Since I seem to be stuck on John the Baptist, the next thing that happens to him is he is in prison. As far as I can tell, Matthew doesn’t say why. Chapter 4, verse 12, just says it as a reason that Jesus moved to Capernaum, and likely it was — it was time for a bit of caution perhaps. Capernaum by the sea — and that also makes it a place where people travel to and from, a sort of hub of transportation. I’ve read and heard lectures about the geography of the area, that it was a good “home base” for Jesus for many reasons.
John the Baptist comes back to Matthew’s gospel in Chapter 11. John in prison has heard about Jesus, and he sent his disciples to ask him: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?”
I feel such despair in those words. John has gone from crowds and desert freedom and fresh water, to what I can only imagine to be a terrible little dank dark cell, like a dungeon. He must have thought the Kingdom of Heaven was so near that it would protect him; that it would be a joyous dance to home. A couple months ago I was the lay reader at church who had both the Chapter 3 proclamation stuff to read, and then this section from Chapter 11. It is extremely powerful to read together. John was expecting someone, a King, a Holy Spirit, fire, a winnowing fork. So he’s in prison and hears of Jesus healing people including the blind and deaf and paralyzed, of Jesus stilling a storm, of forgiving sins, of preaching about the law. And he’s cold and hungry and afraid (he must have been afraid): where is the winnowing fork? Where’s the unquenchable fire?
We all feel this despair sometimes, and some people have righteous circumstances to wonder: what is going on? Where is the Savior when I need him? I’ll be back with more of the story!