Pondering from Luke 7:17-23
Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth when she was pregnant with Jesus. When Mary entered the room, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. Elizabeth’s child was John the Baptist, and even in the womb this child knew. Later, in the wilderness, by the Jordan River, John the Baptist also knew. More than once, he proclaimed what he knew:
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
John the Baptist’s assurance about who Jesus was did not exclude him from struggle. On the contrary, for he later finds himself in prison, waiting to be beheaded. He had rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Herod put him in prison for this rebuke, and Herod’s new wife demanded the head of John the Baptist.
When John the Baptist heard of his impending death, we must wonder whether or not he questioned himself, and the Lord. Maybe he asked himself if he had given his life to the right things. Maybe he wondered if he loved his parents well. Had he honored God?
It would not have been the first time John the Baptist questioned Jesus. In Luke 7:19, he asks Christ (through his disciples): “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus responds to John’s disciples:
“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf here, the dead are raised to live, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”
And tell him, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” (Luke 7:22-23)
So we learn that Jesus miraculously heals and saves the needy. And if that’s not enough, we get to hear more stories about how he saves; Jesus heals a centurion’s slave and raises a widow’s son from the dead. So how are we understand why Jesus does not step in to save John the Baptist’s life? Seriously, how’s that for fair?
Have you ever said to Jesus, “Really, you can heal but you won’t heal me, my brother, mother, child?”
Jesus spoke to me as I read this passage; he said, “Jackie, what I’m doing is bigger than you. And yes, I can heal, but whether or not I do is not for you to decide. Be faithful. Trust me. I AM.”
Following Christ isn’t always safe. As Irwin McManus in the Barbarian Way states so beautifully, “This is the sticky part of the barbarian call. It’s not fair or equitable. When you hear the call, when you follow the call, you must recognize that it is a life-and-death proposition.” (McManus, 36)