BLESSED IS HE WHO DOES NOT STUMBLE OVER ME [Mt.11:6]
A man sent from God [Jn.1:6], indeed, none greater that has
been born of women [Mt.11:11] and more than a prophet
[Mt.11:9]; this was John. Filled with the Spirit while yet in his
motherâ€™s womb [Lk.1:15] and coming in the spirit and power of Elijah
[Lk.1:17] as the messenger to prepare the way for the Lord [Mt.11:10];
there have arisen none to equal the Baptist.
Fearlessly, he confronted an entire generation like a thunder
clap from heaven against the sins of peasants, priests, and princes
alike. None were exempt from his withering denunciations and
demands for repentance; none, not even the king.
When Herod the tetrarch was reproved because of Herodias,
his brotherâ€™s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison [Lk.3:19, 20].
And thus he descended into Herodâ€™s dark and dank dungeon.
The blaze of heavenâ€™s light bursting from him was then plunged into
blackness. Multitudes who once rejoiced in this burning lamp
[Jn.5:35] thronged to him no more. The voice that cried in the
wilderness was silenced behind the confines of cold castle stone.
John is alone. The heralded Messiah of the coming kingdom
sends no greeting. Jesus the Christ makes no visit to his cell. No word
of cheer reaches his ears.
He whom he faithfully testified of and announced remains aloof while the wicked king he faithfully testified to abides an afflicting
captor. The One that Johnâ€™s whole life had been prepared for and was
devoted to does nothing, says nothing.
Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?
[Mt.11:3]. Multiplied anxious thoughts race through fevered
imaginations in Herodâ€™s dungeon. â€œThe kingdom of heaven was at
hand, yet Herodâ€™s wicked scepter still holds sway. How is it that the
Bridegroom can abandon His friend who rejoiced to hear His voice?
[Jn.3:29]. Surely He has come to set the captives free! [Isa.61:1]. Why
does He not come?â€?
And so it was that a deputation of disciples came to inquire
of Christ on Johnâ€™s behalf. And thus did Christ respond.
At that very hour He cured many of diseases, afflictions, and
evil spirits; and to many blind he gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, â€œGo and tell John the things you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. â€œAnd blessed is he who is not offended because of Meâ€?
Report what you have seen and heard. They saw that many,
but not all, were healed. They heard those ancient prophesies of the blind, deaf, and lame being saved [Isa.35:3-6] and of the gospel being
preached to the poor by the Lordâ€™s Anointed [Isa.61:1-3].
This is what they saw and heard. It was the message that they
carried to the downcast in the dungeon. Jesus Himself did not come.
The message of truth did. And John was left there with the Truth
until his earthly race had run its course.
And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. It is
a blessed condition to not be offended when the Lord Jesus does not
perform according to our expectation. We are blessed when His Word
alone is sufficient to sustain us in the midst of distressing and grievous
afflictions. Blessed are you when you trust what you know is true in the unrelieved grimness of Herodâ€™s dungeon.
He was left alone to reflect on the fact that many were healed,
but not all. It was the same Jesus who healed some and did not relieve
others. He pondered those prophesies, both of which promised rescue
from maladies and pointed to a coming day of vengeance.
That of the 35th of Isaiah promised that the weak and fearfulhearted
will yet be visited by God and saved [v.4]. In the 61st chapter,
not only is the gospel preached unto the poor, but the captives are
liberated and the prison doors fly open [v.1].
They were cheering words to the downcast. But when shall
they be realized? When will He come to this, my dungeon?
The fact is, that it may not be in this life at all that your
distress is visited and relieved. Perhaps not until the day of vengeance
will all of your woes, grievances, and injustices be rectified.
By faith the servants of the Most High escaped the edge of the
sword [Heb.11:34]. By faith others, equally His servants, were put to
death with that same sword [Heb.11:37].
Elijah was ushered into glory in a fiery chariot sent from above
[2 K.2:11]. His faithful companion who possessed a double portion of
his spirit, slowly expired in his sickness [2 K.13:14].
By the mercies of God Epaphroditus was healed of his deadly
ailment [Phil.2:27]. But Paulâ€™s beloved co-worker was left sick at
Miletus [2 Tim.4:20].
One of Godâ€™s notable prophets was delivered and raised from
a pit of certain destruction [Jer.38:4-14]. Yet the stalwart and fearless
Micaiah was cast into prison and fed sparingly with the bread of
affliction [I K.22:27].
In days of famine, one desolate widow was miraculously fed
while others foraged about searching for crumbs. Elijah was sent to
none of them [Lk.4:25, 26].
Black despair burst into lightâ€™s glowing warmth in Herodâ€™s
dismal prison-house of death. Fierce guards and flashing swords were bypassed as if nothing by the liberated captive. Shackles and chains
clinked powerless to the ground as Peter was escorted by his heavensent
Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and
has delivered me from the hand of Herod [Acts 12:11]. These were
the words of Peter.
This is the testimony of James. Then he [Herod] killed James
the brother of John with the sword [Acts 12:1, 2]. They were in the
same prison, bound by the same Herod, and serving the same Jesus.
Which Jesus do we want? The Jesus of Peter or the Jesus of
James? Which Jesus will we love and serve? Which One will we not
be offended with?
Will we presume to choose, or even demand, our own means
of deliverance? For, truly, both Peter as well as James were set free
from Herodâ€™s clutches, were they not?
Lonely vigils night and day passed in the Baptistâ€™s miserable
cell in Herodâ€™s dungeon before he was released. The prisoner was
eventually set free. The prison doors finally burst forth from their
squalor into the brightness of eternal day. It was the Lordâ€™s doing.
At the malicious demand of Herodâ€™s wanton consort, he sent
and had John beheaded in prison [Mt.14:10]. And thus the captive
was set free by Herodâ€™s murderous sword, yet not even one hair of
Johnâ€™s head perished [Lk.21:18].
And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.