Last Sunday we explored the universe-changing truth that Jesus is King. But he’s not the sort of King most people of his day were expecting and he’s not the sort of King, God, Rescuer, Healer you might expect either. If you are disappointed, confused, and questioning who Jesus is I have great news for you: you’re in good company.
The greatest prophet in Israel’s history was a man named John the Baptist. Everything about him was special – his conception, his calling in life, his bold preaching, his popularity – the list is tremendous. He was Jesus’ cousin and his purpose for existence was to prepare the way for people to hear and receive Jesus. He boldly proclaimed the Messiah, the King, was coming, called people to repent, and drew a great following. He was an answer to prayer. He spoke God’s words and knew God well. And yet, perhaps like you, he was confused and disappointed with Jesus. How in the world does that happen?
John had confronted the Roman ruler of the area, King Herod, for his unscrupulous behavior. Herod, a married man, fell for his brother’s wife. He arranged to send his wife away and take his brother’s wife, Herodias, for himself. Jerry Springer would have been proud. John the Baptist took Herod to task for this immoral behavior, which landed John in a dungeon prison underneath King Herod’s palace.
John was apparently in prison for quite some time. Herod is hanging upstairs living a life of sin while John is in prison. Jesus is out proclaiming the gospel, healing people, casting out demons, and announcing the kingdom of God, and John is in prison. You can see why this would get confusing! When you are hurting, feel the weight of injustice, find yourself in a time of suffering, and see the wicked living the high life it is easy to get confused about who Jesus is, what he is doing, what he has promised, and if he’s trustworthy. So, John sent a question to Jesus (the one he had spent his life talking about!), “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3). Oh my! Do you hear what he’s saying? Have I spent my life announcing the wrong King? Are you the Messiah or not? Have both of us been liars? If you are King, why the heck am I locked up? John was confused and struggling. John was disappointed with Jesus. I find that massively encouraging.
Jesus’ entire reaction to John’s question is well-worth your careful consideration, but consider just these few words, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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” (Matt 11:4-6). There’s a carefully crafted message here that echoes way, way back into the Old Testament. Jesus is King but John’s not going to get out of prison.
Jesus is King. He brought, is bringing, and one day will bring in full his Kingdom. But Jesus as King does not mean life will be easy here on earth. It doesn’t mean all will be healed or spouses won’t leave or no one will die. It doesn’t mean cancer won’t come or money won’t run out or battling temptation won’t be difficult. And it certainly doesn’t mean we will reach a full understanding of what God is up to (John the Baptist ended up getting beheaded after a drunken party with table dancing). But, my dear friend, Jesus is King. Jesus rules and reigns! He has your very best interest in mind. What he wants most is for his glory to shine through you as you are changed into Christlikeness. And, at least for some of us, the path of change is a path of pain. Even in hardship Jesus reigns and is accomplishing his good pleasure.
Do you want to see Jesus as King, the King he really is? Than don’t look so much for what you want but what he wants. Don’t look to the structures and patterns of the world, but to the design and plan of God. And as you do this, release God is enormously gracious as his kids (us!) stumble on the path of understanding and misunderstanding his Kingdom. Jesus’ commendation of John the Baptist makes that crystal clear.
Confused and disappointed with Jesus? Let the Word of God in Matthew 11 soothe your soul.
See you Sunday,