John The Baptist in Prison Luke 7:18-23
Updated: Feb 1
I have spent many a cold night in the desert, but nothing prepared me for the damp, dark confines of Herod's prison. The deep darkness absent of all light except the flicker of the wall torch that illuminated my cell during the sparse feeding visits was my greatest struggle. The feeling of what the eternal outer darkness would be like forced me to stay on my knees praying for souls. Living parched for water in the arid desert and hungry has always been my way of life, but the absence of light tore through my soul. It is disorienting. Time loses all meaning and people's faces start to blur in my memory. I'm thankful to God for allowing a weekly visit by some of those who have helped me in ministry. They bring me news about Jesus and although some food, my body wastes away without much movement. Sleep is eluded as it is haunted by fellow prisoners' screams from nightmares as their minds grapple with their loss of freedom or rats nibbling on my skin as I lie still on the damp rock floor. The stench of death is all around me, literally with the maggots that feed on feces or a prisoner who passed. I feel as if I am hidden from God; normally I can feel God's guidance, but now when I need Him most, he is silent. Discouragement overwhelms me and shrouds my thoughts with despair. I feel forsaken by my dearest friend - my God. Have I been mistaken, am I cursed for pointing others to Jesus? Isn't Jesus the One? Why is he feasting with the sinners like prostitutes, and drinking wine with tax collectors, and even having dinner at the home of a Pharisee? Is he a glutton and drunkard as some are saying? Is God punishing me?
The only movement in my cell are rats feasting on the moldy stale bread that the guard threw into the cell for food. The only sound, my heart beating and a distant water drip in the tunnels of the prison. At that moment, the door at the head of the stairs bangs open and the rushing of feet sound as the silhouette of two men and a large soldier approach my cell. It is two of my disciples whom I had beckoned. Quickly, I beg them to go to Jesus and ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
I anxiously await the week to hear from the two messengers. Without sunlight, I lose track of the days. Guards don't come regularly, so I can't count days by their presence. Jesus certainly isn't acting as I expected. I am confused and in the dark spiritually and emotionally as well as physically. Then suddenly, I'm jolted to the sound of a large clank of the dungeon doors being wielded open when I thought it was still night. The sounds of hustling steps coming closer confirmed it was my companions. My mind was completely alert and paralyzed to utter anything lest it delay their response. Looking me straight in the eyes, the older of the two says, "We spoke to Jesus who readily welcomed us and desired to know of your well being, and we asked your question of him." He pauses to get his breath, "He said to go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: 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 who is not offended by me."
"Blessed is the man who is not offended by me" resounded like an echo in my thoughts. I was looking for the reason of why Jesus was not working the way I expected him to work. I see the declaration of his reality around me, yet in my life, I questioned his goodwill for my welfare. At that moment, I knew that I had been persuaded by my emotions which slipped me into despair. Jesus touched me with peace and yet he wasn't even in the same town. I knew that I didn't need to understand Jesus, but I was to place my trust in the one who was able to calm the storm physically and also emotionally.
Questions for Reflection:
From our perspective, we see why Jesus spent time with the unlikely company; we see why he delayed in answering Lazarus (who ended up dying for Jesus arrived "late"); we see why the cross. But in the current situation, it is disorienting. How well do we trust God and not get offended when the answers to our prayers are silent or not what we expected? Are we frustrated and bitter or do we humbly wait with thanksgiving that something better is coming?
Blessed is he who is not offended by me.
With the idea of living in the dark prison cell as being disorienting is there is any parallel idea of living in the world without "light" or better phrase "the light"? What would living in the dark mean to you?
Do you ever doubt that God has your best interest in mind or have you felt "silence" to a prayer?
With Jesus' statement that was given to the crowd regarding John the Baptist-
"I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
What do you think the latter part of the sentence "yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" means?
John the Baptist holds a very special place in God's heart. We clearly know this from the scripture where AFTER John's disciples left to go back to the prison with the response to the prophet's inquiry, Jesus mentions that John's life is fulfilling the prophecy found in
"I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you."
And then, the greatest compliment ev received by mankind given by Jesus, he states, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
With that being said, when John clearly desired an answer to his chaos, God seemed to be silent. If there was ever one that deserved a "why" - God would have wanted it to be for John- his beloved John of whom He was well pleased. But even John felt "silence".
What about Mary, Jesus' mother and the disciples prayers to stop the beatings that Jesus suffered and then crucifixion. They didn't understand why God would allow such evil or pain. Three days later they did.
We too must trust and not be offended when our prayers are not answered the way we desire them to be. We must not be offended when our God is not living up to what we expect him to be in our lives. WE MUST not compare and say he answered that family's prayers and their son lived but mine did not. Did he love that family more than my family?
Possibly, John felt that Jesus would do a miracle and the bounding chains would fall off and the prison doors would just open. That didn't happen for John, but it did happen for Paul and Silas in the book of Acts 16:25. Did God love Paul and Silas more?
When Moses prayed for food for the Israelites in the desert in Numbers 11:21 and God told him meat would be sent. Moses replied by asking would it be by killing the cattle we brought out of Egypt or by fishing in the sea? God said neither, and stayed silent. The next day quail landed all around them and with little effort they enjoyed dinner. Sometimes, we want to give God options in our prayer life. Can you do this or that? We should pray ...Lord could it be this or that, BUT then also add, "Thy will be done for that will be perfect." We must be willing to allow what comes our way as God allowing it to fulfill something greater. It may not be three days, or a day later but whatever the time is, the answer will exceed your expectations and with little effort.
Read the account as it is written in the Bible: