John the Baptist is in prison where he begins to question his confidence in Jesus. The cities in which Christ ministers do not respond. The doubts of a saint, however, are massively different from the doubts of a skeptic.
Like most others I was appalled when I heard about the bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. It is difficult to quantify cruelty, but the hundreds killed seem to make it harder to even know how to respond.
At least one Sri Lankan Christian has taken the time to do so. I can’t do any better than share what Ajith Fernando said. His thoroughly biblical response illustrate why he is deservedly among the most respected Christians anywhere. Read what he had to say on the website of Christianity Today.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Today I am feeling especially weak in my labors and I sense that I need your rest. It is not merely a physical rest that I am in need of, but a spiritual rest for my soul. Help me not to let my burdens get the best of me, but rather help me to share them with you. Help me to experience your rest, the spiritual rest that only you can give.
I desire to learn from you, Lord Jesus. Teach me what it is to be gentle and lowly in heart just as you are. It is precisely in this lowliness that I am reminded I was not meant to bear these burdens alone. You invite me to serve alongside you. Just as two oxen were joined by their yoke, I desire to be joined with you. It is then and only then that I will not be heavy laden in my service. Again, help me to experience your rest, the rest that only you can give.
Your yoke is easy and your burden is light. How different this is from the yoke and the burden of the world. Elsewhere you said that apart from you, we can do nothing. How true that is, and how clear it is that laboring alone, without you, is foolish. Please take my work, my labors, my heavy burdens upon yourself and place your yoke upon me.
Help me, Jesus, to experience the work that is actually rest when I labor together with you. There is really no other way for me to effectively serve.
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 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. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
John the Baptist was languishing in prison. Conditions were harsh even for him, a man unaccustomed to comfort. Further, he was not a criminal, and he knew he didn’t belong there. Where was that Messiah that was going to set the world right? Jesus was certainly that very man, wasn’t he? There was the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove. He was a relative and John knew him well enough to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the one. But again, here he was, locked up and no happy ending anywhere in sight. Who can blame him for asking Jesus for some word of hope or instruction?
The doubts of a saint are vastly different from the doubts of the skeptic. When we find we don’t have the Jesus we wanted, we need assurance, even if we are determined to believe. It’s a question of trust. We can trust someone during difficult times, but still acknowledge that the times are difficult. Disappointment with God is a real thing. Our faith may waver, but it will not fail. Surely, as we wait, God will strengthen our heart.
The skeptic sees things differently. Difficulties just add to his denials. She builds a wall of doubt out of bricks inscribed with objections. Trials are never an acceptable outcome of obedience. Disobedience can always find its reasons.
The saint knows better. The narrow gate and the difficult way lead to life. The rugged cross is something to cherish and something to cling to, while awaiting to exchange it for a crown. Is this the Jesus we wanted? No matter, it is the real Jesus. And he would tell us the same thing he told John:
“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.”
In Romans 5:7-9 Paul reminds us,
7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Today we remember the greatest example of love the world has ever known. This is the day we remember that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. True, Paul writes this at a time when many who would read it were alive at the time of Christ’s death. He could say “while we were still sinners” and look back on the crucifixion and the space of time before he believed in its value. We look at it somewhat differently.
Notre Dame altar cross, early Tuesday, April 16, 2019, by Philippe Wojazer, Reuters
From our standpoint Christ died before we were ever born. He died before we ever sinned. He also died long before we saw our need for a Savior. How wonderful that by the time we saw our need, the Savior was risen. The price for our sin had already been paid. All that was lacking was our making use of Christ’s payment and asking it to be applied to us.
The love he shows to us is every bit as great as if we had known Christ personally while he walked the earth. He was the lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world. We are the sinners, who have corrupted the world by our sin.
As children of the very wealthy are in danger of not appreciating the true cost or worth of their riches, we run the risk of not appreciating the price that Christ paid. We were born into a world whose sin was already dealt with at the cross. We have been forgiven based on a work done long ago, a completed suffering. We need to take some time to consider the cross. Grace can be freely extended to us only because our Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself to a death that we deserved.
Thank you, thank you Jesus.
Your Son reminded us that sometimes the best we can expect out of this world is trouble.
His disciples often faced difficulty, opposition and persecution and they endured. Give us that same kind of strength.
From Christ’s instruction we learn that our worst enemies and betrayers might be those we would expect to be our closest friends. Those who should love us and those we love may respond with hatred and rejection. We thank you that Jesus experienced all of this first. We are certainly no greater than he is.
Help us, Father, to remain steadfast, to be faithful and to endure. We may desire happiness, comfort, approval and blessings, but they may not be ours at this time. Just as Jesus endured to the end and was glorified, help us to stand firm knowing that his story did not end at the cross and neither will ours.
If we experience no glory or honor in this world, may our lives still bring glory to him, for Christ is worthy.