for Jesus to get us out of our depressing, dark places. From our deepest pains, we may have questioned His miracle-working wonders ourselves.
We know this. Jesus hears our prayers, but sometimes takes another direction. Why? One answer to that question is Jesus isn’t going to get us out of every pickle or prison we’re in. Jesus is not the action flick superstar who will always save us to the happy ending we want in the moment. Sometimes we have pain, a lot of pain.
Here is what we also know. Sometimes the ax falls and it REALLY hurts. Jesus doesn’t always to respond to our questions the way we’d like. When Jesus learns of John’s death, He seeks solitude to grieve. He grieves our losses, too. He weeps with us.
Each of us has been equipped to do ministry of some kind, and, like Jesus and John, we too can follow God to get His plan done. His plan can be impossibly challenging to us at times, but let’s learn from John and Jesus. When we say, “Thy will be done,” let’s not just mean it, let’s do it.
Dear Lord, thank you for John’s question through his disciples. The Baptist shows us relief may not be in physical form. Instead, relief can be in knowing that, like John, we follow Your Plan which includes leading people to You. Help us do so, no matter what prison we are in now. Amen.