Last week, we heard John the Baptist speak out boldly to announce the coming of Christ. But in today’s Gospel John has been thrown into prison by King Herod. John must have felt puzzled, and perhaps discouraged too. He had proclaimed the coming of God’s kingdom – a time of justice and liberation. But Herod the tyrant was still on his throne and Jesus had not brought the vengeance and punishment that John foretold. Instead, John was sitting in a prison cell, awaiting his death. And so he sent messengers to Jesus to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come?’
Jesus replies to John with words of encouragement. The works that he is doing – healing the sick, the blind and the disabled; preaching the Good News to the poor – these are the signs of the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus praises John the Baptist, the prophet sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. But even John was not ready for what Jesus would do: bringing forgiveness and not vengeance, peace and not destruction. This was not how John imagined the kingdom of God.
Jesus urged John to hold firm and not lose faith. We may sometimes struggle with our own faith. God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, or act in the way that we hope. Jesus’ words to John are meant for us too: happy is the one who does not lose faith in me.