By the Way With Joel Meeker
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Blessed Is He Who Is Not Offended Because of Me

A story of life and death in a desert cave teaches a challenging lesson about our Christian calling.

To the east lay parched Jordanian deserts leading to the Saudi border. To the west I gazed thousands of feet down to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the earth’s surface, 1,410 feet (430 meters) below sea level. All was wild and desolate beauty; King Herod chose with care the sites of his fortified palaces.

I could only imagine the walls and palace, because Machaerus was razed by a Roman army. I also imagined a righteous martyr beheaded here, according to Josephus: John the Baptist. Tradition says he was held in one of several caves halfway down the eastern mountainside.

John, a courageous servant of God, had called on people to repent. He announced the ministry of Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:16-17).

John had also publicly called for repentance from Herod Antipas, who had openly taken his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own. This rebuke earned John the hatred of Herodias and, shortly after John baptized Jesus, an unjust imprisonment by Herod.

John’s challenge

Standing in the caves, I tried to imagine John’s thoughts. The Bible gives no indication that he knew in advance how his life would run its course or how it would end. (Sounds like you and me!) He heard the news of Jesus’ ministry while he languished, perhaps as long as a year.

Discouraged, he doubted. Had he expected Jesus to act differently—to immediately burn the chaff with fire? To establish the Kingdom of God? To free faithful John from his unjust punishment?

John sent disciples to Jesus with a question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).

Jesus replied that they should tell John what they heard and saw: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (verse 5)—all evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Jesus then gently warned: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (verse 6). Blessed is he who accepts that God’s plan and His will for us sometimes don’t meet our human expectations, even in painful and humiliating trials.

Present sufferings and future glory

After addressing John’s disciples, Jesus praised their master: “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (verse 11). Yet even for this great man, accepting God’s will for him was, at times, very difficult.

The Bible says John never left prison alive. At the instigation of an adulteress and by order of a wicked king, he was decapitated; his head paraded on a charger. His reward awaits him in the Kingdom of God.

The future is where our gaze must rest, not on what happens around us now, however challenging, because “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). This is part of the regimen of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

In times of trial it is crucial to recall: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

—Joel Meeker
@JoelMeeker

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