You will recognize that as Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s question, asked from Herod’s prison. John had sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether He was “the one who was to come, or shall we look for another?”
It is an understandable question, asked out of a genuine heart’s desire for the Kingdom of God to come to earth as it is in heaven.
Life was going very differently for John the Baptist than he had expected.
First of all, John was sitting in Herod’s prison for denouncing Herod’s choice of a wife.
But that’s what prophets do. They see in black and white. No shades of grey. And they unequivocally call out sin and call for repentance. Herod had two choices: repent or silence the irritating challenge to his decisions. He chose the latter and, as a result, John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry came to a sudden stop.
That wasn’t what John had expected.
Or anyone else.
God had blessed John with nation-shaking impact at the Jordan River and the Pool of Siloam, in the heart of Jerusalem. All of Israel was buzzing in the early stages of spiritual revival. Now, all of that had come to a grinding halt, and the future didn’t look very promising.
This had to have troubled him deeply.
Another concern John the Baptist had, sitting in Herod’s prison, was that Jesus’ ministry had not turned out the way John had expected.
A prophet sees the present in black and white, but the future in technicolor.
John was convinced that Jesus would usher in the Kingdom of God, right then and there…a kingdom that would bring immediate judgement on all injustice, inhumanity, sin and darkness and would depose any reign or rule on the earth that refused the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
That didn’t appear to be happening.
Not even close, and John’s imprisonment in the jail of an imposter king was all the evidence his doubts needed.
So, possibly sensing his end was near, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether they should be looking for another Messiah.
The ESV study notes on these verses are very helpful. They say of John that he is “probably concerned because his present imprisonment does not match his understanding of the Coming One’s arrival.”
But this is not a problem unique to John!
On our best day, we still see through a glass dimly. Our interpretation of God’s gracious voice to us is still subject to our humanity. And when our outcomes don’t match what we believed would happen, we are left with huge doubts, just like John.
John had heard correctly about the Messiah and the coming Kingdom. His interpretation of what that would look like was colored, however, by what he believed he knew of the Kingdom and what he saw and sensed happening around him. In other words, he got the message right but missed on the application.
In answer, Jesus sent John a beatitude that applies to all of us: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.”
The ESV study note is helpful again. “John and his disciples must be open to God’s unfolding plan even though it does not match exactly their expectations.”
Stop right there and think about that for a moment.
That is SO powerful for each of us.
Does it mean we stop listening for His voice? Absolutely not!
Does it diminish the role of the prophetic in our lives? Absolutely not!
Does it dampen our expectation for the promises of God given for our lives and those we love? Absolutely not!
What it does mean is that we allow God the final word, convinced that He is always good, and that He is always working for the Kingdom good in us and those we love… even when circumstances don’t “appear” to match our expectations.
Let’s be willing, in ways that never diminish the wonder of hearing from God, to recognize our humanity in our ability to understand and apply God’s word to us.
Our confidence remains anchored in God!