And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that 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. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”- Luke 7:19-23 NKJV
It is written; For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. (Matthew 7:28). These are RED LETTERS, meaning these are the direct words of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus Himself spoke highly of John the Baptist and named him the greatest prophet ever! The testimony of Christ is true and forever settled in heaven because his word is FAITHFUL and TRUE. Hear the Word of the Lord: Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11) Therefore if Christ called John the Baptist the greatest, then indeed he was the greatest. Many Christians have staggered at the words of Jesus Christ concerning John the Baptist because they believe his ministry doesn’t compare to biblical greats like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah, , Moses, and Joseph…. These men did wonderful works that history was not able to replicate. Yet, in all their works they were not considered as great as John the Baptist. John was created for one thing, and He knew it! It is written: When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Luke 7:24-27)
Leader, John was created for one purpose, and he knew that purpose. Many Bible scholars put John’s ministry length at 6 months. John prepared all his life, 30 years in the desert, withholding every sensual pleasure from himself. No wine, no women, no fine food, no fancy accommodations, no enjoyment of the flesh. Even in the Womb he was imbued with the Holy Spirit and knew he was here but for the Lord! A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. (Luke 1:39-44) John, in utero, knew his purpose was to prepare the way for the LORD! He lived a noble life, it was sacrificial and yet, it wound him up in prison, he was doubtful at the end, and he lost his head. And shall we forget what we did to Jesus? Hear the Word of the Lord: For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:18-19) In verse 23 of Luke 3, we were told Jesus was thirty years old, when his ministry started. In the same vein, John the Baptist ministry was fulfilled when Christ’s ministry started. When John identified the sign and pointed the World to Jesus the Messiah, the LAMB OF GOD, John’s ministry was officially fulfilled. This is the logic for saying, John fulfilled His purpose, his ministry. John the Baptist was preparing for about 30 years just to be used for about 6 months and yet was the greatest among ‘men born of women’. Some IMAGERS measure the greatness of their ministries by how long they’ve been in the ministry. That’s not God’s way of measuring greatness though, consider the thief on the cross. God measures us by how effective we have been in the ministry. Jesus Christ gave us a parable that culminated in letting us know, “the first shall be the last and the last shall be the first”. To God, it isn’t about who started the race first, but who finishes it. Are you closer to God today than you were 6 months ago, 1 year ago? Are you moving closer to God? Or are the struggles, unfairness, unjustness, and plain victim-mentality keeping you from your purpose?
Conduit, as great as John was, as focused on His mission as John was- John suffered and was NOT SET FREE. John sacrificed and was improperly thrown into prison and beheaded. While Jesus was rising, John was dying a brutal death. It was John we is quoted as saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Remember what they did to our Lord, and if they did that to Him what will they do to us? In his great book; The Prisoner in the Third Cell, author Gene Edwards starts his book addressing the reader: Dear Reader, No one can fully understand the pain you feel as you suffer your present situation. Whether it came upon you because of circumstances, or by the deeds of men, one thing is certain. Before this present tragedy entered into your life, it first passed through the sovereign hand of God. “ In today’s verse it says, MANY were healed, NOT ALL! In Edward’s book there is this literary dialogue that is so powerful when one of John’s disciples returns to John to tell Him what Jesus’ response was to the Baptizers inquiry: “Many were being healed master. Many? Asked John, Many? Yes Master Many, I don’t understand your questions. MANY were being healed, BUT NOT ALL!…No Master, NOT ALL!” God did not have – but wanted very much to have – men and women who would live in pain. God wanted a broken vessel. Two quotes by the author summarize what God is doing with John and with all of His creation: “Do not add to the cross in your life by becoming so busy that you have no time to sit quietly before God. Do not resist what God brings into your life. Be willing to suffer if that is what is needed. Overactivity and stubbornness will only increase your anguish.” “You yourself must endure the painful process of change. There is much more at work here than your instant maturity. God wants to build a relationship with you that is based on faith and trust and not on glamorous miracles.” If the greatest of men worked a lifetime, for about 6 months of work…if he suffered for the Christ…if he died an unjust life…what are you complaining about? John grasped this about God; “…he seemed to grasp a deep understanding of the unfolding drama in which he had been caught. He seemed to understand something that few of even the wisest men of his day understood…God wanted a broken vessel.” Are you willing? In the immortal words of Jesus incarnate: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”