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What about me?

There are a couple of ways of looking at John's question to Jesus in Luke 7:19 ("Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?").  We can take it as John asking for himself, or we could understand him asking for the benefit of his disciples. Either way, his continued imprisonment seems to have prompted the inquiry. Luke tells us in v. 18, that when “John’s disciples told him about all of these things,” (i.e., the healing of the centurion's servant and the raising of the widow's son), John’s response is to send two of them to talk to Jesus. The subtext seems to be something along the lines of --- “Others are being delivered by Jesus (strangers, in fact), yet no deliverance for Your relative John. How can that be? What about me?

 

I suppose we could just as easily ask (and others have), "How could John have any doubts that Jesus is the One?" After all, he was the one at the Jordan who immersed Jesus in the river.  He was the one who saw the Spirit descend as a dove.  He was the one who heard God's voice.  He was the One who identified Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Now he wants to know if Jesus is the One!

 

But the truth is of course that we aren't evidentiary machines --- we are a complex of attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and many other things. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why this soldier of Christ might struggle under such circumstances. The one who freely roamed the wilderness is now confined to a cramped cell. He seems to sense that his life's work (and indeed his life), is behind him and he wants to know what any of us would in that situation --- "Has my life counted? Did God use me as I think He did?" I don’t think it’s primarily martyrdom that John fears, it's meaning he is searching for. And I think it is John who is seeking this because that's the way Jesus handles the question. If it were John's disciples, we would expect Jesus to directly address them. But He doesn't. He tells them, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard," (v. 22). It sounds to me like John is the one with the need to know.

 

Jesus reassures John that He is the One to come in the same way He announced His ministry to the people of His hometown in Luke 4:14ff --- by quoting Isaiah 61 to the point that the Jubilee (the year of the Lord's favor), has arrived in Him.  He then pronounces a blessing on the person who doesn't fall away because of Him. This last part is Jesus’ personal message to John.  It's His "hang in there," issued to a soldier, a relative, and a friend. Friends of Jesus always get delivered --- but not always in the way they want or anticipate. Blessed is the one who understand this.

 

It seems to me this is a message we hear too little of. Our prayer lists are bloated with people seeking immediate physical release. We all want to be the centurion's servant and be healed so we can get back to our lives. But in this world that has been broken and marred by sin, it might be that it is more in line with our Father's purposes for us to bear some brokenness in our lives --- all the while trusting Him in the midst of such circumstances. Isn't this exactly what Christ did at the cross? Isn't this the kind of thing we've been called to do (1 Peter 2:21ff)?

 

This is not an easy message but if we don't think this way a couple of things are going to happen. We'll remain spiritual infants who only care about getting our will done and we'll miss significant ministry opportunities. I know a man who five months ago today underwent radical throat surgery due to cancer. This was followed by thirty-three radiation treatments. I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say he's suffered quite a bit.  He didn't ask for cancer (no one does), but neither does he spend his time begging and pleading for a different set of circumstances.   He's gotten on with the business of living and his trust in God in the midst of his pain and brokenness is an inspiration and example to all.  

This is the kind of living Jesus was calling John to and he responded. It is the kind of living we should be calling each other to as well.
 
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