John the Baptist: Perseverance
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ~Matthew 11:11 NIV
Aside from having your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, as far as words about one’s character goes, these are probably the best ever spoken about a human. What was it about John the Baptist that would lead Jesus to offer this level of praise toward him? Matthew 11:1-11 gives us some insight.
Have you ever been waiting desperately for an answer? A situation where it seemed your whole life rested on the outcome? Did the waiting ever shake your resolve and your faith? And when the answer came, did you wish you could be back in the waiting game? This is exactly where John the Baptist found himself. Matthew 11:2-3 records that while John was in prison he heard about the works Jesus was doing. “He sent his disciples to ask him “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Can you feel the anguish in the question? Besides being cousins, John the Baptizer dedicated his life to prepare the way for Jesus. He knew him as his personal Messiah, baptized in His name, and diverted all praise he received to Christ by testifying to the point “there is one coming whose sandals I am not fit to untie”. And yet, here is John in prison facing a death sentence.
Jesus gives John’s disciples the answer to his question, “Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
(Matthew 11:4–6, NIV) On the surface these words sound very encouraging. In fact they echo what the prophet Isaiah says will be signs to confirm the Messiah (Isaiah 35). So, in effect, John’s question is answered, whew. But John’s situation remains unchanged. As Jesus quoted this scripture He left out the passage that John was really concerning John. When John’s men returned and delivered Jesus’ answer, he was left with the question, yeah, but what about the prisoners? Included in Elijah’s list was, “the prisoners will be set free” (Isaiah 42). For John this wasn’t to be the case. He would die in prison. And yet, Jesus knew John would continue to persevere.
Even though John was in prison and even though he was sentenced to death, and even after his hope had been shaken, he was still resolved to press into Jesus. Jesus’ answer reminded him of in whom he had placed his trust. Jesus was not going to deliver him from prison or death in the physical, but He had already delivered him to everlasting life. Its with this knowledge John persevered even until death and completed his mission.
Today’s Training: Perseverance is not something we can work on. We can not train ourselves to persevere like John the Baptist did. We have to ask for it. It is a Fruit of the Spirit, and fortunately for Sons of God its supply is in abundance. So today, ask God in what areas do I need to persevere even in the face of an answer that doesn’t deliver me. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but I’d love to have a character statement like John’s scribbled in the margin next to it.