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Though Jesus and John were relatives (their mothers were first cousins), John did not know Jesus personally as they were living far apart. It was God who revealed to John during the time of the Baptism that Jesus was the Messiah. John testified:

“And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptized with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33, 34)

John was a fearless preacher. He openly pointed out the people’s sins regardless of who they were. And because of his straight testimony, he was imprisoned by Herod, the ruler of the Jews.

“For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not.” (Mark 6:17)

Probably John was expecting Jesus to come and rescue Him from prison with His wondrous display of supernatural power. But, instead of moving in that direction, when He came to know of John’s imprisonment, Jesus moved farther away!

“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee.” (Matthew 4:12)

John was updated by his followers of the marvelous works of Jesus. And he sent emissaries to Him.

“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2, 3)

It says he had heard of “the works of Christ,” and then sent messengers with his questions of doubt. If he did not hear of the marvelous works that Christ was doing, for John to cherish doubt would be understandable. But having heard of His works and doubting is a strange paradox!

The thought that troubled John was-how come Jesus was not coming to help him? Was His power limited and just ordinary? Is it that He could do only small miracles, and therefore it was not possible for Him to rescue John?

The sympathizing Savior understood the struggle that John silently was going through. He did not rebuke him but gave him more evidences so that all his doubts that Satan was trying to put in would be swept away.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4, 5)

Many mighty miracles were performed right there, even the raising of the dead. So that would have given John hope and courage to face any eventuality boldly, even death, for the Messiah’s power extends beyond life, beyond death, beyond any challenge!

John, being a prophet, would have known the Old Testament passages regarding the work of the Messiah that was foretold in the same book of Isaiah that also talked about his mission. That Old Testament prophecy was getting fulfilled right in the sight of John’s messengers. Isaiah penned down the prophetic words:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1, 2)

Christ gently rebukes his forerunner with a blessing intact in it. He said:

“Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matthew 11:6)

The above verse indicates that there is a possibility for one to be offended with the ways of Jesus. He may not work the way we want Him to, He may not answer our prayers the way we would like it to be answered, and He may not give us the things we want. The same Gospel prophet recorded:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

Jesus was reminding John of the ways and approach of God that is so much different from man’s finite approach. He was inviting John to commit his thoughts to God’s leading, whatever might be the outcome.

John indeed stumbled, but Christ strengthened him in his hour of crisis with works and words of love!