Last night the weather gave us scenes from the storm in the eastern seaboard and the resulting havoc. One man was shoveling snow standing on the top of his car. He had to move at least a couple feet of the white stuff before he could see his vehicle. Even those of us who live in ‘snow country’ would have difficulty dealing with a storm like that.
Closer to home, several family members are going through painful trials that are bringing tears to our eyes and us to our knees. We cannot help but wonder about the mind of Christ when a disaster happens, when tragedies occur. Is He crying? Does He grieve too? Will He fix this? What is going on in the plan of God?
Today’s devotional reading is about a tragedy in the family of Jesus. John the Baptist was a relative, a godly man besides. He had been proclaiming the message of repentance, but it ended badly for him . . .
“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.’
“For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’
“And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.
“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.” (Matthew 14:1–12)
John told the truth and was murdered for doing so. If this happened to a Christian brother or sister who was also a blood relative, I would be outraged. If I had the power of Jesus Christ, I’d likely seek justice for such an unwarranted crime. He didn’t do that.
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:13–14)
Jesus withdrew, perhaps to pray, to grieve, but circumstances didn’t allow solitude. Needy people were all around Him, so He took care of them. Did this mean He didn’t care what happened to John? I don’t think so. What I do think is that Jesus was able to see the bigger picture and it sustained Him, even motivated Him to keep on ministering to others.
First, John was in God’s care when he was living and when he died. He was a man of God, and now that he was gone, he was in a better place — with God, and eternally whole and forever blessed.
Second, John’s work was done. Repentance was the first part of the gospel, and soon Jesus would complete the good news by His own death, followed by His resurrection from the dead. When the plan of God ran its course, the world would know that those who repent will be forgiven, not because they are anything special for doing it, but because Jesus paid the full penalty for sin. Repentance is required; Jesus did say without it, there is no forgiveness, but without the Cross, repentance is not enough. Our being sorry and turning from sin will not save us. Only Jesus can do that.
Human life often experiences things that seem terrible to us, to me. My vision is short and sees only what it sees, but the mind of Christ sees ‘the rest of the story.’ In Him, there is always hope, always the promise of eternal life, always the promise that even in this life God uses all things for our good, that we might become more like Jesus.
In my family, I see His children suffering, but I also know that God isn’t heartless or mean. Not only can He transform their lives through these trials, but He can also give them a comfort so great that only those who experience it would even believe it.
The old hymn says, “His eye is on the sparrow, so I know He watches me.” My personal version says, “His eye is on the sparrow, so I know His mind is on His children, now and forever.”