John the Baptist went before Jesus, acting as the forerunner, proclaiming the message, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand' Mat 3,1. He called people to repent, and be baptised by him as the sign of reconciling to God. John expected the Messiah would soon coming, and when he came, he would come with the mighty power. We heard John's preaching last week that: 'the axe is laid to the roots of the trees ... and His winnowing- fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing floor' Mat 3,11'. Herod Antipas had John arrested, and imprisoned him, because John condemned the king, who married Herodias, his brother's wife Mat 14,1-12. The other reason involved John's popularity. Herod was gravely concerned, that the crowds would do whatever John asked of them; including the act of rebellion.
John believed when the Messiah came, he would punish severely those who had hardened their hearts, because they refused to repent. In his prison cell John heard, Jesus came not to punish- bring fire and brimstone- but instead he came to forgive, to heal, and to befriend sinners. This man, Jesus, was doing not what John had expected the Messiah would do. It made John wonder whether the man, Jesus, was actually the Messiah he was waiting for, or he had to wait for someone else. To clarify his queries, John sent his disciples to let Jesus know of his concerns. Jesus gave John's disciples an answer, which he was neither confirming nor denying. Jesus' answer was not much about himself, but rather it was more about his mission. He told John's disciples returning to tell John what they had heard and seen: 'the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them' (11:5). Jesus came to proclaim God's love, mercy and kindness. His mission was not to destroy God's creation, but to renew what God had created, and reclaim eternal life for God's people. Other reasons would contribute to John's concerns. First, John knew his vocation was heralding the Messiah's coming. He probably was afraid about his death less, but showed more concern about the fulfilment of his vocation; what he was called to do, and that bothered him. For many, the unfavourable conditions in prison, and lack of sleep would influence a prisoner's mind; for John, fulfilling his vocation was his first priority. It was more important than his own safety. John hoped, that Jesus' clarification about his mission would give him a sense of satisfaction. When John was certain, that Jesus, indeed, was the Messiah; John knew his mission was in fact accomplished, and he was pleased. After John's disciples had left, Jesus praised John for his love and trust in God. John, who had no military power, held no government office, and yet even the king was afraid of him. His followers were large in number, his popularity was overwhelming. Jesus said, it was nothing in measure to glorification in God's kingdom, and those who welcome Jesus into their heart will receive their rewards.