Our passage today will bring up several different types of desires and several types of satisfaction. Some are good, some bad and some neutral.
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.”
When John the Baptist saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he had some harsh words for them. He knew coming to observe him was insincere. One thing he said that was not so harsh though was,
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matt 3:8 ESV throughout)
This is helpful for anyone. His point was that no birthright or position, however lofty or admirable, was going to be enough to please God. Those with the best social standing still need to repent. And repentance, that turning from sin toward God with a new attitude toward both, is going to be visible. One passage that shows us the contrast of a pre/post repentance life is Gal 5:19-24.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Another helpful passage is Col 1:9-11,
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.
Finally, Hebrews 13:15 adds a bit more.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
May our lives be full of good fruit, evidence that we have changed our minds, attitudes and hearts concerning sin and turned wholeheartedly toward God in Christ.