It’s tough to be the headliner and then get replaced. Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy,” dominated the movies and the recording industry in the 1930s. When he released “Back In The Saddle Again” in 1939, he made himself and Columbia Records piles of money, but then World War II erupted. Autry enlisted with the Army Air Corps and flew C-109 transports high over the infamous Hump, the route over the eastern end of the Himalayas from India to China. When he returned from service, a young man from Ohio, named Leonard Slye, had taken over as top cowboy in Hollywood.
From 1943-1954 Slye took first place in the Western Stars poll and also held first place in the Box. Action figures, cowboy adventure books, comic strips, Trigger, a palomino as famous as his rider, and “Happy Trails,” an unforgettable closing tune—Leonard Slye, who changed his name to Roy Rogers, was riding high. But all this Gene Autry vs. Roy Rogers competition was only movies, music, and entertainment.
Around AD 30 in Judea John the Baptist was the top, crowd gathering prophet until he baptized Jesus. Then his younger relative took over and John was arrested by Herod Antipas for speaking out against adultery. Replaced and imprisoned, John had some strong reasons to wonder whether he had made the right move when he introduced Jesus to the crowds. Then the reports about Jesus healing a centurion’s servant and raising the dead in Nain spread to John’s prison cell down south at Machareus on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, and John had some questions.
“His disciples reported all about these things to John. He summoned two of them and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?’ Now when the men arrived, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?’ At that very time He healed many from illnesses and suffering and evil spirits and many who were blind were graced with the ability to see. Jesus answered them, ‘Go, report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. Blessed is he who does not stumble on account of me.” Luke 7:18-23
John didn’t stumble. Herod cut off his head, but he remained true to Jesus. He is with Jesus today and both his body and soul will be intact forever. By including this time of questioning Luke teaches me that I can honestly ask Jesus my questions when I go through times of doubt, and I will get my answers by seeing what Jesus does and listening to what He says.
LORD, when a younger pastor replaces me in the speaking rotation at a Bible conference, my pride quickly fires jealousy inside. Thanks for John the Baptist’s willingness to realize that the limelight is all yours. Thanks also for his honesty about his doubts. Today help me to be alert to your healing actions in hearts and bodies. Protect me from stumbling because I don’t keep You number one.
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