When Jesus Leaves Us in Prison

A lot of times as I follow Jesus, I feel like things turn out differently than what I expected. I believe and tell everyone that he is redeeming the world, but I feel very little redemption happening in my own life. The confusion and suffering of life causes me to look up to heaven and ask into the seemingly endless void if Jesus is the one I am looking for or if I should look for something or someone else.

Several days ago, I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to study in Scripture. When this happens, I usually return to one of my favorite verses that God has used to speak to me multiple times throughout my life. Matthew 11:28-29 is one of my favorites, so I decided to take a look through Matthew 11.

John the Baptist, who was given the task of announcing the coming of the Savior and even told everyone that Jesus is the Savior they had been waiting for, is imprisoned at the beginning of Matthew 11. John the Baptist’s doubt becomes evident when he sends messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you the one we have been waiting for, or should we look for another?” Jesus tells him that “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Jesus doesn’t get John out of prison. He doesn’t keep him from being beheaded. He doesn’t give an explanation for why he doesn’t do these things either. The only other thing we hear about John the Baptist later is that he is beheaded.

However, I don’t think John needed any of those things after he hears Jesus’ reply. I think he was at peace with whatever was coming his way.

Many times, we have the same kinds of questions. We wonder if Jesus really is who he said he is. We wonder why life is so difficult, and why we have to put up with suffering, hardship, and mundane, meaningless routines and mistreatments.

Jesus’ response to John reveals that just because I am suffering does not mean the story of redemption isn’t unfolding. Just because my life, body, or mind is falling apart doesn’t mean God’s kingdom isn’t being built and put together.

Our lives feel messy and short a lot of times, and we may not see any kind of plot unfolding. We may feel like all the loose ends will never be tied up, and that usually gives me a feeling of angst and anxiety.

But this exchange between John and Jesus reminds us that we aren’t the stars of the show. My personal story is not the story. There is a much bigger story of God’s redemption at work, and I am only a small part of that story. This doesn’t mean I am not important. Instead, it means I am important because God, in his grace, decided his overarching story of redemption was incomplete without me.

I don’t think a belief in a world of meaning and stories is a far fetched or naive. All humans around the world, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality, intuitively understand the concept of stories. We all desire a reality of a world with a beginning, middle, and end. We all long for the beautiful, cathartic resolution to our struggle. If Jesus did defeat death by rising from the grave, then sure, we will still die, but like Jesus said to John the Baptist, “the dead are raised up.” Jesus has the power to overcome death, and he has defeated death through his resurrection. Jesus is bringing about the resolution.

Like John the Baptist, I don’t have to fear the imprisonment of difficult life circumstances and suffering, and I don’t have to fear death because I follow a man who showed me how to walk into the grave and come out on the other side freer and more alive than I will ever be on this side of the story.

Photo by Peter Chiykowskion Unsplash