Summary: My grandchildren sometimes play with a Jack-in-a-box. Sometimes we want a JESUS-IN-A-BOX too. We want Him to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of who He should be and how He should act.
Part 1 - Matthew 11:2-6 - JESUS-IN-A-BOX!
I get the privilege and opportunity to speak to many old people in the course of my day. Being a chaplain and Pastor in an aged care facility (fancy name for old people’s nursing home) I am fascinated by the amazing lives that they have led.
Last week I spoke to a woman in her 90’s who said she felt like she was in a PRISON. She has dementia and so there are locked doors and people she does not know. "Why has my family put me here? What is wrong with me? Who are you? Will you help me?" What can I say when I am asked these things? I’m not the one who has come to give them deliverance! I’m just visiting their prison, (I mean home). All I can do is to assure them that they can trust in Jesus and wonder if I will be the one asking those same questions one day?
In Matthew 11:2 John the Baptist is LANGUISHING IN PRISON (don’t you just love that word "languishing"). He does not have dementia. Far from it! Nevertheless he is confused and asking similar questions. He sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?" Behind this question, he is probably asking "Why am I here ...LANGUISHING... in prison? What is wrong with me? What have I done to deserve this? Why doesn’t the Messiah, if He is the Messiah help me? I need deliverance?"
My grandchildren sometimes play with a Jack-in-a-box. Sometimes we want a JESUS-IN-A-BOX too. We want Him to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of who He should be and how He should act. One woman said to me on Friday "If there is a God then why does He allow all the bad things to happen in this world?"
John is confused about Jesus? Why? I think He expected that Jesus would come to overthrow the Romans and deal then and there with all the bad things in the world. When Jesus said "Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34 NLT), John would have loved that! He thought the Messiah would come to judge the world and reign as king immediately! Instead John was thrown into prison! He still believes the Messiah is coming but he doesn’t want to mess around in a prison cell so he asks, "Are you Him or do we look for someone else?"
There’s absolutely no harm in asking God questions when I feel confused. After all James 1:5 (NLT) says "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking." It’s the A.S.K. principle - Ask, Seek, Knock.
John prepared the way for Jesus to come and if John lacks understanding of Jesus then I sure can. I mean he grew up with Him! Cousins! Family!
I am not going to understand everything about Jesus. Besides, He keeps taking me by surprise. He takes John by surprise. Things aren’t going to get any better for John. When I experience great difficulties in my life as I serve God, that’s a great time to come to Jesus with my questions.
John says "Are you the Messiah or do we look for another?" I love this question for another reason. HE IS IN PRISON BUT THE PRISON ISN’T IN HIM, and knows that he is here to prepare the way for the Messiah to come. Even in prison, the call on his life has not diminished.
"Jesus told them, "Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’" (Matthew 11:4 NLT)
Jesus didn’t say, "Yes, I am the Messiah!" He seems to want John and me to come to our own conclusions by the works He does. The testimony that these guys give John is a first hand witness of miracles and good news being preached. Jesus says in effect "You want proof that I’m the Messiah. You saw Me raise that guy from the dead. Go and have a talk with him and tell John about him. See what he thinks about me then."
John would have understood exactly what Jesus was getting at. He was fulfilling an ancient prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah 35:4-6 (NLT) says, "Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you." And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!"