The Sighing of the Prisoner

Picture if you will, the rugged man, clothed in animal skins and seated on the floor of a dark prison cell. His back is against the cold stone wall, his head back and eyes staring into the past. He is remembering earlier days; days of God’s provision, against all odds, when he lived off the desert surviving on a diet of locusts and wild honey – alone! But all the trials of such a solitary life were more than amply made up for in his close walk with God.

Such was the confidence that he had in Him that he used his powerful voice to declare all that he knew about his God. All the people from the cities round and about came into the wilderness to hear him, perhaps by their thousands.

He had a vision and a calling from God; and that was to point people to the ‘Promised One’. This was that which gave him his reason for living. This was his motivation. Can you imagine the joy he knew in his soul when his eyes caught sight of this very One coming to him – to be baptized? At last face to face the two of them spoke together, and this gracious young Man was baptized of John. What joy and wonderment this must have brought to him then, and what comfort to him then and there in his cell.

Back at the river he couldn’t help but declare to those who questioned his person and work, that the Promised One was his joy and reason for living. It was his life’s ambition to elevate the Christ of God:

“this, my joy therefore is fulfilled - He must increase and I must decrease”
John 3: 30.

However John was just a man at best and there must have come a time when he entertained thoughts of uncertainty as he languished there in those lonely hours in his cell. There in the darkness and the silence you can almost hear him question: “have I done the wrong thing? Has this been a big mistake?” There in his loneliness, can you almost hear .... “the sigh of the prisoner?”

Well, God did! Yes, He heard the anguish of his lonely heart. He would not allow him to remain in uncertainty for long. Soon John sent messengers to the Man he had earlier declared to be “the Lamb of God” with a question: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Matthew 11:3. Upon which the Lord Jesus told the men to observe all that was happening and report back to John.

What did they see? What did they have to report?

What a joyful sight met their eyes that day when the Lord Jesus with healing hand touched all manner of infirmed people and made them whole. “The blind received their sight, and the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and the deaf were able to hear, the dead were raised up, and the poor had the gospel preached to them.” (See Matthew 11:11) Nobody but the One promised from God to mankind would be able to do all these things and so much more.

He made sure that John was going to receive a report that would settle his uncertainties. It was exactly the report he needed to hear in his dark hours prior to his execution. The life of this dear man was soon to end to satisfy the demands of a jealous and outraged woman. The head of John the Baptist was presented on a charger before the Roman Governor in order to appease the macabre request of the daughter of his mistress. But also I believe Herod’s thinking might have been to silence the message of this man of God once for all.

But what did the Lord Jesus have to say about John after they had left?

It is certain that what He had to say about John was kept until after the men had left and not before! Have you ever wondered why? Could it be possibly because what the Lord Jesus had to say may have caused John to be a little puffed up with pride, and there was no room in the life of this Man of God for such a heinous thing as spiritual pride.

Though John was soon to die at the appointed time, the power of his life and his words would continue long after he was gone. The Lord bore the testimony to this fact: “among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist ...” Our lives are more than just the mere beat of our heart and the air that fills our lungs. Truly our lives are much more than a mere existence on earth. A godly life is measured by the impact we have on the lives of others. And after we have gone, that influence will continue, just as the life of John the Baptist shows us.

He may never have realized back then in his prison cell just how much His words and His actions would mean to the people of God down through the ages, even right to this very day. One can understand why he felt uncertain and doubtful there in that prison cell and we can wonder at the gracious provision of comfort he received at the hand of the Lord in his time of need.

Take comfort dear soul, you are not alone there and when no one else knows or even cares about your darkness - God does; for He hears ... ‘the sigh of the prisoner.’