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"The Doubts Of John The Baptist"

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Matthew 11:1-11

By Drew Zuverink

"After Jesus had finished instructing the twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.'

As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist, yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'"

Did you know that John the Baptist, yes, that John the Baptist - the famous one, had a little bit of doubt that Jesus was the Messiah? We've all heard of doubting Thomas but not many of us have heard of doubting John. In fact he had enough doubt about who Jesus really was that he sent some of his disciples to investigate for him.

You see for John, Jesus' gracious words and his miracles of mercy did not match up to the idea of the Messiah that John had imagined. He thought Jesus would be different. So even though John had baptized Jesus already, even though John had witnessed the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus, even though he had interacted with Jesus in person when we only interact with him in spirit, he had doubts that maybe, just maybe, Jesus wasn't God.

So because of his doubts John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was indeed the Messiah. This is admirable. John did not keep his doubts to himself. John did not only discuss his doubts with others. John went straight to the source, straight to Jesus himself, in search of reassurance. Doubts are a normal part of the Christian experience. We should not keep them to ourselves and we should not only discuss them with others but we must go to Jesus with our doubts and ask him for reassurance.

And reassurance is exactly what John got. Jesus gave one of his famous indirect answers that John would have understood. It was what John needed to hear. Jesus did not shame John for doubting. There is no mention of Jesus saying, "How could you possibly doubt me?" Jesus understood, he cared, and he lovingly gave John the reassurance that he so desperately needed. But even though Jesus did not shame John for doubting, the crowds that had just heard John's disciples confess that he was doubting Jesus - they might view John as shameful. What Jesus does next is special. After Jesus sends John's disciple's away with the message for John, he turns to the crowd and defends John's honor. "Did you go to into the wilderness to see someone who is wishy washy? Someone who is weak? No, John is a prophet."

Jesus' reaction the John's doubt gives us great encouragement. God is a God of compassion and when doubts of his existence, or doubts of his love for us, or doubts of whatever arise in our minds, we do not need to hide those things from him. He will not shame us for that, but instead he would like for us to bring those doubts directly to him so that he can give us the tender reassurance that we need.

It's interesting that Christian's often feel that they need to hide our doubts and pretend that they aren't there. I recently learned that the Islamic holy book, the Quran, teaches that Allah (God) is closer to humans than their veins. He knows their thoughts and he throws doubters into hell. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Quran would have thrown John the Baptist into hell, Jesus defends his honor.

Friends if the great John the Baptist doubted Jesus for a time - so will you. He saw Jesus face to face, we don't see him at all. But the same Jesus who comforted John will comfort you. Bring all of your doubts to him, it's a safe thing to do.

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