Doubting John?

October 25, 2020

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" (Matthew 11:2-3).

Jesus said John the Baptist was greater than the prophets who preceded him (Matthew 11:9). John had a more complete understanding of Jesus as Messiah and his message was more specific than theirs. Plus, he was specifically chosen to prepare Israel for the Messiah. It’s hard to believe he would have doubts about Jesus - or did he?

John was in prison for rebuking Herod Antipas for marrying the wife of his brother, Herod Philip (Matthew 14:1-12). While in prison, John received news of the ongoing ministry of Jesus. No doubt much of the news focused on Jesus’ miracles (chapters 8 & 9). This should have been enough to convince John that Jesus was the ‘real deal’, that He was indeed the Messiah. But John had reservations. Why?
1) If Jesus had come to set the ‘prisoners’ free (Luke 4:18), why was John suffering in prison? I mean, it wasn’t like John was a thief or a murder that he should even be in prison. But Jesus hadn’t responded to John’s situation. Was he mistaken about that?

2) John understood that part of the ministry of the Messiah would be to rain down fire and judgment on the wicked (Matthew 3:10), yet that aspect of His ministry had not occurred. Was he mistaken about that?

3) John, like many messianic Jews of that day, believed the Messiah would be a political and military person that would lead Israel out from under the authority of Rome (John 6:15). Up to this point Jesus had not demonstrated any military or political interest. Was he wrong about that?

Doubt is defined as ‘to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitant to believe’. I don’t think that describes John’s attitude. “Dark thoughts may come to the bravest when pent up in a narrow cell” (Charles Spurgeon). There is no doubt John knew Jesus was God’s Son and the Messiah. I believe John also knew his time on earth was drawing to a close. It is enough that even the most confirmed in faith should need some reassurance of what he has believed throughout his life-time, and that it should come from the One in whom rested his greatest faith.

“Lord Jesus, there are times in my own life when I wondered more about myself than about You as I faced hardships, difficulties, and opposition in my service to You. In those dark moments I found that reassurance through Your Holy Spirit and through the reading of Your Word. Forgive me of my doubts and fears, of my questioning and my confusion. In the days ahead affirm again and again that I am following Your will and accomplishing Your purpose in me. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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