Summary: 2nd in a four part character study on the life of John the Baptist.
"AN INQUIRING MIND"
Peter Parker, a.k.a., Spiderman has reached a crisis. It seems that his life is falling apart, nothing seems to be going right. He’s been fired from work, he’s failing at school and even struggling in his relationships. Worst of all, as Spiderman, he’s losing his powers. In an attempt to find answers he visits his family doctor.
Video Clip - Spiderman 2 - Chap. 26 - Start:0:59:58 - End:1:03:32 - 3:34
Peter’s difficulties arise from his indecisiveness and doubt. He doesn’t know what to do or who to trust and as a result he is doing everything poorly. The same can occur to us, even if we seem to have “everything together.” Doubt and it’s complications can happen to anyone, including those who we look at as having great faith! It happened to the “SuperHero” we’re studying this month: John the Baptist. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that he came to a point in his life where not much was working for him either, and he expressed indecisiveness and doubt! Can you believe that? How did that happen? After all, this is the man about which Jesus said in vs:11, "there is no one greater." Yet, as we’ll see, John now is wondering if Jesus is really who he says he is. And John’s wondering if he has made a mistake. Well, John’s doubt gives us an opportunity to discuss and understand our own doubts and hopefully learn that an open-minded inquiry can actually serve a positive purpose in our search for truth and in finding or reinforcing our faith.
I. THE REASONS FOR JOHN’S DOUBT:
First, let’s look at the reasons for John’s doubt. Look at vs:2 "When John was in prison, he heard about the things Christ had done. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?” Now, what possible reasons could this great man of faith have for asking that question? How could a man of such strong character, as John, be a victim now of such torturous doubt? How could this man who so confidently said of Jesus, "Look, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,”(Jn 1:29 NIV) now wonder if Jesus is the One? I can think of at least three reasons why John may have doubted and they are the same reasons we and others doubt today.
(1) Doubts come due to adverse circumstances. Notice where vs:2 says John is located: “When John was in prison...”John at this moment is confined to a dark horrible dungeon. Next week we are going to discuss why he was placed in prison, but for now just understand that he did not deserve to be there. He was no criminal. As we saw last week he fulfilled God’s mission in a unique way. He had prepared the way for Jesus, and had gotten out of the way, stepping aside and saying that Jesus must increase and he must become less. That’s not deserving of a dungeon. He had done everything God asked him, he had not disobeyed God nor forsaken his mission. How could God allow this? If Jesus was God’s Son why didn’t He rescue him? What possible good could come of John being shut up in a dungeon? He couldn’t preach, he couldn’t prepare the hearts of others to look for Jesus, he couldn’t baptize anyone in this dirty cell. Could he have been wrong about Jesus?
You know unpleasant or difficult circumstances can create doubt in our lives too. If there really is a God, why is it your mother has cancer? Why is it your child is hurting. Why is it that you are struggling to make ends meet when others are making money hand over foot? How could 9/11 happen? It’s hard not to question the care or the existence of God under those circumstances. Now, certainly none of us expect everything to be perfect in this life. The Bible says that “God lets the rain fall... whether they are just or unjust;”(Mt. 5:45) In other words, God doesn’t play favorites. And we know, from life experience, that tragedy can happen to anyone, no matter your race, your gender, how good you are, whether your name is Kennedy or Smith. But when tragedy strikes it is only natural for people to doubt. Even John the Baptist questioned the credentials of Jesus when his life took a turn for the worse.
(2) Doubts come due to unrealized expectations. John may have been somewhat confused by Jesus’ methods. John had already correctly identified Jesus as the Son of God. But when you look at some of the things John said that Jesus was going to do, he may have been confused by the way they were being carried out. For example: John said that Jesus would exercise His power in establishing a kingdom. John predicted in Mt. 3:11- "The one who comes after me is more powerful than I.." But Jesus didn’t seem to be exercising the power that John had expected. In fact, Jesus’ methods seemed pretty passive.. "turn the other cheek.." "Love your enemies.." And John had predicted that the Savior was going to exercise judgement. Mt.3:12- "He (Jesus) is going to clean house - make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”(MSG) But Jesus didn’t seem to be coming in judgement. He was known to associate with sinners. John began to wonder: Have I been premature in proclaiming Jesus as the coming One of God?