Summary: John the Baptist wasn’t sure if Jesus was the one he was to be expecting. Sometimes, our expectations don’t come true either, especially at Christmas.
“Why do I feel depressed right now, when I’m supposed to feel happy?” “Why do I feel frustrated right now, when I’m supposed to feel joyful?” “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. This isn’t what I was expecting.” What kind of person am I describing? It could be someone who is having a difficult time as they go through the Christmas season. But this morning, I’m describing to you someone that might surprise you. I’m describing John the Baptist.
What, you might ask. I thought he was one of that strong, faithful prophet that was sent before Jesus to get people ready for the arrival of the Christ. He was the forerunner, the baptizer. How could he say to himself that he’s depressed or confused or frustrated? How could that be?
This morning, we’re going to see how that could be. Even though John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets to come before Jesus, he had some moments of doubt and depression and frustration. And in a way, that’s good news for you. He was a human being, just like you. Don’t you have moments of depression, moments of doubt, and frustration? It happens, even to Christians. It happens, especially during the month of December. I read an article the other day that described how the months of December and January have the highest occurrences of heart attacks, depression, suicide attempts, domestic disputes – all those things happen, even among Christians. Why? I thought this was the month when we were supposed to be the most peaceful and joyful! Let’s look at what John the Baptist was struggling with, and as we do, we’ll learn a little bit about ourselves, and where we can find comfort and hope, especially during those times when we are having difficult moments.
We meet John the Baptist this morning in prison. Last week, we saw him freely preaching in the desert around the Jordan River and baptizing people. While he was out there, he didn’t hold anything back. He called sin, sin. And one of the sins he spoke against was the sin of adultery. King Herod, at that time, had committed that sin – he had stolen his brother’s wife. And John was outspoken about that. He told the people that Herod and his new wife were sinners. Herod’s new wife didn’t like that. And so, Herod had John the Baptist arrested and thrown into prison. His ministry at the Jordan River was over.
And as John sat in that cold, damp, musty, dirty prison cell, he probably had a lot of time to think. And he probably had some expectations too. We don’t know exactly what he was expecting, but he may have thought to himself, “I won’t be in this prison for long. After all, I’m the forerunner of the Messiah. God will get me out of here in no time.” Or maybe he thought to himself, “Now that Jesus is preaching, he’ll put everyone in their place – he’ll judge King Herod, he’ll judge those Pharisees and Sadducees. Finally, justice will be served, because the Messiah is here, and he’s going to lay down the law.” Perhaps those were some of John’s expectations.