Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Mind of John the Baptist

In The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge pints our how often the theme of prison recurs in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. Two oft-cited examples are Joseph and Paul. But we tend to overlook Samson and Jeremiah, and Peter and John (exile to Patmos being a form of prison). Others had experiences akin to prison, like David when he was being hunted by Saul. Jesus was imprisoned for a short time.

And then we have John the Baptist.

Set apart from before his birth, John became known for letting his hair grow, wearing wild animal skins and eating locusts and honey. He had a message that attracted people, lots of people. He was clearly a holy man, called by God to bring a very specific message.

Make way.

Make way for the Lord.

He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. And then his ministry began to wane, heading for a close. He was imprisoned for speaking the truth about Herod and his wife. Imprisoned, and left to languish. Herod didn’t seem to care; his wife did, however.

We don’t know how long John was imprisoned. But we do know he was feeling alone, and likely anguished. He had done all that the Lord had asked of him, and how he was left alone in Herod’s prison.

Alone, but not forgotten. Salome danced, a dance of lust that became John’s warrant for execution.

What did he think in those final hours, before the dance? Was in prayer, or despair? Or both, perhaps?

What did he think as the heard the soldiers coming, handling him roughly, and dragging him out to be executed (unless they beheaded him right there in his cell)? The soldiers were likely the only witnesses to the sword falling on his exposed neck. What ran through his mind in those final moments as the executioner began to swing the sword?

We don’t know. We can only imagine. We can try to put ourselves in his place, but the fact is we don’t know.

Could God have saved him? Yes.

But He didn’t. For whatever reason and purpose, He didn’t save John.

When Jesus was told, we read he went away by himself. He mourned his cousin, and he caught a glimpse of his own future.

The execution of John the Baptist seems unfair, and wrong. And it is, because of the injustice inflicted on John by Herod and his family.

But whatever else we might think, we know John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord, even in his death.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see more posts on this chapter, “Prison Theology,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Photography by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


TC Avey said...

Great post. Reminds me of John 3:30.

I'm not sure John knew what he was asking when he prayed this, but it shows his heart for more of God.

That's what I want, more of God.

God uses our waiting periods to bring us closer to Him.

I've read a few different books on Bonhoeffer (I posted about him today related to this chapter)and in one of the books he says that when he was younger he asked for more faith (I'm paraphrasing)...God answered. Bonhoeffer gave everything for Christ.

jasonS said...

You're so right, Glynn. It's not always as simple as we would like it to be. Letting John die challenges our perceptions of God's goodness, but He is indeed still good and perfect. We think He should have done something for this man of God, but we don't see the whole picture as He does. We do well to understand bits and pieces at times. Love your thought about preparing the way even in death. Challenging post in a great way, Glynn. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

To me, in this account, can be seen the heart of each of the people in my own heart. And i don't always look at it in everyday happenings, or in accounts of the bible, but i think it is there none the less, to be seen.

We all allow people to die, when we can do something, or do more than we do. And what do we do instead?

Of course, it's the word, and the word is revealed by the Spirit to each person. And i don't know how that is done. But, it seems like the word covers more than one idea in the power of the Spirit.