Jesus told them to report to John "…what you have heard and seen." Um. Wouldn't John prefer a report of "Here's the key to get OUT OF JAIL?"
This story reminds me of Job, an Old Testament guy who was in a bad (very bad) way and he brought his questions to God and God spoke back and we think, "Blech, this God is being just so awful to let this stuff happen to Job."
We all think that. Who wouldn't?
Well. Actually, Job.
Job, like John the Baptist, seemed to be asking for the same thing: reassurance. Are you the one? Have I picked the wrong God?
Jesus' response to John the Baptist went on with this: "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor" (Matthew 11:5).
In other words: look what I'm doing, John. Isn't this what the prophecies said you would see the Messiah doing?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Seeing God act like God can throw us. It is sometimes not what we thought we would see. We are to walk by faith, not by sight, because sight can be so…confusing. Our faith calls out for encouragement sometimes because of our sight. When our circumstances look wrong, we need reassurance. Something that makes sense in our context. Something personal.
In Job's case, God responded to Job and then Job said to God, "I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me… I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes" (Job 42:3-5).
God offers that same reassurance today.
And the sight of it can still throw me.
For instance, I am involved with a human rights agency that rescues victims of slavery and sexual exploitation.
Sounds awful (and it is), but they have God-glorifying, awe-inspiring success stories of rescue, relief, restoration.
However, this is where my doubts flare up worst of all. Because while the rescued feel overpowering JOY, I feel confused.
So I bring it to God.
"God? These are your babies. Why did this happen at all? Why didn't you save them…sooner?"
That kind of candor can be annoying. Maybe I am getting God mad. But he does not treat me that way.
In all my life, I will never wrap my head around the torture that happens in this world and a God who does not intervene with an earthly version of rescue every single time. However, when I bring my doubts to God, his responses are personal. He gives me insight. Not fully, but I do see.