Jesus’ words of comfort to all, end Matthew, chapter 11, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
An array of circumstances for disciples fill these chapters. Chapter 10 begins with Jesus giving miraculous power to his chosen disciples as they were sent out to preach. But the circumstances of life for them and for all disciples is often complicated because His message is not received by all with the same enthusiasm. In fact, in a sense, Jesus says He “came to bring not peace but a sword” (10:34-39).
John the immerser found opposition so strong that it wound him in prison. Jesus, his cousin, left him there. One might expect so great a man, a member of Jesus’ own family who was on His side, to be spared such opposition or miraculously delivered from his incarceration. His circumstances were due to the message of the Messiah which he heralded. So despondent was John, apparently, that he needed reaffirmation that Jesus was even who John had proclaimed Him to be. Could he have been mistaken?
When John hears about the works of Jesus but is receiving no help in his jail cell, he sends two of his disciples to inquire directly of Jesus if He is the promised Messiah as John had proclaimed or should he be looking for another?
Adverse circumstances, especially because of doing the right thing, can cause a person to wonder if he really is on the right track. No doubt John had prayed for relief. Jesus was his cousin. He had done what he was supposed to do proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. He’d been faithful.
Jesus sent the two disciples back with the answer that was needed. It wasn’t “John, I’m coming to get you,” or “just two more weeks and you’ll go free.” Not a word was sent to John about his circumstances. Just the proof that, yes, Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Jesus told the multitude after those disciples of John had left, “the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence” recognizing the opposition to its people.
Fear (reverence) of God is not based on circumstances. Being a disciple could mean one might be killed (10:28) but there was more to life than the physical. The spirit of man cannot be killed. God considers all His people, even the least, of “value.”
Even Jesus would lead, as Isaiah had prophesied (12f:17ff), a life that did not go around with bluster destroying all enemies but would be gentle and accepting of the will of God while here in what preachers used to call “this low ground of sin and sorrow.” No wonder His disciples then as now may suffer without relief.
Like the scribes and Pharisees, we might like to have a “sign” that we’re okay. Well, the sign has been given already. Read the record to know whose we are and what to expect realizing that He knows and cares and will one day grant rest after we’ve taken up His yoke.