An Ultimate Question

When John, in prison, heard what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to (Jesus), “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11.2-3; my emphasis)

St. John the Baptist in the Prison (1565-1570), Juan Fernández de Navarrete (1526-1579)

Here, I lie, leeward of death;
mine own.
Its foul wind burrowing into my bones,
chilling my marrow.
That last breath of my mortal end comes,
its somber drumbeat, e’er closer, louder,
no longer the distance away of unknown days;
life’s unsealed pledge of tomorrow’s promise repealed.

Yet my heart, tho’ o’ershadowed, trembleth not,
for my soul abideth in the hands of the Lord God
who sealed my heart ‘gainst all fear,
who seared my mouth with but one word to proclaim.
Truth’s word of the Coming One,
His Name, Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed.

And I, with the leonine courage of the Spirit,
accomplished that for which I was sent.
Boldly did I speak of him,
whose sandals I am unfit to stoop down and untie,
who would come, winnowing fork in hand,
to stand o’er the threshing floor,
and, with the righteousness of the Lord God,
to separate grain from sheath,
the godly from all unrighteousness.

St. John the Baptist Rebuking Herod, Giovanni Fattori (1825-1908)

And this, fulfilling my life’s purpose,
leading to my arrest by a ruler,
an imposter who,
bearing, clutching ‘round his shoulders the raiment of the world’s realm,
careth not for obedience to heaven’s kingdom.

Here, as I lie soon to die,
hearing no testament of prophetic fulfillment,
with my last breath,
by force of need to ease my soul
(torturing myself, “Hath I been God’s fool?”)
must ask, cry:
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we
(tho’ I, dying, shall ne’er see) to wait for another?”



St. John the Baptist in the Prison (1565-1570), Juan Fernández de Navarrete (1526-1579)

St. John the Baptist Rebuking Herod, Giovanni Fattori (1825-1908). Note: Fattori depicts King Herod Antipas sullenly withering under the rebuke of John the Baptist for violating God’s Law by marrying Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herodias stands at Herod’s side gazing disdainfully at John. Sitting at Herodias’ feet is her daughter, Salome, who, later, at Herod’s birthday party, having danced for the king and pleasing him, extracted from him anything she wished, demanding, “Give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter” (see Matthew 14.1-11).

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