I’m reading a book titled, The Sacred Echo. Margaret Feinberg, the author, pointed out something I’d never noticed before. Something really big for those of us who suffer. So big, it’s the reason I sat in my recliner and cried and wrote three of the blog posts for this week.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus tended not to answer questions directly? Sometimes He seemed not to answer them at all, talking about something that sounded like a rabbit trail, or telling some story that at first seemed random.
One such time was when John the Baptist was in prison and sent an important, penetrating question to Jesus. John had seen Jesus glorified, had even heard God speak from Heaven, declaring who Jesus was and that He was pleased with Him. If anybody knew Jesus was the Messiah, it was John. Yet after being imprisoned for doing right, suffering and facing more suffering, he starts to wonder. Why hasn’t Jesus declared His kingdom? Why hasn’t he freed His people from oppression?
If Jesus is who He says He is, why is John still in prison?
John sent Jesus a pointed question, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
Believers throughout the ages have asked similar questions. I have. Have you ever wanted to ask:
If you’ve ever felt guilty for thinking or praying the above, know that God hears such prayers. If fact, God listed all of them in the Bible. Read through the book of Psalms and you’ll find even the last one (Psalm 73:12-14).
Jesus did not get angry at John. He did not berate his lack of faith. His response was gentle, yet powerful. Today I learned it was even more powerful–for him and for me–than I knew.
“Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
Margaret Feinberg explains: “Jesus’ response refers to prophecies found in the book of Isaiah, six specific signs the Messiah will fulfill when he comes….What captures my attention in Jesus’ response is not the six prophecies he fulfilled, but the seventh prophecy he seemingly goes out of his way not to mention: to proclaim freedom for the captives.”
Within John’s question was a deeper, much more personal cry. “Are You the Messiah? Will You deliver me?” Those two may seem to be the same question. Those who live with suffering know they are not. At least not in the way we want them to be.
Jesus’ answer was clear. Yes, I am the Messiah. No, I will not deliver you. Not from prison or even from death. (John was soon after beheaded at the request of a vengeful woman.)
Did that mean Jesus was really not the Messiah? Or that He did not fulfill the prophecy, do what He said He would do?
The question closer to home:
If we are still sick, is God not Who He says He is? Is He not keeping His promises?
Is He not good?
This is very important. In the Garden, the very first sin happened because Eve believed the lie that God was not good and did not want what was truly best for her. That He couldn’t be trusted.
If we also believe that lie, our suffering is in vain.
Let’s look at these questions in regard to John the Baptist. Was God punishing John for lack of faith? No. Jesus said John was the greatest man ever born to a woman (Matthew 11:11). If it wasn’t God’s punishment, then that must mean God did not keep His promise, right?
No, these are not the only two options.
Jesus sets the captives free. John was delivered. Not from prison to a more comfortable life. He was delivered not from death but through death, to perfect freedom and life eternal.
We forget that part. We see here and now, and here and now are so very important to us. God sees forever. He knows every promise has a beautiful fulfillment.
I am sick now, but I will be healed. I know it with all my soul. It may not happen in this lifetime. But one day I will have a perfect body and perfect spirit, delivered from my failing flesh and my fragile mind and my sin-tempted soul forever.
The promises have not failed. They simply have not all been fulfilled yet. And sometimes they get fulfilled in ways we would never expect, like deliverance for John.
We will be healed. God can be trusted. As Jesus told John, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:6).
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Who heals all your diseases,