John the Baptist sat in his prison cell alone, questioning his life. I imagined that he reflected on his time in the wilderness, the years eating locust and wild honey, the taunts and the jeers, the ridicule and the condemnation. I’m pretty sure he reflected on the day when he beheld the Messiah, the great King of Kings, the one for whom he had prepared the way. Now, alone in his prison cell, he wondered.
In Luke 7:18, John’s followers visited him in prison and told him of all the great works Jesus was doing in the cities and towns. At this point in his ministry Jesus was healing the sick and raising the dead. John took all of this in and in response he sent two of his followers to Jesus with a question. They went to Jesus and on John’s behalf asked, “Are you the Expected One or shall we look for someone else?” This is where the rubber met the road my friend. John was in chains, he had labored his whole life as an outcast. His one mission in life was to usher in the Lord Jesus, and here he was, locked up, unable to even witness for himself what was happening. He had just one question, the answer could perhaps change his outlook on life and give him hope.
However, Jesus did not say, “Yes John, of course I am the One.” Neither did he say, “No John, I am not the One.” Instead, he told John’s friends to go back and report what they had seen and what they had heard, that the blind received sight, the lame walked, those who had leprosy were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the good news was being proclaimed to the poor.
So they returned to John and reminded him of what the prophet Isaiah said would happen when the Messiah came. There was no rescue mission, no personal visitation, just a challenge to believe. What must John have thought as yet another night closed with him locked up in prison?
We live in a world where many things are based on merit: jobs, grades, promotions, finances, etc. Whether we admit it or not, we tend to feel that there are things that believers deserve (wealth, health and long life) and things that we don’t deserve (hardship, suffering, loss). Perhaps John the Baptist felt a twinge of that too as his life hung in the balance, seemingly in Herod’s hands. Like John, perhaps, you and I are being asked to accept the reality that there may not be a definitive answer to life’s toughest questions except to simply believe what God has said. Believe what, you ask? Believe that God exists, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.(Hebrews 11:6) Believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) Believe that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, that where he is there we may also be. (John 14: 2-3)
I do not pretend to understand everything that is in the Bible, nor everything that happens in life, such as the tragic plane crash on Sunday past that took the lives of nine fellow believers, five of whom I knew. When I go to the scriptures however, I always see a call to faith, from Genesis straight to Revelation. We can look until our eyes fall out, examining the circumstances of life from every possible angle, but just like John, Job, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, we will eventually come to that moment when we have to look beyond any and all earthly circumstances, no matter how grim, and simply believe.
When John doubted, Jesus didn’t eradicate the doubt; instead he pushed John to believe by reminding him of the prophets’ words. He called him to walk by faith during his darkest hour. But Jesus did not ask of John anything that he too would not have to do. It was not long after John’s death that Jesus found himself facing his own final hour. Though he sweated blood at Gethsemane, he believed! Because of this belief, he faced the cross boldly out of obedience to God, securing salvation for us all!
My friends, as we mourn the departure of Dr. Myles Munroe, Ruth Munroe, Dr. Richard Pinder, Ministers Lavard and Radel Parks, Johanan Parks, Stanley Thurston, Farkhan Cooper, and Diego DeSantiago, let us remember that just as the Bible says, none of them perished, ALL who believe have everlasting life. Only believe.