Summary: A look at John the Baptist's astonishing admission of doubt about who Jesus is and why we often have similar doubts.
OUR COMPLAINT: “This is not what I signed up for.”
- Matthew 11:2a – John in prison.
- I cannot read the mind of John, but I can’t help but believe that a prison cell was the last place he expected to end up.
- He is the great prophet of God, the forerunner of the Messiah. He is not simply hopeful about the Kingdom, he’s expecting to see it come to fruition in front of his eyes.
- Maybe when he was first arrested, he thought, “Alright, here we go.” The existing government is trying to shut down this move of God, but arresting the prophet of God is a good way to get the wrath of God after you. So he confidently sat in his cell waiting on everything to break loose. Days go by. Weeks go by. And here he is, day after day, sitting in a dark, dank prison cell. He gets updates from his disciples, but none of them give any indication of regime change in the offing. Doubts begin to creep in – “What is Jesus doing? Why doesn’t He make His move? Doesn’t He know I’m sitting in here? What’s the hold-up? Could it be that He’s not the Messiah? He certainly isn’t acting like the Messiah. . ..”
- One way to summarize John’s thoughts: “This is not what I signed up for.”
- All of his expectations have been dashed. All of his hopes are on life-support.
- He expected to be the forerunner of a conquering King, not prisoner #104566.
ARE WE GOING BACKWARDS? Confidence at first can give way to doubt.
- Matthew 11:2b – “or should we expect someone else?”
- What John’s disciples ask here is simply stunning. Here’s John the Baptist – the wild man in the wilderness, the one preparing the way for Christ, the one who first met Christ in utero, the cousin of Jesus.
- In all of Israel, if there was one guy who should have been confident in Jesus being the Christ, it was John the Baptist.
- And yet here come his disciples with a question that undoubtedly comes straight from John’s lips: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
- John is saying, “Being in prison isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t going the way I expected. This was supposed to be all about a powerful move by the God of Israel and from where I’m sitting this thing is dripping with failure. Are you the guy or not?!?!”
- I wish I could tell you this morning that doubt is something that only unbelievers deal with and once you step across the line to belief that your walk will be one of regularly-increasing assurance. But it doesn’t work like that.
- Sometimes as long-term, mature believers we face new challenges that shake our faith to its very core. Sometimes we find things that we’ve taken for granted for years brought into question. Sometimes we find the confidence that we enjoyed for so long crumbling into a pile of doubt.
- It’s worth noting that the cause was not sin. It’s not that John got off track in his ministry and God has taken him out of the picture as punishment. Right after the passage we just read, Jesus goes on to say how great John is (v. 11).
- We may be right in the center of God’s will, faithfully and fruitfully serving, only to suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we’re inundated with doubt.
- This is not popular to talk about this because we want to believe that things are going to get easier the longer we go. But God is continuing to work with us and grow us into Christlikeness. Sometimes that means struggles.
- I want to talk for a while about four of the most common sources of this doubt, along with some Biblical examples.
WHERE DO THESE DOUBTS COME FROM?
1. God’s plan is rarely our plan.
- Here in Matthew 16 we see the famous (infamous?) argument between Peter and Jesus over the prediction of sufferings to come. Jesus explains the plan that includes betrayal, death, and resurrection. Peter will have none of it: “Never, Lord!”
- Of course, we know that Jesus’ plan is essential for the salvation of mankind. It was a bigger plan, a better plan, a bolder plan, but it certainly wasn’t the expected plan!
- We often have in our minds the “right way” that God should bring about the promised result. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? This is the way that God will do this.”
- Of course, God sees more things than we do and God understands the best way to bring everything together. But that rarely causes us to lower our opinion of how great our plan is.