Evidence

In prison, it must be difficult to maintain one’s perspective.
When Jesus left Galilee heading south to preach in the cities of Israel, the news of His ministry spread before Him like waves of hope on a troubled sea. John, wasting away it seemed in Herod’s prison, heard through his disciples who came to visit him about the wonderful things Jesus was doing and saying.

We are not told why, but something about all of this troubled John, the once prominent forerunner of Messiah. Perhaps he expected a political revolution in addition to the spiritual one taking place. Somehow a shadow of doubt came into his mind about the One he had baptized in the Jordan, the One he had proclaimed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He sent two of his disciples to investigate. They found Jesus and spoke for John,

“Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

We can sense the despair of the dungeon in this inquiry. Jesus understood John’s fears; it seems Messiah was a surprise even to His forerunner! His answer was one of evidence. Tell John,

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

These ministries were the true evidence of the true Messiah: healing, deliverance, new life, and the hope of the Good News in the ears of the downtrodden. This was the promised revolution of Isaiah. Jesus continued with a blessing for John,

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

In other words, “Do not be offended, John! Your work is done. All is going according to the plan of the Father.”

No Greater Prophet
Jesus went on to testify to the multitude about John, asking the people what they went out to the wilderness to see—a show? A freak of nature? A man in funny clothes? A prophet? Yes, a prophet—a man in your time, speaking the words of God Himself! John was the Messenger going before Messiah calling for a time of preparation. There had been no greater prophet than John for his message was the final one before the time of Messiah.

John the Baptizer marked a turning point in history—the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New. Prior to this, God’s blessings were passed through the nation of Israel, but the New Covenant would be one of opportunity for all. All who wished to violently cut personal ties to pagan religions will be able to seize the Kingdom of God. All who would claim Christ as King, even at the great cost of discipleship, must divorce themselves from the old ways and drink deeply of this New Wine. In this Kingdom, the least will be the greatest, even greater than John because the New Covenant will be one of power to the meek.

Back in the Cell
We are not told of the return of John’s two disciples and their report to their leader. I imagine the evidence they brought, relieved his mind. He had fulfilled his calling. The glory of the Lord spoken of by Isaiah was beginning to shine in the path of Jesus. The dark skies of history were beginning to glow with a new dawning of hope. Perhaps there was one little window with bars too far over John’s head to offer escape but close enough to allow a haft of hazy light to penetrate John’s confinement. As the sun moved across the sky and the shaft of light moved through the cell, when it illumined John’s face, it found there a deep smile.

Scriptures:
Matthew 11:1-42
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'”Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Isaiah 61:1-3
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Lord of those who are discouraged! You do not upbraid us or scold us when we lose hope for a while. You remember our frame, that we are only human. When these times come, help me pause to consider the evidence: You are faithful. You are good. You are merciful. You have called me. You empower me. You watch over me and protect me from evil. My hope is in Your strength, not mine. The story is not over! I have a job to do to please You and I can do it in Your name! Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
We Declare the Kingdom of God Is Here
Words and Music: Graham Kendrick

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
Among you, Among you!

The blind see! The deaf hear!
The lame men are walking!
Sicknesses flee at His voice!
The dead live again And the poor hear
The good news. Jesus is King so rejoice.

We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
We declare that the Kingdom of God is here.
Among you, Among you!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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