There’s this conversation Jesus has that has always got to me. It’s when John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his followers to ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2).
Over the years, I’ve heard many ask it of Jesus. But from John – it must have knocked Jesus for six. John wasn’t just another interested bystander – he’d been there right at the start of Jesus’ ministry, when heaven opened and God spoke. He knew he wasn’t worthy to even help Jesus take his shoes off. John’s whole role was to prepare people for Jesus, and here he is, in prison, surrounded by darkness, questioning whether it was all right.
Should we expect someone else? I know there are many modern day John the Baptist’s. I’m one of them, if I’m honest. I’ve seen friends face disappointments and ask the same question. Some have walked away before they got their answer.
At the moment, in Iran, despite recent releases, there are a number of pastors in prison facing exactly the same situation as John, simply because they chose to follow Jesus.
I know there are many modern day John the Baptist’s. I’ve seen friends face disappointments and ask the same question. Some have walked away before they got their answer.
Behnam is one of them – arrested for leading a church and speaking of his faith, he faces 6 long years in some terrible conditions. He’s spent months in solitary conferment, his health is poor and treatment is often denied. He faces interrogations, and guards who are known for beating prisoners. Outside prison, he knows his family are regularly harassed and discriminated against.
Like John the Baptist – like many of us, I’m sure Behnam has asked ‘should I expect someone else?’. He must worry, he must doubt, he must question – he must wonder whether he made the right choices. He must wonder if there’s another option. But his response isn’t what mine would be. In the midst of prison, his freedom taken away – facing years apart from family he writes:
“I have decided to keep my faith in our Lord and stay in prison… “
I have decided.
He’s chosen. He’s not avoiding the disappointments and pain – but he’s choosing to walk directly through them with Jesus, whatever might happen. He knows relationship with Jesus is the most precious thing he could ever have. And he chooses it.
Back to Jesus – his answer to John still stands today for all who ask the same question:
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
Matthew 11: 5-6
None of this is about releasing the captives or freeing prisoners. None of what Jesus says will get John out of prison. The point is, no matter what we face, God is still working, acting, bringing hope and looking to change the world. And no matter what we face, God invites us to join him – wherever we’re at or wherever we are.
And that’s exactly what Behnam has chosen to accept in the face of his imprisonment.
Like John, like Behnam, we don’t just decide to follow Jesus once and then that’s it. Following him is a daily, minute by minute choice. When disappointments and pain come – and believe me, they will – we must keep deciding, we must keep joining in.
“I encourage you to understand the value of your faith. We have received salvation for free but remember it was not free. God paid for it.”
Pastor Behnam Irani, November 2014
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.