He lay in the darkest part of the deepest prison. Alone but not lonely. A man. An enigma. Yet the smell of the wild lands over took even the putrid cesspool surrounding him. Such was the force of his nature. Despite his surroundings, an unearthly calm caressed his face like the morning sun on a calm lake.
“Teacher,” a concerned, nervous voice spoke from beyond the bars.
The prisoner arose. If there was stiffness from sleeping on stone it was not evident. Nor did he complain.
“Thanks be to God for your faithfulness, my son,” he reached a dry hand through the iron bars. His pupil grasped it hungrily like a suckling pup, hoping for some nourishment left in his leader.
“What can I do for you Teacher?”
“Please go to the young rabbi, the one I baptized not long ago in the Jordan. You know of whom I speak?” The even tone of his voice cracked a fraction. Doubt, like a constant drip, began to penetrate his very soul.
“Yes, Teacher,” awe rang in his most faithful follower’s voice. “He has attracted a huge following. Many sit for hours listening to his parables and stories.”
“Yes,” a breath of weariness shifted the air. “Please ask him if he is the one. The One. The one we’ve been waiting for.”
Silence hung between them heavily. Like a storm just beyond the horizon. Felt but not seen.
“Yes, Teacher,” was all his pupil replied before leaving the confines of Herod’s prison.
After he left John lay back down on the dank septic floor. Tormenting thoughts surrounded him. He spent his life set apart for God. No unclean thing had crossed his lips. No unclean person had he touched. No alcohol had he consumed. He devoted his life to one call. To prepare the way for Messiah.
From an early age he believed he knew who that was. But now he wasn’t sure.
Jesus was crossing every line John defended. He associated himself with the worst kind of riffraff. Prostitutes, fishermen and tax collectors! Eating and drinking. Breaking Sabbath laws. Surely this is not the way Messiah would act.
Sleep finally came. Fitfully. John wrestled his own understanding against an Almighty God. He recalled stories of prophets enduring hardships, demonstrating madness, living lives of oxymoronic proportions. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, to name a few.
In the morning, summoned not by sunlight in the impenetrable darkness of the lowest dungeon, but rather by the next meal of mouldy bread, rotten meat and tepid water, John arose free from the need to understand. He was once more the pupil. He trusted God to lead. Soon he heard the approaching steps of his trusted pupil.
“Teacher,” his strong voice propelled John to the small barred opening, grabbing the student’s outstretched hand.
“Yes, my friend.”
“I asked the young Rabbi.”
John wished now for a light to see the young man’s face. All he could do was squeeze his hand.
“Master, he did not answer me at first. This Jesus continued teaching and then began to heal the lame, the blind, the demonic. I’ve never heard anyone with such authority! I never imagined the blind could recover their sight!”
“This is indeed good news!” John felt hope fill his empty being.
“Jesus said to tell you all I witnessed:
“The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth
have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.
Blessed is he who does not take offence at me.” (Luke 7:22-23 Message)
John’s heart leapt within his chest. The Spirit, his closest companion, opened his eyes and ears to the Truth.
“Thank you, my son,” the prophet reached further through the bars to embrace his friend, “Now I know that my time has come to an end. You will live to see the New Covenant come to pass. I am from the Old. Do not mourn for me. Embrace the new. Embrace the Good News of the Kingdom.”
A bubbling joy burst forth from deep in John’s belly. He could see it. He could see the Kingdom coming. He always knew his time, his fame, his followers, would come to an end. The end of his day was the launching of the Kingdom of God.
“Go now, my friend,” he released his hands from his faithful pupil, “Leave me. My days are done. I must decrease. Jesus, the Messiah’s time has come.”
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