Even the most optimistic among us find ourselves discouraged. For instance, John the Baptist of Bible fame. Here is a man who preached in the desert and people would come out to hear him preach. Now what kind of preacher do you have to be for people to purposely go to the desert just to hear you preach? A really good one I suppose? But not only would people go out to hear him preach, they would respond positively to his preaching. His message wasn’t attractive, creative, or entertaining, it was simple and offensive. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” and it was repetitive. Simply repent. To repent means that there is a change of mind, a change of purpose, a change of direction. And John would preach it consistently. Until he didn’t.
One day without warning his message changed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the Sin of the world.” John’s message changed when he saw Jesus. Because Jesus is the only one who can move us from a change of direction to a change of life. Jesus is the only one that can get us from repentance to forgiveness. Jesus would say of John, that out of all of humanity that had ever lived, he was the greatest. And it was John who would proclaim that Jesus must increase even as he decreased. And decrease he did.
Before long John found himself in prison, because he dared to call out a philandering, insecure royal by the name of Herod. Herod put John in prison, and it was about this time that Jesus’ ministry began to prosper. But even the most optimistic, faith inspiring, Spirit filled from his mother’s womb prophet is prone to discouragement. Especially when sitting in prison and your cousin is the Messiah. So John sent a couple of friends to ask Jesus an important question, are you the one or should we look for another? John was wanting a simple validation of his life and ministry, a confirmation that his pointing to Jesus as The Lamb of God wasn’t wrong. Jesus sent John’s friends back to him with a report of the lame, blind, and deaf being healed and a Bible verse, but not just any verse, Isaiah 61:1, a messianic prophecy; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor.” Now like any good preacher John would have known his Bible and would have initially been encouraged by this report, except for one thing, Jesus didn’t quote the entire verse, he sent John’s friends back to him with a glaring omission from Isaiah 61:1, the part about the Messiah setting the prisoner’s free.
In essence what Jesus was communicating to John was that “Yes I am the one, I am the Messiah, the lame, deaf, and blind are being healed…. but you are going to die in prison.” Often even the most optimistic, faithful, Spirit filled people among us find ourselves in very difficult circumstances. Circumstances that God may choose not to deliver us from, in these moments it must be enough for our faith to know the Jesus is the Messiah, He is the one we are to look to as the author and finisher of our faith. Even if we are in a prison, a pit, or in the middle of a problem without a resolution, Jesus is the Messiah and that is enough.