The wilderness is a showcase of barrenness. It is lacking in water, shelter, food sources and other things necessary to life. It is austere and unfinished.

I suppose to some, John might have appeared the same way. He was simple, unrefined and by many standards, seriously lacking in social graces. But it would be a big mistake to say that he was unfinished. Whatever else John was, he was finished and for that matter, a finisher.

He finished his work of preaching in the wilderness. He fulfilled His mission of baptizing Jesus and making Him known to Israel. He rejoiced in Jesus’ ascent and his decline because it meant he had completed his task. And when it was all done, the man of wide-open spaces found himself under lock down in Herod’s prison.

It was there this great soldier of the wilderness faced his toughest foe—self-doubt. He sent word to Christ to ask if He was the One or should they look for someone else?

Did John genuinely doubt who Jesus was or was he simply seeking reassurance? The first is possible I suppose, but I tend to lead toward the second. I think John had accepted his outcome but wanted to know if his life’s work had really been what he thought it was. He wanted to go to his death at peace with what he had done. Christ sent back word assuring John and calling him blessed. And with that, John did what he did best—he finished and went home to be with God.

Death is never the last word for those who belong to Christ. It is the first word of eternity. Jesus has been through the wilderness of death and back. And because He holds the keys to death and Hades, we can focus on finishing whatever He has called us to do.

Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18) 

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