John the Baptist: the forerunner of Jesus, the courageous, counter-cultural prophet of God who prepared the way for hearts to receive Jesus. Jesus said of him, “there has never been a man who surpasses John,” (Matt. 11:11). Yet in Matthew 11, John finds himself in prison…with no immediate ministry or influence.
What had happened? Wasn’t he the one the angel of the Lord had prophesied about? The one who would be “one of the great ones in the sight of God…filled with the Holy Spirit…going before the Lord with the same anointing as Elijah the Prophet and preparing a united people who are ready for the Lord’s appearing” (Luke 1:15-17)? How was it, then, that he was in prison? How could he fulfil his destiny and usher in the kingdom of God if he was locked down? I imagine he felt like he should have been “out there” ministering and serving, instead of stuck in prison. As we continue to dig into this passage, I urge us all to place ourselves in John’s shoes and see how closely we can relate.
In verse 2 of Matthew 11, I find it interesting that while John was locked up, (not permitted to lead, teach, minister, baptize), it says, “he heard about what Christ was doing among the people.” Let me say that differently: while he was prevented from moving, Christ was on the move. Christ was still on the move, even without the assistance of John. Wait, so Jesus was completely capable of changing lives and hearts without John out there serving Him on the “frontlines”?
Give John this report: The blind see again, the crippled walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised back to life, and the poor and broken now hear of the hope of salvation! Matthew 11:5.
It seems to me that Jesus was handling things perfectly fine on His own. However, in this most likely dark and very desolate place of John unable to move, stuck in prison, we observe this: he questioned Jesus.
Are you really the one prophesied would come, or should we still wait for another? Matthew 11:3.
It’s crazy how our prisons and dark places can cause us to question the Lord. To question what we’ve heard Him say. To question His authority. To question His character and ways. Maybe because we didn’t expect following Him to end up looking like our present dark/lonely situation… or maybe we thought He would do things differently…bring about His kingdom in a different way. Or maybe we really believed we had heard from Him about what was on His heart for our community, our church, our nation, but then in our passion and zeal, we unintentionally assumed it would manifest itself differently? More supernaturally? More triumphantly? The Hebrew people thought He would do things differently, too. It’s not too far of a stretch for us to realise that we, too, question. “There’s no way the Lord would do it this way…is this really the Lord?”
Listen to Jesus’ reply to John, in verse 6:
Blessed are those who are not offended over me.
The Passion Translation says it this way:
Tell John the blessing of heaven comes upon those who never lose their faith in me– no matter what happens!
I would contend that, for those who have ears to hear, the Lord is saying that to us, as well, in this hour.
Blessed are those who are not offended over me.
Unsurprisingly, yet still so humbling, we are all capable of questioning the Lord when circumstances aren’t occurring as we assumed or presumed. Especially, I would propose, when these “prison” circumstances seem to follow right on the heels of powerful prophetic utterances, kingdom advancement, and life-changing ministry. (See Matthew 3:2, 10-12) I ask, are we offended?
We all need to ask ourselves in both our prison seasons and our seasons of wide-open spaces with the Lord, “do I hold any offence in my heart?” Or possibly even, “do I have any pretence for what I believe You’re doing, Lord?” And “will I honestly be offended if You choose to bring about Your kingdom and Your glory in a way I did not perceive or prefer?” Like the Psalmist, we need to pray this prayer:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
The world seems upside down right now, and we may believe we were on the right track: with church, ministry, the Lord, prayer, etc. But possibly even those things/ambitions/plans are locked down and stifled right now. The question I encourage us to ask ourselves in this kairos moment is, “Will I be offended over Him?”
Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
You will not despise.” Psalm 51:10, 17
Selah. Pause in His presence. Go there. Repent! And surrender!
Let’s surrender our thoughts, ideas, notions, hearts, and kingdom ambitions to His fiery gaze. And let’s commit to not being offended, but instead, let us celebrate with Jesus how HE HIMSELF is now moving…is still moving. Celebrate with Him how He is exalting Himself among the nations and the earth (Psalm 46:10). And receive the blessing of heaven that rests upon those who are unoffended ones.