“John’s disciples reported back to him the news of all these events taking place. He sent two of them to the Master to ask the question, ‘Are you the One we’re expecting or are we still waiting?’ The men showed up before Jesus and said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask you, “Are you the one we’re expecting or are we still waiting?”‘ 

“In the next two or three hours Jesus healed many from disease, distress and evil spirits. To many of the blind He gave the gift of sight. Then He gave His answer: ‘Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard: The blind see; the lame walk; lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourself fortunate!'” Luke 7:18-23.

Poor John!

He was sitting in a dungeon at King Herod’s good pleasure. Would it not have been reasonable for him to expect Jesus to do something about him? After all, He was family and he, John, had paved the way for Him! And besides, didn’t the Scriptures prophesy that He would set captives free?

What did John expect? Perhaps, at the very least, Jesus could have gone to Herod and put in a good word for him. Day after day he sat in his prison, waiting and hoping for release, only to be disappointed. He began to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, after all. Perhaps He was a hoax. The longer he sat there, the more the doubts plagued him.

He had to find out. At least he would know whether there was any hope of being rescued before Herod got it into his head to execute him. He couldn’t go himself, so he sent for a few of his disciples to go for him. ‘Master,’ they asked Jesus, ‘John wants to know whether you are really the Messiah, or do we have to keep waiting for someone else to come?’

Jesus gave them no direct answer. All He said was, ‘Watch and listen.’ So they followed Him around, watching and listening. After some hours He asked them, ‘So? What have you just seen and heard? Now go and tell John all about it.’ He gave them a resume’ of the miracles He had done over the last while. ‘Ask him if this is what he was expecting? If it was, then he is truly blessed.’

What was going on here? John’s circumstances were getting to him. No one can blame him. Who can endure incarceration like that and not give in to self-pity. He had preached that the kingdom of God was a realm of generosity and unselfish service but, in his own suffering, he had begun to turn inward. Hoping that Jesus would mount a rescue, he could not understand why nothing had happened. Perhaps he had been mistaken after all.

His disciples returned with an answer he had not quite expected. A straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ would have been better. Instead, in typical “Jesus” fashion, He invited John to weigh up the evidence and decide for himself. That was His way of convincing him who He was according to the evidence and the Scriptures.

John was a rabbi and, of course he had memorised the entire Hebrew Scriptures. He would have immediately caught on to what Jesus was saying. ‘John, don’t take my word for it. Take another look at what the Scriptures say about me and then decide for yourself.’ The Messianic fingerprint was clearly visible in the Old Testament prophecies. All John had to do was to match it up with what Jesus was doing.

Whether or not Jesus got him released was irrelevant. Overshadowing Herod was God’s hand and he had to rest in that. His story was being written into God’s bigger story and Jesus was writing the meaning of that story into the lives of sick, maimed and side-lined people. It was up to John to answer his own question.

We all have to decide whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. Weigh up the evidence. Is He? Then follow Him!

Luella Campbell

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