There are three stages of John's life. They are the wilderness experience, the public ministry, and finally his time in prison. His personal experience in the wilderness reveals that when God is not the first priority in our lives, but the world's glory, we compete for power and glory in a similar manner as wild animals prey for food.
His second phase has two major parts: the public ministry and his time in prison which is the focus of our reflection this week. In his public ministry, John had first-hand knowledge of Jesus. He met Jesus, spoke to Him, and even baptised Him. After the Baptism, Jesus came out of the water, John witnessed God's Spirit in the shape of a dove who came upon Jesus, and heard the voice like the thunder from on high saying: 'This is my beloved, listen to him, my favour rests on him' Mt 3,16. This confirms that Jesus is the Chosen One, The Messiah. John showed great respect for Jesus, and believed Him as his Lord and God. The coming of the Messiah is also time of completion for John's vocation; because his vocation is preparing the way for the Lord. In preparation for the completion of his vocation, John sent his own disciples to Jesus, and some of them later became Jesus' apostles. John was popular among the people, and his reputation spread far and wide. Even king Herod Antipas recognised his righteousness, and loved to listen to his preaching. However, Herod Antipas loved his will more than God's. He imprisoned John; because John condemned him for his double immoral acts of evil. Antipas was divorcing his wife and marrying, Herodia, his sister-in-law. Imprisonment of John was not enough for her, and she was waiting for an opportunity to eliminate John. John was imprisoned for doing something good, for keeping the law. While in prison, John received news from different sources about Jesus: word of mouth, rumours, and news from his own disciples. They all talked about the work of the same man, Jesus, but their messages were in disunity and that confused him. In prison, John wanted to verify what he had heard, but it was not easy. His query has nothing to do with the crisis of faith but simply for clarification. John's prison experience tells us that when we have a mixed bag of information about Jesus, it confuses our minds and that is the present problem of our world. We have too many Christian denominations. They all make a claim that they are the authentic disciples of Jesus, and that is the crisis of faith for many.
John sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 'Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else? Mt 11,2. Jesus told John's messengers that 'Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor, and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me'.
Last week John mentioned the 'Brood of vipers' which is associated with producing bad fruit. Jesus' reply affirmed what prophet Isaiah had written about him. He preferred to 'A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse' Is. 11,1 which he himself produces good fruit, namely the blind can see, the lame can walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear. The second part of his reply indicates that He is God, 'The dead are raised to life'. Who can do that, but God alone. Receiving the message, John was happy, assuring him that Jesus is the Messiah. We are sure of that because Jesus himself comments that John is not an ordinary prophet but a special one; because the scripture says: 'Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way before you'. Mat 11,10.
Fulfilling the role of the messenger, John died a violent death in prison, being beheaded.