“John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”” (Luke 7:18-23)
As Jesus’ ministry gains momentum, John the Baptizer’s prayer in John 3:30 is taking place: “He must increase; I must decrease.” Another translation says: “He must become greater; I must become less.”
John has faithfully fulfilled his ministry but it has resulted in a dark jail cell on a bogus charge. It is in this dark place that John begins to doubt what his whole ministry was about. Two of his disciples come to him telling him the news of Jesus’ ministry.
His fermenting doubt rises to the surface. Did it go something like this? “I was faithful. I was sure my cousin was the One. The Messiah. I proclaimed Him loudly, relentlessly, and faithfully…and I ended up here. I know I was meant to decrease but to this point? I am sure this will be the end of my life. I’ve not only become less, I’ve been forgotten. Did I miss it? Was I wrong? And what is Jesus doing? My disciples tell me all the wonderful stories but He has not taken power. I am so confused. God did I miss your plan? Was it all for naught?”
John turned to his disciples saying, “Would you please go to Jesus personally on my behalf and ask him, “Is He the One to come or should we expect someone else?” And so they left to find Jesus.
As they finished teaching, John’s disciples approached him. “Master, we have a message from your cousin John. He asks, are you the One or should we expect someone else?” Jesus looked deep into their eyes on John’s behalf with empathy and compassion.
Then Jesus called his disciples and a handful of other followers. John’s disciples recognized some of these men and women as people who had been blind, lame, or deaf. Even one had been a leper but he stood there whole and happy.
Jesus smiled and then laughed with His friends. Turning to John’s disciples he said,
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard with your eyes and your own ears. 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. Blessed is the man; blessed are you my cousin, John, who does not fall away on account of me.”
John’s disciples hurried back to John where they are allowed to meet him in his cell. The sound of John’s chains rattle in his dark putrid cell. In this darkness he is given news of light. John listens intently. He hears between the lines the familiar voice of his cousin he has always so deeply loved.
John hears through a transformed mind what this Messiah is doing. He can hear Jesus say, “John my dear cousin, do not doubt in the dark what you saw in the light. You were right. The Son of Man has come announcing the Kingdom of God. And this kingdom comes unexpected amongst the least and forgotten. It will topple the kingdom of this world by what the world sees as foolish and weak. What is foolish to man is God’s wisdom. What is weak to man is God’s power. No longer doubt John. The wisdom of God and the power of God rest upon you even in your cell. Blessed are you for believing in me when there is no reason to do so.”
John sits with this in meditation. He knows now the Messiah is the One who is great and has become less in order to invade and change this world from the inside out. It is the heart that He is out to conquer rather than nations. John knows now it is a matter of time before Rome crumbles.
As I think of this, it is so true to our experience in ministry. We answer Jesus’ call. We serve like John, relentlessly and faithfully. We are ever so confident of Jesus and all that He is. Then we run into a season of the dark cell. A season that can be triggered by loss, tragedy, abandonment, plans disappointed, and we are thrust into this cell of doubt. Like John, we wonder if our ministry is a mistake. We wonder in confusion about something we were so sure about. We doubt Jesus and ourselves. We cry out to Jesus.
He turns our attention not to what we have done but what He has done. He turns our attention to the little ones in our ministries. He compassionately speaks to us and turns our attention to our own ministries. As if to say, do you not see these little ones I have brought to you? Look with new eyes on the wonder of God’s work in your own ministry. Go there and be encouraged in your doubt and darkness that the Messiah has come and you have rightly proclaimed him. Blessed are you YL Capernaum Teammate that you don’t fall away on account of Jesus not doing it the way you wish.
This year when doubt assails us and in the darkness of the cell let us return to our video highlight reel of what our Savior has done in our midst. When we gather let’s bring stories to each other as John’s disciples did to John. And let us find renewal, strength, and a renewed focus on Jesus right in the midst of our cells.
May you be encouraged by Jesus who has called you,