- Burning Bush Boy
Being confined in a prison is not an experience one should desire. I have visited prisons, not as an offender, but in the line of duty as a journalist. From the little I know, I can tell you that it isn’t fun being incarcerated. In the prison, freedom is denied; food is regulated and movement is restricted. In fact, behind the prison walls you get to appreciate all you took for granted as a free man.
Within the prison walls, 48 hours make a day and not 24 hours as ordinarily should be. This is because the day crawls and seems longer when one is bound or pinned down by pain. Within the prison custody, a prisoner is left to imagine what the outside world is. Unable to have a feel of the outside world, he curls in and begins to paint pictures in his heart. Simply put, a prisoner is a man of many wide and wild imaginations.
It isn’t also strange hearing prisoners changing their opinions about people or beliefs they once held in high esteem before being imprisoned. Within the thick walls, he is forced to redefine people, beliefs and what he thinks matter in life. Due to the power of the prison, a prisoner’s values change. You shouldn’t, therefore, be surprised to meet him a changed person. Don’t be surprised hearing him making utterances completely different from those he made before he was registered as a prisoner.
You know I recently read about a man whose admission about a mighty man changed the moment he found himself in prison. Now, let me quickly make this clarification and that is you don’t have to be an offender to be imprisoned. You should know that there are many innocent men behind bars; many, who for the truth they held on to, are now lying in prisons all over the world.
To this man in question, he was imprisoned not because he committed an offence against the state, but because he could not stop saying the truth. As good as being truthful is, a truthful person should be prepared to be victimized. You don’t challenge those in authority with the truth and expect not to be knocked on the head with the rod of power. Of course, I am talking about dishonest men constituting an authority. You don’t expect such men to embrace the truth being presented to them, do you? This man, however, confronted a powerful ruler with the truth and this singular act earned him a cubicle in a maximum prison, next to the king’s palace.
In any case, whether a prisoner is an offender or as innocent as Joseph the dreamer boy, prison officials hardly seek to treat prisoners fairly. To many of these officials and in fact, going by the rules and regulations guiding prisoners and prison activities, all prisoners are likely going to undergo the same treatment. You do not think that I am aware that some prisoners enjoy legal or illegal preferential treatment? While I agree with you that they do, yet prison life is restrictive to all; even to the prison officials.
Back to the man who found himself behind the bars for speaking the truth. The king of the land, somehow, did not see any other woman to take as a wife, but the wife of his brother. In any sane society, this act is best described as despicable. Everyone knew it shouldn’t be, but nobody was bold enough to confront the king with the truth. Around the king were sycophants; all they wanted from the king was money, positions and other kingly bounties. Due to their selfish interests and greed, they were not anywhere near the position to challenge the wrong move of the king. Others, who are not praise singers, were merely unconcerned and so, they looked the other way. In all, the king had no one bold enough or even wise enough to query him; not even the king makers.
However, just when the king was settling down to enjoy his shameful marriage, a voice from the wilderness cried out against him. At last, we have someone bold enough to confront the king and his atrocity. Although it was a lonely voice, it was a very strong voice. The voice spoke expressly without mincing words. The challenging voice was bulky, sharp and direct; so much that the king could not dodge or ignore it, no matter how hard he tried.
When the voice could not, therefore, be quieted, the king felt it was time to have him imprisoned, and so he did. As you know that it is impossible to imprison air, (although some say air can now be imprisoned in inflated tubes or football) the voice continued to speak right within the prison.
With time, however, the effect of being incarcerated began to have its toll on the voice. The frustration built up until the voice had a strong reason to re-think one of his past positive confessions. No! He didn’t play down the evil act committed by the king nor did he sing another song about him, but he did sing a completely new song from his previous composition about his King of kings.
I wouldn’t know how many days or months the voice, John the Baptist, had spent in prison for challenging King Herod, (Mat. 14:3-5), but being human, the prison dealt a bad blow on him. He was so much dealt with that he had to re-consider his views about the personality of Jesus. I got to know of this by reading from the book of Matthew 11:2. “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are you the coming one, or DO WE LOOK FOR ANOTHER?’” You have just read one of the Bible’s statements built with apprehensions, hopelessness, regrets and doubts. You may add to the list.
Instead of I playing the fool by attempting to look down on John, a man who is already among the Cloud of Witnesses watching if I will ever make it home, I will rather be wise and allow his story to send me down on my knees. Excuse me, I must pray!
You didn’t get me, did you? I mean, if a man, who, not only because he was physically related to Jesus, (Luke 1:36), but had divine and personal revelation of the person of Jesus could at a point in his journey be fearful and doubtful, I have a lot to check about my life.
Before his imprisonment, if John did not know anything about himself, he at least knew that he was not the Christ. He confessed to the Jews in John 1:20 “I am not the Christ.” So if he was not the Christ, did John know the Christ? Yes!
