Maybe you have asked, “If Jesus saves, why doesn’t He save me?” Maybe you have just lost your job or your home. Maybe you have just received some awful news from your doctor. Maybe you just saw your picture on the post office wall. We find ourselves in deep trouble and call out to Jesus, “Save me!” Sometimes He does and sometimes He does not. Why not?
John the Baptist must have been wondering that same question. John was a prophet who was faithfully and fearlessly serving God. Not only that, he was Jesus’ cousin! If Jesus had the power to break John out of jail, why didn’t He do so? Jesus knew that John would be executed in prison and yet did nothing to free him. Why not? Why let John suffer and die?
it wasn’t that Jesus didn’t think John deserved it. He told His disciples:
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; …” (Matthew 11:11a)
But as good as John was, and as close as they were, there was something more important than John’s comfort and safety in play. Jesus continued:
“… yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. [John the Baptist]“ (Matthew 11:11b)
The worst person who is in the Kingdom of Heaven is better than the best person who is not. What did Jesus mean by that?
Here’s an analogy: The worst, piece of junk flip-phone that has service is better than the latest and fastest Google android mega-screen monster that does not. Phones can be powered up and have all kinds of cool graphics and games, but it they don’t have “bars,” they are dead. That’s because phones are designed to communicate by means of the invisible cell signal.
We humans were designed by God to communicate with Him, receiving and sending information, by means of His invisible Spirit in our souls. Without that Spirit, even though we are physically alive, we are spiritually dead. No “bars.” Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God and lost “all the bars of their Spirit service,” all of their descendants have been born dead, disconnected from the Spirit – even John the Baptist. Jesus’ primary mission was to give us the Spirit and bring us back to life. Everything else was secondary. He said,
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)
Jesus must have known that leaving John in prison would advance the cause of giving people real life in the Spirit. That eternal goal was far more important than John’s immediate comfort or freedom. If John could have known how his suffering would be used in that cause, he would have accepted it willingly. Joyfully.
I am convinced that God did not waste John’s suffering and that He does not waste your suffering either. I am convinced that if we knew how God uses our suffering to bring people to full life, we would be glad to be used by Him. It’s not that we want to suffer. We urgently pray and ask God to rescue us from it. But as we pray to our Savior and King, we line ourselves up with what He knows is best. “Thy will be done. Bring it on!”