Summary: John the baptist doubts Jesus which leads him to ask questions about Jesus.
Doubt is a part of life. We believe in a God who is all powerful and magnificent and yet we have never seen Him. Without doubt there could be no faith for all we would have would be certainty. Sometimes we think of doubt as the opposite of faith. That is not the case. Unbelief is the opposite of faith. Inaction is the opposite of faith. Doubt is simply an uncertainty that stems from not having all the answers in life. Doubt is not a sin. Doubt is a tool. It can be used to drive us away from God or to motive us to ask questions that draw us closer understanding of Him.
We all have crisis of faith. We all have times which we doubt. When life gets hard, when we experience personal tragedy, when things go horribly wrong in our life we start to wonder if God is there if He really cares. We all start off with these ideas about who God is and what He should do. When God does not fit with our preconceptions about Him we will naturally start to have doubts. We are not the only ones. Look at Luke 7:18. After Jesus preaches one of the greatest sermons in history, the sermon on the mount He returns to Capernaum. While He was there He heals a centurion’s servant from a distance. Then Jesus made His way to the town of Nain which was about twenty-five miles southeast of Capernaum. In Nain Jesus raises a window’s son from the dead. Well as word about Jesus spreads it reaches the ears of John the Baptist.
Lk 7:18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,
Lk 7:19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Lk 7:20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”
Let me tell you a little bit about who John is. His father Zechariah was a priest but unlike our priests today priests at this time they were allowed to marry. When working in the temple Zechariah was visited by an angel and was told he would have a son. This was pretty unlikely since his wife Elizabeth was an old woman and she was barren. John is a barren birth while Jesus is a virgin birth but both are pretty miraculous. So John is a preacher’s kid. He would have grown up studying the Word of God and learning how to preach.
John is an amazing man. He became an extremely popular teacher. Crowds of people are coming from all over to hear John speak and his ministry is very effective. They are baptizing people and doing good work. John’s job is to prepare the way for Jesus. But as a popular preacher people started to wonder if maybe John was the Christ. He had the means and opportunity to seize power for himself but he didn’t. John just pointed people to Jesus. Even as a popular and successful preacher John was humble. He did not even consider himself worthy to touch the lowliest part of Jesus, His feet. Now Jesus is John’s younger cousin. If anyone should have struggled with Jesus being the messiah it should have been John. But when John sees Jesus he declares that Jesus is the lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. He says: I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. John knew who Jesus was and even had a vision of a dove descending on Jesus to confirm that knowledge. So when he asks Jesus if He really is the one they have been waiting for it seems a little odd.
Well John’s situation has changed. After Jesus baptism John was preaching the good news. In the course of his preaching he butted heads with Herod and publicly rebuked him for having an adulterous and incestuous relationship with his sister-in-law Herodias. Now for some reason Herodias took offense to that and urged Herod to have John locked up. Herod did. See not only was John criticizing a powerful religious leader but Herod’s fame was dwindling and John’s popularity had been rising. Seeing John as a threat for revolt Herod imprisoned him to prevent any kind of uprising. At this point John has been in prison for about 10 months.
While he testified that Jesus was the Son of God he has recently had a lot of time to reflect. Sitting in his cell with nothing but his thoughts John started to wonder. John was behind Jesus from the beginning but now he is having some doubts. Keep in mind John would have been well educated in the Old Testament. He had some expectations about who messiah be and more importantly what messiah would be like. Then he starts hearing stories. Jesus touches lepers, He eats with sinners, He even invited a tax collector to be disciple. Jesus does not seem to observe Sabbath law or really to behave like one might expect a religious leader to behave. When he heard all these stories about the kind of people Jesus hung out with, the things Jesus said and did he starts to wonder if maybe he got it wrong. John may have known who Jesus was but that does not mean he correctly understood Jesus. John was probably expecting Jesus to be a political leader just like the Pharisees were and Jesus isn’t fitting in the box.