By Joseph Ametepe
"Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken by into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Napthali" (Matthew 4:12-13).
The first news Jesus heard after His victory over Satan in the wilderness of Judea was sad indeed. It was the news of the arrest of a man who had set his heart on promoting Him. John had faithfully been serving the Lord. He stood steadfastly for righteousness. He didn't shy away from the declaring God's truth to all, even to the self-centered and self-righteous religious leaders of his day. John was committed to the task God had given him. He poured himself wholeheartedly into it. He didn't hold back anything. Truly, he was a devoted and dedicated servant of God. Yet in spite of all these, John found himself in prison. His crime was standing for righteousness. John was now in need of divine intervention in his life. He desperately needed God's help.
But notice something very strange and striking. When the Lord Jesus heard of John's plight and predicament He didn't rush to his defense. He didn't direct His energy and efforts toward working to bring deliverance to John. In fact, if there was any one whose side Jesus should rush and help, I believe it was John the Baptist, His faithful and fearless servant. But Jesus left Judea in the south of Israel and headed toward Galilee in the north of Israel. Did Jesus not care for His faithful messenger? Has Christ chosen to forget all about John? Has He turned His back on John at this critical time of need? So it seems. In fact, John's name would not be heard again until in Matthew 11 and later in Matthew 14:1-12 where the story of John's tragic death in prison was reported to Jesus. John must have felt abandoned. He must have felt forgotten by the Messiah. Perhaps it was this sense of feeling abandoned and forgotten that led John to send two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? (Matthew 11:2; cf. Luke 7:19-20). Clearly, John was wondering why Jesus didn't come to his defense. Like all other servants of God, John wanted God's help in his time of need. But God's help was not forthcoming. Jesus, the only One who could help John in his crisis simply withdrew from Judea and went to Galilee to begin His ministry after setting up base in Capernaum. Was Jesus too busy to care for John? So it seems!
Please notice that the Bible makes it clear to us that the movement of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum was a fulfillment of Scripture (see Matthew 4:14-17). In other words, Jesus was walking in the will of the Father. He was not ignoring John. Jesus was fulfilling God's will for His life. He was focused on the bigger picture of God's plan for His life. But it sure looks like He had forgotten all about John.
After John's disciples came to Jesus and asked if He was the Expected One, our Lord gave a glowing tribute to John. Jesus spoke of John as "one who is more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:9). He also spoke of John as one whose ministry had been predicted in the Scriptures (see Matthew 11:10). He also gave tribute to John saying, "among those born of women there has not arisen anyone one greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11). What's the point? Simply this! Jesus had not forgotten about John. Jesus had not abandoned John in the midst of his crisis. But then again, Jesus didn't take any decisive step to deliver John from his imprisonment. In fact, John languished in prison until the tragic story of his beheading was reported to Jesus. Why did Jesus not intervene in John's circumstance? Why did He let Herodias prevail in her wicked desire to murder John? The answer to these soul-searching questions is given to us by another servant of God who suffered the same fate as John. Speaking by the Holy Spirit during his first missionary journey with Barnabas, Paul (imprisoned and beheaded at the orders of Emperor Nero) says this of John: "While John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie'" (Acts 13:25). Please notice the expression, "completing his course." The work God had given John to do on earth was finished. John had fought the good fight. John had finished the course. John had kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for John the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to him on that day (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). John's work was done. Death would not be a defeat for him. Rather, it would be his deliverance into glory beyond all description. In essence, John was delivered. Jesus did not abandon him. Jesus did not fail him. Jesus did not forget him in his need.
Perhaps you are feeling forsaken by God in your circumstance. You've been faithfully serving Him. You've been steadfastly looking for His help in your crisis. But His help is not forthcoming from Him. You are therefore feeling ignored and forgotten. Please understand that you are not alone. Other faithful and devoted servants of God have experienced this. Take heart! Trust God! Turn to Him with your questions! Why? He cares about you. His concern for you has not waned in the midst of your crisis. His compassions never fail. As long as God is not done with you and as long as He has work for you here, He will, in His own gracious way and time, bring His deliverance into your life. He will intervene on your behalf. He will bring the help you need to advance and assist you in completing your course. To God be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen!