“Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 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.’” —Matthew 11:4-5
We want the God who comes to defeat the bad guys and to confront injustice. Yet, as John the Baptist sat in prison, Jesus made no promise of getting him out. John began to doubt and sent his disciples to ask whether Jesus was the Messiah or is it someone after Him. What John did not realize was that Jesus Himself would face the same fate as all of the prophets throughout the Old Testament—persecution and pain for declaring truth to a people that raged against God, who tried to conform Him to their desires. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified by the very injustice that we want Him to overthrow.
The opening verse of this devotion is Jesus’s answer to John’s question. Jesus embedded clues as He quoted from multiple parts of Isaiah in His response. John, having been a part of the priesthood, had a commanding knowledge of the Scriptures and knew exactly
what Jesus was saying. Isaiah is all about God bringing refreshment to His people, restoring the broken, healing the blind and enabling the lame to walk, but God does this while alluding to the simultaneous destruction of those who oppose His truth. Jesus’s response was exactly what John needed to remind him that God is in control and everything is going according to plan. John’s ministry was not in vain; a day of retribution will come, but not before the opportunity for the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk.
As John’s disciples turned to leave after getting Jesus’s response, Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:7-9). From these statements, Jesus was pointing to the dichotomy between Herod Antipas and John.
In Jesus’s day, Herod Antipas’s image was on a Roman coin and beside his head shot was a reed. In other words, what were people going out to see? A political leader who was concerned about public opinion polls and being swayed by cultural demands or someone dressed in fine clothing but was rotten on the inside? Jesus then lifted and affirmed who John was—a prophet, but more than a prophet. John was the final prophet, pointing to Jesus, the Messiah.
John’s life was not what we would deem as successful in our cultural standards, but according to God’s standard, John lived a fulfilling life as he sought to point people to the one true God.
Father God, thank You for the life of John the Baptist that reminds me that life is not about what our culture deems as successful, but a life that points people to You. Praise You!