“Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” Matthew 3:2
The desert sun bore down ferociously but the crowds kept growing. Word of mouth brought people: rich, poor, young, old, educated, illiterate. The barren isolation and sweltering heat of the wilderness couldn't deter them. Was is really four hundred years since God last spoke? Words straight from the mouthpiece of the Divine refreshed their parched souls like an oasis spring. A life of sacrifice and self-denial produced results beyond his wildest dreams, success that surpassed his wildest imaginations. The way was prepared. The masses had taken the words to heart, repented, were baptized and transformed. Little did John realize that his message was not only for the people, but also for him.
Anointed and appointed by God to prepare the way for Messiah's arrival, John was a man on a mission. He lived an austere, disciplined life. He gave up all to avoid being side-tracked or distracted. Things were about to change and the people needed to know.
John like most Jewish people expected the Messiah to come and establish a physical kingdom. Were the Jews prepared for such a reversal of fortune? Hundreds of years waiting for their Savior to arrive made a “someday my prince will come” Cinderella mentality easy to adopt as opposed to a life of expectancy. Now was the time for kingdom-type thoughts: head not the tail; above not beneath. How do we run the show as opposed to being run over by it? Counting the cost was crucial. Nothing guaranteed transition would be a bloodless coup. Rome allowed their conquests great latitude to run their affairs, but any hint of rebellion brought severe consequences. It was unrealistic to think that the empire would pack up and go home without a fight.
John had God's promise that he would see the Messiah. He even had a confirming sign to watch for. At Jesus' baptism John hesitated but continued at his cousin's insistence. When the Lord came up out of the water the Heavens opened. The Spirit, like a dove, descended and rested on Jesus. The Father proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. John's expectations were met and he wasn't disappointed – not just yet.
His life's purposed fulfilled, John stepped out of the limelight in favor of Jesus. He directed the people and his own disciples to the Christ. Maybe he'd dreamed of one day having a normal life: a wife, kids, home, career and so forth. Years of sacrifice might garner him a position in the kingdom, instead, he found himself in a Roman jail. The long awaited Messiah demonstrated no interest in politics, world domination or a jail break for an imprisoned cousin.
Sometimes we think if God will just give us a sign, we'll be fine. No need for doubts or questions when you have physical proof – right? John had a word from God AND a sign, and still struggled with second thoughts. Was Jesus the one or should they look for someone else?
John's lack of faith must have hurt. Most of Jesus' family thought he was crazy. John was the one relative who believed in Him from the start. Now even His cousin wavered in his support.
Roman jails were barely habitable. His stature warranted even stricter measures. Cold and damp, the cell was a stark contrast to the hot, arid wilderness.
Did I really get it wrong?
Messengers were dispatched to find closure for his uneasy feelings; all there was to do was wait...and hope. The sound of approaching footsteps broke the monotony. The cell door creaked open.
“Keep it short,” the guard snarled.
“Well, tell me.”
“His teaching is unlike any we've ever heard.”
“He had some of the scribes and pharisees squirming.”
“And the miracles! I don't know where to begin to tell you all that we saw.”
“And with our own eyes!”
“Did you ask him the question?”
Their demeanor changed dramatically. This couldn't be good.
“Well, what did he say?”
The disciples lowered their eyes and avoided his gaze.
“Out with it!”
“He said, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see 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 who is not offended because of Me.'” (emphasis mine).
When God doesn't meet our expectations it's easy to become upset. Jesus offers us a choice, be blessed or get offended. Maybe like John you feel as if you've sacrificed even more than your fair share and things haven't worked out as planned. You're sure you've heard from God, but what you've stood in faith for hasn't materialized. Now you suspect you may not have heard correctly.
To all who face disappointment with God, we have a similar decision to make. Will we be blessed or will we get offended? How about you? What's your choice?
Photo from Google Images