Questions from a Prison Cell

I thought that following Jesus would be like walking a straight line.

Not so much.

Sometimes there’s a straight path but then it’s a trail in the woods and you find yourself bushwacking as He seems to double back and then circle around a few times before leading you to a spot where suddenly there’s only mud or sand and the way is truly unclear.

Raise your hand if this has been your experience following our Lord.

I think this was His cousin’s experience.

John the Baptist was close to Jesus. Born only months apart, their parents knew from the womb these were men of destiny. There had to be a bond.

John led the way, preaching to all who would listen about the Lamb of God. He baptized Jesus and was present when the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.

John, like every other faithful Jew of Israel in that time, welcomed the long-awaited Messiah and must have thought that the path to the throne and to deliverance for his people would be a straight one now that Jesus had arrived.

But, in Matthew 11, we find John in prison, locked up at the request of silly girl manipulated by an adulterous mother.

I wonder what John expected.

Probably not that he would end his life on the blade of Herod’s sword. Probably not that Jesus would not come and free him. Probably not to hear reports of Jesus teaching and preaching far from Jerusalem in little no-name fishing villages and small account towns where no one of power and influence lived.

John sent word to Jesus through his own followers and the word was this – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11: 3

I get that. John was saying something like “Hey, I was following you, Jesus. I was so sure you were the one. I’ve been your biggest supporter. I’ve made my life all about you,

but – this isn’t working out the way I expected it. So, now I’m wondering. Is it really you?”

The desperation of a follower in this state is captured beautifully in the song “Could We Start Again, Please?” by Andrew Lloyd Webber: “I’ve been living to see you, Dying to see you but it shouldn’t be like this. This was unexpected, what do I do now? Could we start again please?”

I believe there is a moment like that in the life of every follower of Christ. Sometimes there are several moments like that. When Jesus walks ahead and we’re standing, still wondering if we want to keep following across that terrain.

In the beginning, we know Jesus is the truth. He is all we want and we set out to follow Him, certain He will lead us on a straight path

But He doesn’t seem to care about straight paths. Or our comfort. Or our fears. Or our expectations. Or our desire to camp out by the side of the path to build shelters along the way.

He’s heading somewhere and if we want to travel with him, we need to let go of all that. And as we follow and drop it all, we begin to appreciate traveling light – when we’re not terrified, that is.

Others who’ve followed him leave hints that they, too, have known what we know.

Like J.R.R. Tolkien, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.”

He visited that prison cell. Probably sat next to John’s ghost, heard his voice in the wind.

I’ve sat beside them both and heard them whisper – go ahead. Follow Him, even now.

Do you hear them encouraging you on? Listen. You will.

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1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. I love what you said about traveling light. Great!