ohn – mighty prophet, called from birth to be the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah-was in prison.
His ministry had been challenging and fruitful. He had come preaching repentance and proclaiming the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and many had come to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. But now that John was in a dungeon, there were no crowds seeking spiritual answers from him, no new disciples wanting to follow, and no angelic beings opening the prison doors.
John stood face-to-face with death, and he was alone and confused. Johns disciples had told him about the ministry of Jesus, His teachings and His marvelous healings, including the raising of a young boy back to life. In his own dire circumstances, his natural response to this report was exactly as I respond: ‘Jesus, are You really all You claim to be? Are You really the One 7 I liked serving You much better when people were being converted and baptized. I liked it much better when people were coming from miles around to hear the message of repentance.”
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:19, NKJV). The answer from the lips ofJesus still stings with unadorned reality: “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (v. 23, NASE). After countless answers to prayers and a witness to many supernatural events, John sat in a squalid prison-and the heavens were silent. Where is Jesus? Doesn’t He know that I’m withering in this prison? Isn’t He mindful of my situation? Doesn’t He care?
Jesus’ answer to John was, first of all, His actions (v: 21). Then He told Johns disciples, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (v. 22, NIV). For John there would be no such miracle-but only this message: There is a blessing waiting for the one who does not stumble at the time of great crisis. Can you also hear Jesus’ unspoken message? ‘John, don’t give up. There is a blessing ahead that you cannot see, yet I see it. John, don’t stumble now.”
The perplexity John experienced is common to us all. In Johns greatest hour of need, there were no great earthquakes that opened the cell door, no gentle breeze to calm the storm raging in John’s heart, no angels to lead John to freedom. There was an executioner and an evil woman bent on Johns death. Does it make sense? It didn’t to John.
And it didn’t to me! On October 25, 1996, my wife gave birth to a seemingly healthy baby boy, our third child. A few hours later the hospital staff was telling us he had a rare heart defect and that without surgery or a transplant he would die. I cried; I prayed; churches everywhere were alerted; prayers went up for hours and hours.
In my distress I cried out to God-and the heavens were silent. No angels came with miracle cures; no words were spoken that created a new heart in my baby’s body. And the same question flooded my heart: “God, are You the One?”
It seems the small lifetime of one so innocent should cause the heavens to open with doves descending, or the voice of God speaking great words of comfort, or visions of angels ascending and descending upon heavens ladder, or a still small voice. But the heavens were silent. God still had not chosen to reveal Himself to me in this matter-just as He did not reveal His reasons to John. It is in dark, dark hours like this that my faith, along with John’s (and no doubt yours as well), is put to the test.
God is seeking for faith born not of sight but of total confidence and trust in Him. Does He know things about the future that would prevent greater heartache? Yes. Does my finite perspective limit my ability to comprehend the things of God? Of course. Is God trustworthy? If He isn’t, then He isn’t God at all. Is there any proof? Only the Word that He has given. Is that enough? Not always, for I am only human and can only “see through a glass, darkly” Yes, my faith has been shaken, but I perceive a light at the end of the tunnel. Has it been easy? No, but even though I stagger, God remains steadfast and faithful.
I have not begun to understand the infinite mind of God, but I have enough answers from His Word to continue for the day I must take life one moment at a time. I must pray, “Lord, give me this day the strength I need.” Tomorrow I will need another days supply of mercy and grace. I don’t have all the answers I want, or I feel I need, but I trust God because I know He does. I am believing for the blessing that awaits. “And blessed is he who is not off ended because of Me” (Luke 7:23, NK]V).
Gerald Steven Abreu pastors the Tabernacle of Praise Church of God, Hurricane, West Virginia.