Jesus is bigger than our doubts. Matthew 11.1-6
We all have them . . . about religion I mean. Even those of us who have been steeped in the Christian faith since we were small--if we’re honest, will admit that from time-to-time, we have doubts. ‘Is the whole thing real?’ ‘Of course, I’ve never seen God, so how do I know he is truly there?’ ‘Do my prayers go no further than the ceiling of my bedroom?’ ‘What if it is all a hoax?’ (What I do with those thoughts further in this briefing.)
There is something hugely comforting about today’s scripture. John the Baptist has been in prison for some 12 – 14 months, and therefore separated from Jesus. The Baptizer had dared call Herod out for stealing his brother’s wife, so was thrown in prison for the unwelcome moral judgment. Cut off from Jesus, tired and weak, questions and doubts register in his mind. But wait just a minute … isn’t this the same John, the only John called ‘the Baptist’ or ‘the Baptizer’ who was foretold of by both Isaiah and Malachi, the Old Testament prophets? Is not this the same man whose sole purpose, by his own words, was to prepare the way for the Messiah—the one who baptized Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”? And now he is having doubts?!1
However, John makes a decision not to let his doubts overcome him,
and so sends his own disciples to ask Jesus a direct question. I think Jesus rather likes direct questions.
Here’s how Matthew described it:
“When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.
John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” 2
First, what changed? What prompted John’s doubts about Jesus, the Messiah, to whom he was devoted—the one who he had announced to all? First, I believe when are separated from Jesus, we are more prone to question and doubt. When we are cut off from Jesus and any source of God’s Word, as John was, we are likely to be assailed by questions and doubts. Second, perhaps John wondered why he was hearing of Jesus’ miraculous healing, and yet he himself was languishing in a Roman prison—the furthest thing from his life in the desert. Why hadn’t Jesus done anything to get him out of prison? Whatever his reasons, John did the right thing, by going directly to Jesus with his question.
Jesus does not get angry at John for his question; he does not chastise him--far from it. In fact, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s words to John, knowing full well that John would be familiar with them—thereby reminding John what he knew to be true, and drawing a link between the two as well.
‘Think the case was isolated? Not at all! It would not be long until the apostles told Thomas they ‘had seen the Lord!’ That indeed, Jesus did what he said he would do—he rose from the grave. But Thomas said, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’3 Jesus was not put off by his disciple’s need for physical proofs; he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’4
Usually people doubt God when they are troubled, such as John-the-Baptist, who knew he was likely facing a death sentence. Folks doubt when they see trouble in the world, and fail to remember that trouble does not change the heart or character of a good God—we have free will, as do others. Folks lose heart when they take their eyes off God, and instead look down, like Peter did when he was walking on water; as long as he looked at Jesus, it was miraculous, but he began sinking when he looked down and became afraid.5 God can handle our questions, he can handle our doubts, so long as our doubts do not cause us to turn away from him.
What do I do if or when a doubt enters my mind? I remember how good God has been to me. I recall answered prayers. I think of the difference faith and trust in God makes to my life. I look back and remember, and doubt no more. I do what Jesus told Thomas to do, Stop doubting and believe.
1 - [This is another proof for Scripture, because it does not always present godly people in the best light! Scripture does what is said on the Street—it tells the ‘what is’, even when the ‘what is’ is not pretty, such as John-the-Baptist’s doubts.]
2 – Matthew 11.1-6
3 – John 20.25
4 – John 20.27
5 – Matthew 14.28-29
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