Humble Hero


The Imprisonment and Death of John

This chapter is based on Matthew 11:1-11; 14:1-11; Mark 6:17-28; Luke 7:19-28.

John the Baptist had been first in announcing Christ’s kingdom, and he was first also in suffering. From the free air of the wilderness, he was now shut in by the walls of a dungeon, a prisoner in the fortress of Herod Antipas. Herod himself had listened to the Baptist and trembled at the call to repentance. “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man.” John condemned his sinful relationship with Herodias, his brother’s wife. For a time, Herod feebly tried to break the chain of lust that held him, but Herodias fastened him more firmly in her grasp and took revenge on the Baptist by persuading Herod to put him in prison. HH 93.1

The gloom and inaction of his prison life weighed heavily on John. As week after week passed, bringing no change, despondency and doubt crept over him. His disciples brought him news of Jesus’ works and how the people were flocking to Him. But if this new Teacher was the Messiah, why did He do nothing to bring about John’s release? This brought doubts to John’s mind that otherwise would never have arisen. Satan rejoiced to see how the words of these disciples bruised the soul of the Lord’s messenger. How often the friends of a good man prove to be his most dangerous enemies! HH 93.2

John the Baptist expected Jesus to take the throne of David. As time passed and the Savior made no claim to kingly authority, John became perplexed. He had expected Jesus to pull down the high places of human pride and power. The Messiah would thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, gather the wheat into His barn, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. See Isaiah 40; Matthew 3. Like Elijah, he looked for the Lord to reveal Himself as a God who would answer by fire. HH 93.3

The Baptist had stood as someone who spoke out fearlessly against wickedness, in high places and low. He had dared to face king Herod with the plain rebuke of sin. And now from his dungeon he watched for the Lion of the tribe of Judah to throw down the pride of the oppressor and to deliver the poor. But Jesus seemed satisfied with healing and teaching the people. He was eating at the tables of the tax collectors, while every day the Roman oppression rested more heavily on Israel, while King Herod and his illicit lover worked their will, and the cries of the poor and suffering went up to heaven. HH 93.4