It was John who baptized Jesus and this didn’t come without clear revelations from heaven. John realized immediately that the person (Jesus) standing before him was greater in every sense than him, hence he said to Jesus: “I need to be baptized by you and are you coming to me?” Mat. 3:14. Eventually, Jesus persuaded John to carry on with the baptism and right there, John personally saw the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove with a confirmatory voice from heaven: “This (Jesus) is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mat. 3:13-17)
If John was doubtful of the person of Jesus before the baptism, what he saw and heard after the baptism were enough to confirm that John actually knew that Jesus was the Christ. Did this same John not introduce Jesus to his own disciples? “The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29) Wait a minute! Here’s another confirmation. “Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples and looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’” (John1:35-36)
John remains the first and the best person who knew Jesus as the Christ. If this be the case, then it could only be that the torture of being imprisoned made John to doubt if Jesus was actually the Christ he waited for.
From his statement, John must have felt that if there was anyone capable of bailing him out of prison, it should be Jesus. They were not only biologically related, their ministries were also linked – John was the fore-runner of Jesus. Would it also be out of place for John to think that with the divine power imbedded in the Christ, his own relation, he should not actually spend more than a few minutes in prison? You’ll think the same way having a relation so powerful.
John did not just rush in sending men to Jesus; the Bible said that he had heard in prison about the works of Christ. People were bringing news to him of the exploits of Jesus, the Christ he publicly inaugurated, so to say. Mockers brought him news of the mighty works of Jesus outside there, trying to make him so how Christ had neglected His own. “If you are indeed so close to the Christ, why is He focusing on others and leaving you to rot in here,” they spite him with words.
From the prison confinement, John imagined the numerous faces Jesus was making to smile and wondered when his own turn to smile will come. “If what I hear of Jesus doing is true and I know it is true, because He has the power, then why hasn’t He paid me even a brief visit? If Jesus could be so benevolent with his power in the lives of distant or non-relations, why should I, John, His fore-runner in ministry, be forgotten in prison?” he must have asked in his heart.
There are times you put 2 + 2 together and you simply cannot get 4 as an answer. You simply find it difficult to relate your prison experience with your connection with Jesus. In his fear and doubts, John asked, “Are you the coming one, or do we begin to look elsewhere for another? Will it happen through you or do I look for another? Are you my savior or do I search for another? Is there not always an alternative when Christ seems no longer to be the Christ in our terrible situation?
This is my problem! We have once declared His goodness and Lordship, but when help is delayed or appearing to be denied, don’t we quickly reconsider and look elsewhere? The fact that I know that I lack the knowledge of what lies ahead of me will make me pray ahead of time. Am I so sure that I cannot reconsider what I have said of Christ as a free man, when if for the truth, I find myself imprisoned, both or either physically or spiritually?
Is the reader held down in the prison of sin? Is yours the prison of poverty or sickness? Whatever the prison is, prison restricts, it confines and suppresses. It also makes a man susceptible to looking elsewhere for solution, especially when “My Powerful CHRIST” seems to be performing miracles on/for others and He is not looking your way.
OR DO WE LOOK FOR ANOTHER: ANOTHER, this is the key word in John’s statement. Is it true that there is always another source of help for God’s children apart from Christ? The word another means an ALTERNATIVE; it means NEW; it means DIFFERENT. Was John truly set to begin all over again looking for another; a new and a different Christ? Why was he so disappointed or offended in the true Christ he had the privilege of knowing and meeting?
As a minister of God, is it true that there is another to be preached apart from Jesus Christ? Is your ministry, your name and exploit the ‘another’ that has come to substitute Christ as the message of the gospel? Has Christ offended you so much that you would rather push Him behind and impress yourself upon the hearts of men listening to you?
“Do we look for another,” suggests that you have what it takes in terms of strength and resources to go all out looking for another. You, obviously, have the resource to go out there searching for another; but please, don’t waste your time and resources. Whatever or whoever is out there appearing as an alternative to Christ will only end up wasting your life eternally.
And so Jesus responded indirectly. He did not say if He was the Christ or not. He didn’t also say that they should go and look for another. He simply said, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see…AND BLESSED IS HE WHO IS NOT OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME” Mat. 11:4-6.
If you are this John in one form of prison or the other, I bring you glad tidings. Are you experiencing hardship because you stood for the truth and it now appears that the Truth has neglected you and focusing on others? Are you experiencing neglect? Will Jesus use you only to dump you? NEVER!
As a free man in the wilderness, the voice of John declared: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight,” but now this same voice is saying: “Are you the coming one or do we look for another.”
Lord, I pray for my brethren in any form of captivity they may be that you will deliver them before they become too weak and start to doubt you. I pray that their testimony of you as the Christ will not change. They have introduced you to many as the Christ; I pray that they will not now tell the same people that it is time to look for another Christ.
Break these prison walls and let there be liberty for your children to continue to declare you as the Christ. And should there be any who must end his ministry on earth in any form of prison, kindly let not his soul be imprisoned. Grant such the grace to stick to his/her testimony of you being the Christ and when like John, Herod takes the body, may you be available to receive the soul of your beloved.