John the Baptist was one of the original believers in Jesus, and he was in a quandary. He pointed his disciples to Jesus and said, “There goes the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He had no doubts that Jesus was the One they’d been waiting for. He even insisted that Jesus baptize him down at the Jordan River instead of him baptizing Jesus. He had seen the heavens open and heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son.” It all seemed so clear in those early days.
Later, John publically denounced King Herod for a marital indiscretion, and so Herod had John arrested. Now, as John sits in the hot dungeon, he is perplexed and troubled. Some say he had sat there for about a year when a question concerned Jesus began rolling around in his head. This foreboding feeling about the future troubles him, and he begins to wonder if Jesus is really the Messiah or if he was mistaken. And so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
A variety of reasons could have caused John to ask this question. It could have been disappointment in the ministry of Jesus himself. He had thought the Messiah would come to breathe fire and judgment upon the people Ð separate the wheat from the chaff. Instead, Jesus was healing people. “Where’s the judgment?” John was asking.
Perhaps John was frustrated that Jesus hadn’t overthrown the powers that be to get John out of prison. Or perhaps Satan was playing with John’s mind, casting doubts in his heart. To be honest, we don’t know with certainty what caused John’s question, but we do know he sent some of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him the question. “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
As I look to John and his question, I can’t help but be reminded of similar questions that can arise in our own minds, even to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Perhaps they come up because of disappointments along the way. Maybe a prayer Ð like a healing Ð wasn’t answered the way you’d hoped. Or perhaps an unexpected tragedy happens, and your faith is shaken. You wonder, Why is this happening to me? Jesus, are you for real?
Others may face disappointment with the church or a church leader. In despair you say, “It’s all just a bunch of malarkey!” Or perhaps the state of the world gets the best of us. We proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” yet the world looks gloomy as if it’s not going to get any better.
For some, it’s an intellectual issue that has gotten their attention. We live in a pluralistic age, and our world is shrinking. We are surrounded by all kinds of religion, all clamoring that they are the truth. Some of the people with whom we work or go to school believe in various philosophies. Their arguments seem valid and intelligent, which can cause us to scratch our heads and doubt if we have really know what we are talking about when we claim Jesus is the only way to salvation. After all, we don’t want to appear narrow-minded or be offensive to others. Perhaps we should just keep our beliefs to ourselves.
Television programs can also call into question the legitimacy of Christ’s identity and claims of the church, which bothers some of us. And in the midst of all this is Satan, that old, devouring lion who is out to destroy our faith. He is planting the seeds of doubt and fanning the flames.
All these things can cause storms of doubt to kick in, like they did for John, and make us wonder if this stuff is for real. I like what Max Lucado wrote in one of his books: “There are snow storms, and there are hail storms, there are rain storms, and there are doubt storms. Every so often a doubt storm rolls into my life bringing with it a flurry of questions and gale-force winds of fear.”
Notice, though, Jesus’ response to John’s question. He tells 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 cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
Jesus was pointing John back to the Old Testament. It says in Isaiah 35 that all these things would come to pass when the days of the restoration of Israel came about in the time of Messiah. Hearing the good news preached to the poor is a fulfillment of the Messiah’s coming in Isaiah 61. Everything Jesus was doing and saying had been prophesied many years before John was born.
Jesus’ advice to check the evidence is a good message for you and for me to hear. Jesus is saying the same thing to us! You are having some doubts about me? Look at the evidence! Where is that evidence? Find it in your Bible. Go back and read the Gospels. Read that Jesus was who He said He was Ð the Son of God. He did not promise that believers would never go through hardships and suffering. However, He did say He would suffer and die upon the cross and on the third day rise from the grave. And it happened! The resurrection did occur as God’s affirmation of everything Jesus did and said.
Jesus tells us to go back and look at the Old Testament prophesies of what the Messiah would say and do. Everything that was prophesied actually came to pass with Jesus’ ministry. Look at the lives that were changed. People, who were absolutely opposed to Christ, who thought everything about Christianity was bogus, became serious followers of Him.
Look at the lives of people who have been changed by Jesus over through the years. I recently called a book called Seven Men, written by Eric Metaxas, which I found to be very inspiring for my own faith. It is about some men who were inspired by Jesus Christ and had their lives changed. It’s a great read!
Look at what the scholars and the researchers have said about Jesus when you have questions about his validity. A book by Lee Strobel called The Case for Christ also is a great read for people who are struggling with questions about Jesus. Ravi Zacharias has a wonderful book called Jesus Among Many Gods, which I have on my own shelf as well.
In conclusion, Jesus says to say to John, “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” This has been referred to as a beatitude. It assumes the questioner, John, has begun well and must avoid stumbling. It’s a challenge to hang on, stick to the faith. Jesus is asking John to reexamine his presuppositions about what the Messiah should be and do in the light of Jesus. Look at the Old Testament prophesy and bring your understanding and faith into line with Jesus.
“Hang in there, John,” Jesus seems to be saying. “Take another look at the evidence. Don’t fall away from me. Trust me. I know what I am doing.” It is important to do these things when doubt storms arise in a believer’s mind, because life can get difficult. Satan is on the prowl seeking to destroy your faith.
John was honest enough to ask his question out loud. Be like John in that respect. Jesus’ words to us are quite clear: Check the evidence if you are having doubts and struggles in your faith life. Read the Gospels. Get familiar with Jesus’ fulfilment of Old Testament prophesy. Ask questions of others who are believers and strong in their faith. Don’t back away or stumble over Jesus. Keep the faith. Stick with Him. Happy is the person who does just that.
If you have fallen away or rejected Jesus, this is an appeal for you. Blessedness is available to all who accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The blessedness of forgiveness is yours, for He died on the cross for your sins. The blessedness of having a place of having a place prepared in heaven for you is yours, for He has prepared it through His resurrection. The blessedness of having a friend who will never desert you nor forsake you is yours as you place your trust in Jesus Christ.
Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at Jesus, but places his trust in Him.