“When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask [Jesus], ‘Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
The question that John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus is not out of the ordinary. John came preaching fire and brimstone, warning that the Messiah’s arrival would bring about retribution. This Messiah, that he pointed everybody to, was sitting with the tax collectors and sinners; He was not condemning them, but welcoming them to the table. Hence, when John’s disciples brought word about Jesus sitting and sharing fellowship with the very people—the unclean, the sinful and the unholy—that John was condemning so strongly in his ministry, John started to have doubts about Jesus.
John had an expectation of what the Messiah ought to be like and how He should conduct Himself. But because Jesus was not meeting his expectations, it was creating a crisis in his faith as he wondered—Is He the One? Is He truly the Messiah? There are seasons when we are going through a trial or a hardship where we can have sincere doubts.
For John, he did not keep these doubts to himself, as he sent his disciples to get some answers from Jesus. Similarly, we can bring our doubts to Jesus, lay them before Him with sincerity and ask for a response. Jesus answered John’s disciples, “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” (Matthew 11:4-6). From Jesus’s response, we find that He did not come to make bad people good, but the dead to live, the blind to see, the lame to walk and the lepers to be cleaned. Jesus came to bring a new life, a new creation and a new way of relating to God, not just behaviour modification, but a whole new beginning.
John thought the ministry of the Messiah would bring condemnation, but Jesus actually came to bring salvation. Nobody quite understood this yet, but the Messiah was not going to overthrow evil or injustice in the way they wanted or expected. Rather, He was going to lay down His life and literally subject Himself to the injustice and bear up under the evil expressions of the world.
The tendency to misunderstand God or measure Him against our expectations is not just a challenge for John, it is a challenge for all of us. Yet, even when these expectations cause us to doubt, we find John was open to how God was moving. He humbly subjected his doubts to Jesus and trusted the answer that he received.
Jesus Messiah, there are many things that I do not understand, but one thing I know for sure is that You went to the cross and died for the full penalty of humanity’s sin. Thank You, Lord.