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Prisoner of Doubt
by Wayne Blank
"For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet" (Matthew 14:3-5 KJV)
As written in the verses quoted above, Herod would have gone further than just to "detain" John; he would have killed him (immediately) if not for John's popularity which at that time, before Jesus' began His ministry, was so great that some people even thought that John was the Messiah to come. John knew who he served though and made it plain to everyone that he was merely preparing the way for the Messiah:
"And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water [see also The Origin of Baptism]; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable [see Wheat and Chaff]" (Luke 3:15-17 KJV)
"Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?"
The English word doubt is derived from the Latin word duo, meaning two. Double originated from the same word as doubt. To doubt means to be double-minded. John never lost his courage or his faith and obedience to God, but after he found himself sitting in a dungeon with his life in grave danger, he began to have doubt about whether or not Jesus was the Christ. John wondered if it were someone else. Keep in mind that Jesus' ministry was just beginning and John never saw any of Jesus' miracles, so although unfortunate, it's also understandable that John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. The request may not have been intended to question if Jesus was really the Christ anyway, but more of an implied plea to "get me out of here!"
"Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto Him, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:2-3 KJV)
Jesus didn't do anything to get John out of prison, at least not yet (see the Fact Finder question below). He wouldn't do any more to prevent John's martyrdom than He would (would, not could) to prevent His own when the time came. But the Messiah did send word to relieve John of his doubt - and John's apparent offense at ending up that way.
"Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, 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. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me." (Matthew 11:4-6 KJV)
There have been many people of God who have counted on never being troubled by the world in which they live. "Nothing bad can happen to me because I'm obedient to God" is an understandable, but erroneous belief. Jesus Christ never promised "paradise" in this life, but He guarantees it to those who are found worthy of the next life - as John the Baptist most certainly was.
Fact Finder: John the Baptist's last conscious memory (see What Happens When You Die?) was that of being held and executed in that prison. Jesus didn't get him out at that time, but John will yet be rescued by Jesus. When is Jesus going to get John out of there?