Herod likes having him there – we are told he enjoyed theological conversations with John – but John is not free. And captivity can do things to even the strongest of people. Here we glimpse John in despair, perhaps wondering if he got it wrong. Among the most poignant words in the Gospels are:
“When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? That’s a question John asks for all of us at one time or another, when suddenly we’re not sure, when too much time has passed without a sign of God’s power at work, when our prayers don’t seem to have been answered, or the walls have fallen in somewhere. "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
Jesus’ response is to point not to himself, but to his works, to the fruit of his ministry:
When our faith dims and our hope weakens, we can remind ourselves of the goodness of God which we have tasted. We can remind each other of answered prayers and amazing “coincidences” that led to even more amazing outcomes. We can sharpen our awareness of divine activity around us. We can focus our vision to see the Spirit at work in other people – often easier than seeing God's hand in our own lives.
This week, keep watch: where are you catching glimpses of God-Life? Write them down. Remind yourself. Remind a friend.
We all have moments like John's, even without the suffering he endured. And we all know people asking that question, especially these days. Jesus answers us as well: "Go and tell what you hear and see."
I pray you will hear and see amazing things today, this week, and that you get really good at telling. For God is still doing amazing things in and through and around us, and there are a lot of people in captivity waiting to hear that Good News.