No less than John the Baptist - of whom the Lord Jesus Christ declared that "there hath not arisen a greater" - suffered a crisis of confidence when the Savior did not fulfill John's expected role as conquering deliverer of Israel from the yoke of her oppressors (Matthew 11:11).
"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).
Note the venue from which John wrote. He never expected that a prison term would result from the coming of the Messiah, a prison wherein the Baptist eventually died in martyrdom. Thus, he was tempted to question the identity of the One whom he once pronounced "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). God's purposes paved a different and difficult path for the Lord Jesus and for John, a path that led to their death rather than the open manifestation of triumph.
Such a day of victory will come, of course. As with many of the Jews who awaited their Messiah, John did not see the necessary redeeming work of the Lord Jesus first revealed in humility rather than power. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). John failed to realize the significance of his own announcement and pronouncement regarding the Lord Jesus as "the Lamb of God". He rather expected "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" to come and to conquer the earthly enemies of God and His people (Revelation 5:5). Surely Christ will come in the fulfillment of that office. But not in John's day, and not yet in our own.
Presently, the Lord Jesus will often work in our lives as the Lamb rather than the Lion. Hardships, injustices, and bewildering "prisons" will abide in our lives, regardless of how diligently we pray and affirm Christ for who He is. Recall the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh, which God could have removed by a mere syllable of utterance from the mouth of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The thorn remained as the Lamb of God beckoned Paul to walk in His path of suffering for the glory of God and ministry to others. "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" declared the Lamb. 2,000 years later, the light of God still flows from the Apostle's lingering wound (II Corinthians 12:9). Paul prayed for the greatness of the Lion. He received the grace of the Lamb.
Sometimes the Lion, often the Lamb. We ignore much of the New Testament's clear teaching if we fail to realize that the coming day of Christ's openly revealed triumph is not this day. This day rather calls us to know our Lord in both the splendor of His greatness, and the sufficiency of His grace. We rejoice when He rescues us from prisons. And we must rejoice when He rescues us in our prisons. "Art Thou He that should come?" Long ago, faithful John asked the question from a place wherein he never expected to find himself. We may be tempted similarly, but let us realize that we have an advantage our brother of old did not possess. We have a New Testament that fully reveals the Lamb and the Lion. We know that a path of both blessedness and buffeting awaits us as we walk with the Lord Jesus. A day comes when the buffeting will dissolve and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revelation 21:4). This is not that day. Let us not expect it to be, and let us rather anticipate that "He that should come" is He that has come to deliver us with both grace and greatness.
"It is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
Weekly Memory Verse
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."