The Joy and Death of the Friend of the Bridegroom

“I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight paths for Him.’”

“After me there comes One who ranks ahead of me, for He was before me, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom waits for him and is overjoyed when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That is my joy and it is now complete. He must increase and I must decrease.”

Finally, from prison, John sends his disciple’s to Jesus with these words: “Are You He who is to come, or look we for another?”

Imagine for a moment who John was. His life’s passion had been to prepare others for Jesus so that they would follow Him when He appeared. He had been appointed to be His herald from before conception and filled with His Spirit from the womb of Elizabeth. In the desert he had doubtless known God and heard His call. He had seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus and, perhaps, heard the voice of the Father. He testified that it was his joy that others should leave him to run after Jesus. Nor do I think the prophet who sought and knew God in the desert, the greatest of prophets, would find it hard to find and know the voice of God in a dungeon.

Think of everything else we know of this man! Is it not far more plausible (likely) to imagine him dancing in his cell for joy that his disciples could not cling to him anymore, but must now go and follow the One whose way he had been sent to prepare? Imagine how absurd and sad it must have been for John, the herald of the King and the friend of the Bridegroom, to find that some of those he had tried to prepare to go to his King and friend instead clung to him and, what is more, wondered why others were attracted to the King and Bridegroom. When else in history has it ever been known for a king to send his herald ahead of him to prepare his people and for the people to then follow the herald around after the king has arrived and wonder why others are following the king and have lost interest in the herald! Nor was it any king John heralded, but the Anointed King and Priest of God, the Lamb of God. All his joy must have been to see others following Jesus and all his sorrow to see others following himself when they could be following Jesus.

I submit a thought to you: what if St. John’s only distress in Herod’s dungeon was to see that, even then, some of his disciples clung to him instead of following Jesus? What if he had prayed God to get his disciples to go to Jesus instead and welcomed the dungeon as the answer? And then found that, even after that act of God, his disciples still clung to him? What if he sent them to Jesus with that question thinking, “I do not know what to say to convince them, but perhaps if I send them at last to Him, then they will see Him and follow Him and follow me no more! Doubtless He will know what to say to them.” Is such a motivation not wholly in character with everything else we know of the Baptist?

What if first the prison and, later, the sword were God’s answer to the saint’s prayers and his joy? For once dead, his disciples could no longer try to follow him, could they? All John wanted was for others to go to Jesus, the Bridegroom he adored.

 

Copyright 2020 Raina Nightingale

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