John the Baptizer was quite disappointed that Jesus did not arrange for his release from prison. It was John who introduced Jesus to the scene when he proclaimed to all that listened to him saying, “here comes the Lamb that is going to take away the sin of the world”. It was this John that baptized Jesus, and suddenly the Heavens opened and God endorsed Jesus before the world. So he was not ignorant about the person of Jesus, but there was a twist.
He ended up in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. For John said to him, “it is against the Law for you to have her”. He would have killed John but he was afraid of the people because they thought of John as the one who spoke for God. So, Herod decided to incarcerate him and while he was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was truly the One they were expecting. Yes, it was the same John who sent his disciples to Jesus.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick – delay in the accomplishment of some much-desired good occasion causes the sinking of the spirits, languor, and despondence. When the expected and desired good is obtained, it’s a ‘tree of life’ – that is, most sweet, satisfactory, and reviving to the soul. John must have expected Jesus to do something about his incarceration but little did he know that God was saying NO to him; thereby signifying the end of his ministry. He was meant to introduce Jesus to the scenery and if he hadn’t been incarcerated, he would have continued to run his ministry in parallel to the newly established ministry of Jesus. In his frustration, he sent that message.
Peter was put in prison as he witnessed about the resurrection of Jesus; he stood with all boldness after the episode of Pentecost, Jesus had told him that He was going to establish the Church and the gates of hell wouldn’t be able to prevail against the Church. So no matter what prison he was put in, some miracle had to happen because he still had a lot to do and carry out for God. He either disappeared from the prison or the prison gates would open on their own, setting him free. So, God had His reasons for allowing John the baptizer to remain in custody. It wasn’t going to be a difficult task for God.
Paul and Silas were also incarcerated when they proclaimed the Gospel. They were put in prison and they decided to pray and sing praises to God. At midnight, the prison gates opened on their own accord and the prison warden thought they had escaped and he was going to kill himself. God had purposed that this prison warden would be saved and someone had to go to prison to proclaim the gospel of salvation and also to baptize the new convert. After the prison warden was saved, Paul was released from prison. Their release from prison was not because they sang and prayed but because God still had an assignment for them to accomplish. If the singing and the prayer were the case, one would begin to wonder if John didn’t pray enough as he was wrongly imprisoned.
The Bible also reports the numerous occasions when Jesus was supposed to have been picked up by the Pharisees, Scribes and the Sadducees and He would slip out of their hands. They couldn’t pick him because it wasn’t His time according to the plan of God. When it was time for Him to be picked up, nothing would stop that because picking Him was part and parcel of God’s plan. At such a time, God said NO when Jesus was picked up, as He prayed, “let this cup pass over…not my will but your Will be done”. By God saying NO to Jesus, God’s Will was going to be accomplished.
John the Baptizer sent his disciple to go and ask Him if He was the expected Messiah, He was indeed the expected Messiah they were expecting. Jesus in return told John’s disciples to tell John what they saw and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation and hospitality extended to them. He continued and said, “is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves fortunate”. He didn’t say anything to John’s disciples about the future of John the Baptist and his incarceration.
Many Christians are in one or more prisons and little do they know that the prison is part and parcel of the Will of God and nothing can change it. Getting released from the prison of life (pain, sickness, divorce…to mention a few) is dependent on the plan of God. If it is part of the plan of God for you to be released, nothing can stop it, you would be released but at God’s own time. The singing and praying by Paul and Silas is no formula for your release from the prison; God had predestinated that they would be released.
When it was time for Jesus to be crucified, nothing could stop it; He had to go through the pain and complete agony. He was slapped and spat upon; He was made to carry His own cross until He ran out of strength; He was walked out of the city gate which was a powerful symbol of rejection by the community; He was nailed to the cross and when that time came He took a deep breathe and said, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me”, a spiritual abandonment and homelessness. God said NO to Him.
All this happened because, previously, it was prophesied by the prophets of old and the prophecies had to be fulfilled. It was all in the plan of God, for if Jesus did not die and on the third day resurrect, our testimony of being a Christian would have been aborted. No one would be a Christian because our acceptance with God is predicated on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Apostle Paul said, “we continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling short-changed. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit”.
You can never tell why God has allowed you go through that prison (not physical prisons though, but the many challenging situations we go through daily, that won’t go away even when we pray).
We know enough to make us know that we know very little. The most advanced intellects in the church are but as infants compared with the Ancient of Days. We are of yesterday, and know nothing: with all our experience, with all our study, with all our meditation, with all our illumination, we remain “little children” when measured by the boundless knowledge of the Lord – C H Spurgeon.
Of course Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for!