"Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, "It is not LAWFUL for you to have her." And though he wanted to put him TO DeaTh, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter." And the king was sorry, BUT because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John BeHeaDeD in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and TOOK THE body and buried it, AND they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew to a desolate place by Himself..." (Matthew 14:3-13a)
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John seems to have gotten the seriously short end of the stick here. Let’s think back for a moment to Luke 4:16-19 where Jesus promised to free the captives. Well, no one was more captive than John locked up in Herod's prison, and he wasn't set free. What's more, John was on a first name basis with the Christ; they were friends even while still in the womb! (Luke 1:39-45) While in prison, John heard of Jesus' miraculous works, and he sent messengers to Jesus, asking, “Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus’ answer? His answer was to perform more miracles for others, to heal people who were sick, proving that indeed He was the one to come, that the Kingdom of God was finally present on earth (Matthew 11:2-6).
All the while, John remained right where he was: in prison until Herod finally killed him.
John did everything he was supposed to do. He was the man who baptized Jesus. He paved the way for the Savior, preaching a baptism of repentance. He didn't take the glory for himself but rather reminded people that he was not the one to come, but One greater than himself was coming, whose sandals he was not worthy to carry (Matthew 3). But Jesus, who has all the power in the world at His very fingertips, did nothing to save him.
...or did He? Sometimes I feel like I'm left imprisoned while those around me are healed and set free, just waiting for some floozy to demand my head be served to her on a platter. Then I remember that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and friend, was also left to suffer. And I remember that Jesus, who has all the power in the world, did everything to save John, and He has done everything to save me, even unto death.
And so, just as He died to save us, being "saved" by Him likewise doesn't mean that we're spared the pangs of death. Jesus took on the sin of the world, and although John the Baptist did what he was supposed to do, he was not sinless. Jesus took on John’s sin, too. Jesus took on my sin and yours. He died for John, for you, and for me willingly because He loves us. John was captive in almost every sense of the word, but he was also free in the only way that matters: his life, like ours, was ransomed by Christ. And when our heads are served up on those platters, literal or proverbial, Jesus withdraws to a desolate place by Himself. In sadness? Perhaps. But most certainly in joyful anticipation of a conversation with us face to face, His brothers and sisters whom He died for.
So, how can someone be simultaneously free and imprisoned? Why, the same way we can be simultaneously saint and sinner of course: temporarily. We were all of us set free on the Cross of Christ. Upon Jesus' return, John the Baptist, too, will be raised up, alive, head intact, and free, and I shall have a little golden colon. :)
Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is from Romans 8:25
Pain Rehab buddies, remember to breathe!
"We wait for it -------> 5 count inhale
with patience." -------> 5 count exhale