The mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins (Luke 1:36). Jesus and John lived at the same time, but John died a little earlier after having his head cut off by Herod the tetrarch at the request of Herodias, his brother’s wife (Matt 14:3-11). He had thrown John the Baptist in prison after John told him that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife.
And there, locked up in prison, John the Baptist started losing hope and faith. He became so discouraged that he sent two of his disciples to enquire of Jesus:
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt 11:2-6 ESV)
John himself had previously witnessed to the fact the Jesus Christ was the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, even baptizing Him in the Jordan River. He had probably even personally witnessed Jesus performing some miracles, but his attention was now turned on the fact that Jesus hadn’t delivered him from prison. If Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah who came to establish God’s kingdom, why didn’t He bother to rescue John from prison? John had allowed himself to become offended by what he thought Jesus was supposed to do while failing to pay attention to what Jesus was doing.
Lots of Christians today allow themselves to become offended when they don’t see their prayers answered. We know that it’s always God’s will to heal, bless and prosper us – but that’s not the issue here. It’s when we don’t see our prayers answered that it’s important for us not to shift our focus away from what we know God’s will to be, and to press in regardless. We live by faith, not by sight. And when we become discouraged, Rom 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word. So when this happens we simply need to direct our focus back to the Word (Jesus). We need to remember that there is an enemy who battles against us and he doesn’t always leave at our first command.
It’s also a fact that God’s will does not always come to pass. If it were true that everything which happens on the earth is God’s will, then it means that God approves of all the wars, famines, violence, abuse, hurt and all the other vile things that is taking place on the planet as well.
Least in the Kingdom
Jesus told His disciples:
Truly I say to you, Among those who have been born of women there has not risen a greater one than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (Matt 11:11-13 MKJV)
And then in Luke 7 we see He adds a little extra bit:
For I say to you, Among those who are born of woman there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luk 7:28 MKJV, emphasis added)
Now think about it, what made John the Baptist so great? What made him greater than all the other mighty prophets in the Old Testament? Think about Moses and all his exploits. Think about Elijah, Samuel, Jeremiah, etc. Why would Jesus say that John the Baptist is greater than all of them? Because what makes a prophet great is his message. All the other prophets said “Jesus is coming.” But John the Baptist got to say: “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.” He got to say “Jesus has arrived!!” And that’s what made him greater than all the other prophets.
And then Jesus also said: “But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” So what’s going on here? Well, John the Baptist, as great as He was, was not in the Kingdom yet, because He wasn’t filled with the Spirit. So any Christian, after the cross, who gets to be filled with the Spirit and gets to partake of the Kingdom, is greater than John the Baptist. This changes everything!
When we realize what privileges we have been given in this life, it changes the way we think, talk, pray and also everything we do! It influences the way we approach every situation in our lives because when we are confident of the fact that He who lives in us is greater than he who is in the world.