This post comes to us from Nathan Carr:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt 11:2-3)

Here sits a man whose life has been spent in the isolation of a strange calling — John the Baptist. He has no friends from the marketplace with whom he sits in the cool of the day sipping a cold one talking about Palestinian sheep futures. He’s been preaching all day next to a river! Here sits a man who hasn’t played poker with his friends since childhood, so busy has he been with proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Total isolation in his present calling.

He has stood down the religious leaders that stem from a 1000 years worth of tradition. He has faced off with the local Roman prefect, Herod, and more impressively, with his conniving queen and her questionable daughter who dances for men’s heads to be removed from their bodies. He was chosen by divine order to baptize the Messiah, and has witnessed a visible manifestation of the Trinity as Jesus rose from the water. His itchy clothing and crunchy diet are symbols of the very life he lived — one of physical discomfort and alienation for the sake of the minds and hearts of a confused humanity. No present comfort stands in the way of receiving this message.

He has compromised not a single thing that would cause someone to wonder about his allegiances. No one can point to his cozy, candle-lit house and say, “He loves the same things I love; he just fakes a ‘thank you God’ to prove his piety.” He doesn’t have a house! No one can point to his goat and turtle-dove sales portfolio and say, “Oh, he has the same economic allegiances I have; he just fakes a ‘thank you God’ out here in no-man’s land to prove his holiness.” He doesn’t own anything!

For the sake of an unadulterated message of hope, he has renounced everything in this life, so that you have only to deal with the Truth of his preaching. There is not a single hook of this world plunged into his life or heart to cause question as to his full allegiance to God.

Whether or not that is the calling of every Christian I cannot say; but that’s not even my point, though it should be considered. My point is this: The man is pure strength. The man is pure fidelity. The man is pure magnanimous power. Jesus downright names it: “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist.”

He is the greatest! And yet Matthew shows a weakness, says John Chrysostom, a chink in his armor of faith. And praise God that he does. That means there’s hope for me. That means there’s hope for you.

Last year, as I lay in bed for a third day under the paralyzing effects of influenza, and the acute psychological weight of the several institutions for which I am responsible, my raw emotions began to break the surface. Sitting beside me was my precious wife, trying to ease the fever with offers of medication and cold water. So here I am — someone whose life is filled with every available physical comfort, the warmth of a home, food for an army, as many loving family members as you could ever want, and yet I am undone. Total weakness. Total depravity. Total mess. Here I am more paralyzed by doubts than by fever, to my great embarrassment.

My wife, exercising her uncanny sixth sense of intuition, and above all else, reflecting the Christ of her hope — her strength — began, item by item, reminding me of the goodness of God that is evident throughout our lives. She encouraged me. To my weakness she added encouragement. To my depravity she added hope. To my mess she added memory — the memory that is befitting of a Christian. That Christ will be with us, even to the end of the age.

John the Baptist lies in the prison cell of his condemnation. His head will soon be removed from his body because of his preaching the Kingdom. He is the single strongest and greatest human being to walk the earth save Christ himself, and in the soul-darkness of his impending death, he sends for encouragement. He does not send for momma — he doesn’t need someone to be proud of him and tell him that he’s still her cute little boy. He doesn’t send for daddy — he doesn’t need someone to assure him that his jump-shot is still legendary down at Jerusalem High School.

He sends for Jesus.

Jesus does not begrudge him encouragement. Jesus does not simply send back a message of “buck up.” Jesus is not bewildered by your weakness this morning. Jesus is unfazed by your doubts. Jesus does not send him a list of “I am a good guy” statements that John must now recite to himself in the jail cell. Instead, Jesus sends him encouragement in the Gospel. He says, “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. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Jesus, item by item, recounts for John all of the evidence for the goodness of God that is evident in his ministry and John’s: John, you have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. Everything for which I sent you has been fully accomplished. Welcome into the joy of your Master, John. I will be with you, John. Your physical isolation is nothing in comparison to the myriad of untold pleasures that await you and that await all who love me. Be at peace, John. I am the Messiah. Behold, I make all things new.

It is unknown to us the emotional stability of John the Baptist as he placed his head upon the rock the next morning for his beheading.

My guess is that, like many martyrs of old, he came singing, with head held high in prayer to God — his back no longer bent with the anxiety of the previous night. That is the great irritation of the Christian faith toward a world which oppresses us. Hope is unconquerable. Joy is unconquerable. In the end, you can only kill me.

Advent is full of expectation. But John the Baptist reminds us that expectation is not always exciting for sinners. It’s filled with weakness. Are you weak this corona-filled season of life? Okay — send for Jesus. Have you forgotten the goodness of God in the course of an ice-storm and election year? Join the crowd. And then send for Jesus.

Better yet, He sends for you.