Mathew 11:3 “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
This question was asked by John the Baptist. He was in prison at the time because he confronted Herod Antipas about his sinful relationship with his brother’s wife and was imprisoned as a result (Mathew 14). Jesus had been travelling through the region of Galilee, teaching, preaching, healing and casting out demons. John’s disciples were visiting him in prison telling him all that Jesus was doing and he sends his disciples to ask Jesus this question.
Doubt can ever so often come knocking
“Are you the one?” This question laced with uncertainty gives us a glimpse into what was going on in John’s heart at that time. This is the very same John the Baptist who called Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). John saw the spirit come down from heaven in the form of a dove on Jesus and a voice from heaven say “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Mathew 3:16-17)
John was languishing in prison. Even though he kept hearing about what Jesus was doing, it did not stop him from having some moments of doubt and uncertainty. Although Jesus says in Mathew 11:11 that John was the greatest to be born of women, it did not make him immune to moments of uncertainty like this. Maybe John expected Jesus’s ministry to pan out differently than what he was hearing. Did he want Jesus to speed up what he had to accomplish, have more tangible feats that felt mightier and more reflective of the power of son of God? And where did sitting in prison fit into all of this?
For us: Whether we are new in faith or have walked with the Lord for many years, there are times that can overwhelm us and shake our faith. Times when things don’t go as planned, or everything seems to be working out for others but we are yet to see any answer to prayer. Those times can find us having moments of doubt. And like John the Baptist, we search and seek for assurance.
When doubt assails us
What does John do in his moment of doubt – First, he recognises that he has these questions in his heart and follows it by taking them to Jesus. He did not look to find the answer or seek reassurance anywhere else. John did not rely on what others understood of who Jesus is, he went straight to Jesus. John needed Jesus to realign his spiritual eyes to see through a spiritual lens and not with what his human mind was reasoning him to believe.
For us: May we do the same when our hearts are heavy and laden with doubt and our trust begins to buckle with the weight of the situation around us. Only God can give us the strength, the faith and assurance to continue to trust in Him and know that He is working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). But we have to go to Him to be able to receive those things. John needed the comfort and the assurance that could come only from God and the same applies for us too.
Let us not forget the role of the disciples here: even though John was in prison, they kept meeting with him and sharing news of all that Jesus was doing. They would have been a source of encouragement for him and were the tools that God used to encourage John. They did not try to assure John based on their own wisdom but took what was plaguing him to Jesus.
For us: It is such a reminder to walk alongside someone in their good times and their not so glorious times. May we remember that whatever we say or do does matter because God places us in someone’s path for a reason, but without God in our words and actions they fail be a balm to ones aching soul. We have the privilege of praying with and for that someone, but God is the only one who can truly spiritually provide to the person what they need.
How does Jesus respond?
Jesus says “Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Jesus’s reply is not a declaration saying, ‘Yes, he is indeed the Messiah’. But instead, it is a picture of God’s spirit powerfully at work. Even though John probably heard similar things from his disciples of what Jesus was doing, Jesus emphasising these things reminding him of what was mentioned in scripture – of what was prophesised of the messiah (Isaiah 35:5-6). John knew scriptures well enough and was reminded that even though he did not understand the entirety of God’s timing, the why and how of it all, God’s plans were being fulfilled.
Knowing God’s word helped John remember who Jesus is. Faith is built up on the word of God. Being embedded in scripture helps us realign our focus on God so that we can live with a peace and assurance that comes from knowing that God’s sovereign hand is over everything.
May we remember to take what lays heavy on our hearts to Jesus. He is the source of our strength and our comfort. May we steep ourselves in His word that help us remember His promises and who He is. And may we honour God by walking alongside those who He places in our lives and humbly point to Jesus as the source and sustainer of all that we need.