Summary: John wondered about Jesus. He had just gotten done preaching how Messiah would come in power and judgment, instead of cleaning house Jesus is preaching love your enemies and turn the other cheek. It is little wonder John had doubts!
Have you ever wondered at some point in your life, Am I doing the right thing, making the right choice? How do you know if you’re doing right or choosing well when it comes to that job or a major decision that affects your family? How do people make the right choices when the doctor says there’s no hope? We wonder, don’t we?
John wondered too. He had just gotten done preaching how Messiah would come in power and judgment, harvest-sickle flashing and slashing. Now Jesus has come; John has declared Him the Son of God – and, instead of cleaning house Jesus is preaching love your enemies and turn the other cheek. It is little wonder John had doubts!
Where was this Messiah who was going to set everything right and punish sinners? Marc Axelrod wrote:
But instead of preaching brimstone, Jesus preached grace. Instead of punishing sinners, He reached out to sinners. Instead of ushering in a political kingdom, Jesus preached about a heavenly kingdom.
And John was confused. “Why is Jesus letting the Herods of this world get away with murder? Why is he letting an innocent man like me sit here in this prison? Why is He letting my life come to an end like this? Are you the One who was to come? Or should we expect someone else?”
We do have those kinds of questions, don’t we? One of the “inside jokes” at Wednesday evening Adult Bible Study is how I begin each session with, Any questions before we start? One of our members always has a good question (most often a hard one), and it gets us “off and running” to deal with the hard stuff up front. I’m always glad for the questions – they help us crystallize our thinking, and it blows away the cobwebs and forces us to the issues that are at the center of life! I love good questions!
Questions – honest searching ones – do not reveal a lack of faith; they reveal a longing for faith to be strong. Questions reveal a desire to strengthen our faith.
I believe God had Matthew write this account of John the Baptist’s struggling faith because the main focus of the Gospel is faith in Jesus. We begin life in the Spirit by faith, and the Bible tells us in at least three of Paul’s writings that we continue that life by faith.
Everything connected with our following Jesus is about faith! So, let’s focus on the faith that drove John’s question and Jesus’ answer, which strengthens our faith.
I. John’s Question is Like Our Questions
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Matthew 11:2-3 (NRSV)
One commentary posed an interesting question about John’s question: Isn’t it fascinating to realize that if John was going to believe Jesus was the Messiah, he would have to do so the exact same way we do: by believing what OTHER people report about Jesus and his ministry! John himself was not able to hear Jesus’ words directly nor could he witness a single miracle in person. John would just have to believe the testimony of the disciples, which is all we have to go on, too. We have to believe that what the disciples claim they saw and heard is the truth. So our questions are exactly like John’s. The real issue is – what drives such questions?
A man was driving the winding mountainous road home late one night. He swerved on one hazardous turn and the car crashed through the guard rail and went sailing off into the night over the cliff. The man was thrown from the car and he managed to grab onto a small branch growing out of the mountainside. When he caught his breath and realized he wasn’t dead he began to check out the surroundings.
Holding tight to the branch he looked down at a straight drop of 300 feet; he looked up at a 20-foot climb with nothing to hold onto. There he dangled between heaven and the hard earth.
The man figured he was done-for, so he began crying out to God:
“Hello, God. Are you up there somewhere? If you can hear me, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. If you’ll get me out of this mess I’ll be good. I’ll go to church and serve on committees; man, I’ll even tithe!”
Suddenly a voice from above said,
“I hear you, my son – and I will help you…let go of the branch”.
“Uh, Lord, it’s a 300-foot drop.”
“I know – trust me and I’ll help you…let go of the branch.”
--- a 10 second pause followed, and the man then said: