The last sentence of our text reads, "And he [Jesus] healed every kind of illness and disease."
Now let's hear the first sentence of our text today. "When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee."
The second verse in our text today does not say this: "But before arriving in Galilee, Jesus went to the prison where John was kept and freed this messenger of God because John the Baptist had done such good works to advance the Kingdom of God."
Jesus never even visits John. To our knowledge through scripture, we also know that Jesus doesn't send an encouraging word to John. What scripture does tell us is that from prison, John is able to send two of his disciples to ask Jesus this question: "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting (the One who is coming), or should we keep looking for someone else (Matthew 11:3)?"
This question sounds like a cry from a hurting, disparaging soul. John does not send Jesus this message: "Jesus, it's okay. I'm good here in prison. You do Your work. I easily accept what may fate will likely be." No, John calls out to Jesus. And what scripture tells us is that Jesus doesn't not respond—at least in a way that is one, recorded, and two, in a way we can see.
But Jesus does respond. When he learns of John's death, he goes off quietly to grieve.
Now, think about that. It's kind of odd. Jesus grieves? Why? He doesn't have to. He can rescue John. He can at least draw near to John somehow, even if He can't enter that prison cell, and offer comfort through proximity.
Think about the Jesus you've heard about over the years, the Jesus I, myself, have shared with you over the years. Now consider this. Jesus knows John has been arrested, but the Son of God does not come to John's aid. Jesus doesn't rescue his own cousin, the wilderness guy who not only baptized him, but also prepared the way for him. Instead of succeeding with a prison escape plan that could be directed 2,000 years later by director Ron Howard in some major motion picture, Jesus leaves Judea and returns to Galilee. Now, speaking of films, John's ending in jail is like one bad horror movie. He's beheaded.
So, the four-dollar question is why didn't Jesus help John? The truth is we don't know.
Theologians remain over the map with answers to the "Where was Jesus?" question. After time and prayer, I think John knew why miracle-producing Jesus didn't show, and it's this: John's ministry had fulfilled its purpose. Of course Jesus cared for John, but Jesus didn't rescue him because, like John, Jesus had a job to do. Jesus' job, like John's job, was to follow His Father's will. Our job is to do the same.
Think about this. John being arrested foreshadows Jesus being arrested. John's death foreshadows Jesus' death.
The Garden of Gethsemane clearly reveals to us the human side of Jesus who asks for a different fate. SCRIPTURE. Scripture doesn't reveal Jesus saying, "I'm okay with dying, Father. This is Your will, and I'm good with it."
Even Jesus suffers. In fact, He suffers more than anyone at anytime. On that painful cross, He dies not for Himself; He dies for all of us sinners so that our sins—our stinking, messed up lives—can be saved. Jesus does His Father's will only after a question. John does His Father's will only after a question. We can do our Father's will and sometimes we have a lot of questions. When in great despair, when our lives have truly crashed at rock bottom and there is no thought of hope anywhere, our questions are like John's question from prison. Are you sure you are there, Jesus? Are you sure You are the Super Power Messiah? Are You the one? Because, if you're there, you seem so far away at best. If you're the Super Power Messiah, I don't see you flexing Your big guns in one of your routine rescue plans to save me from my ultimate disaster. If You are the One, why am I devastated?
Maybe your life hasn't plummeted into a pit. Mine has. Maybe from the most broken place you have been in, you have not asked this: If You are so good, why now is my life so bad?
Jesus didn't stop by to rescue John. He knew about his prison time, but He continued His ministry. We are to continue our ministry, too.
Here is your first scripture note. It's the only scripture I have in your note section today. It's Matthew 11:6. Blessed is the one who is not offended in me.
Understand what you've already pieced together when your life was in a gazillion pieces. Sometimes Jesus walks by. Sometimes Jesus seemingly does not respond. But He does. He responds to God's plan. God's plan is not to put yourself first. God's plan is for you to put God's Kingdom first. Heaven's door, and I'm speaking metaphorically, isn't about how pretty you looked through life. Heaven's door isn't about how well you did on your own terms. Heaven's door isn't about how well you did with what you wanted. Heaven's door is about how well you did when broken and spit on and still loved Your Lord.
We are human. Jesus gets our rants and our deep belly sobs. Jesus gets our angry confused, and utterly biting questions. Jesus gets how lost we can be in tragedy. Jesus understands what it is like when our child dies, when our sibling dies in pain, when our spouse leaves us in an embarrassing way. Jesus understands what cancer takes away. Jesus understands our pride, how we want to look good and suffer so, so much less than anyone should. Jesus understands us. And He weeps for us, too.
He cried for John. He cries for us!
We don't see God's plan. We cannot see God's plan, but we can see—we can feel—a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son for us.
We should not be offended when Jesus doesn't save us. We should understand that it's a part of His plan. His plan, as we see in the lives of John and Jesus, is to bring glory to His name.
"Well," someone is thinking. "I don't want to give glory to His name. I want to live for my gain, not His."
It doesn't work that way. You who have said that life is about "me" and not about God have likely learned a thing or two about God and about life. What you've learned is this: it is about God. It is all about God. Our church has empty seats because there are a lot of us out there who still want the control. By ignoring or by marginalizing God—and we can do that to a certain extent, and at times we can push away God very, very well—we leave God alone.
Here are two questions. Why do we break? Why are we sometimes hurt by the hardships of life? We break so that we learn that this life isn't about us. It's about God. We break so that we see where God is, and how God is.
This leads to our second point. The best place for us to begin to minister is from a place of brokenness. You cannot truly hear how scary it is to lose a job until you've lost yours. You cannot truly hear how hard it is to raise a child until you've raised one yourself. You cannot truly hear a dad who lost his daughter until you've lost a child yourself.
We minister from our broken places as Jesus ministered from His.
Jesus doesn't save John. Jesus does not rescue John. What is interesting here in the fourth chapter of Matthew is that Jesus is about to embark on His public ministry. He is about to begin His years out there on the road. And He begins broken. His heart is heavy-laden. John was trying to do a good thing. John didn't land in jail because he robbed a bread store or stole a pile of fish. He was speaking to Herod about God's law. John didn't turn from God; John was turning toward God. And this sends him to prison.
Jesus knew this. Jesus wept over this.
This story of how Jesus did not respond to John teaches us something so important. Jesus came to free us from bondage, spiritual bondage.
Jesus didn't come so that we'd have trouble-free lives here. In fact, in this life we have trials and tribulations. But Jesus came here so that we'd have spiritual bondage.
At one point while in jail, John didn't get it. Sure, he baptized Jesus. Sure, he heard the voice from above saying that Jesus is God's Son, the beloved. But he was thinking what maybe you have thought at one time or another—that he didn't have to hurt anymore. He didn't have to suffer if this God of his is so good.
Jesus doesn't always free us from our prisons or our places of pain. But Jesus does free us to a life forever with God, the Father.
Be obedient to God. Minister from your place of brokenness. Understand that Jesus frees from every kind of illness and disease if not here, then in heaven.
A seventy-something here in our church told me this past Thursday that her golden years weren't so golden. I could definitely see that. There's pain in her heart. There's sadness in her life because there is hardship in the lives of those around her. She's broken. Like you, illness and disease is something she experiences daily. It's a hard lesson sometimes, a very hard lesson, but when we learn that it is His glory we live for, not our own, there are golden years. This is not our will be done. This is His will be done.
How is His will done? From your broken place, pick up your mat and walk.