John the Baptist was never a man to mince words. He never would've made it to high political office, since he never was one to use sugary phrases to flatter people. He saw people living disobedient lives (who should've known better) and he spoke out against them. But what if the sinner in question was a person in power, even a king? John couldn’t have possibly cared less. When Herod was living in sin with his brother’s wife, the man of God didn’t hesitate in preaching against it in public. And what was John’s reward for his integrity, his willingness to “tell it like it is”? Well, Herod didn’t exactly react like David did.
The question to ask before we go any further is “Was John sending the disciples to Jesus for his own sake, or for the sake of his disciples?” The question they were sent to ask was pretty shocking on its face. John himself had proclaimed that Jesus was "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," and had seen the Father and the Holy Spirit both publicly endorse Jesus at his baptism. So was he going through a crisis of faith, or was he simply doing this to strengthen the faith of his own disciples?
I want to be perfectly fair here and say that there are a lot of biblical scholars and teachers who disagree with me about what I’m about to say. Many men, whom I respect greatly, claim that the only reason why John sent his followers to Jesus was to help them in their faith, not his. They claim that it’s an insult to the man to think that he ever faltered in his belief. But I have to respectfully disagree. After performing miracles and preaching the good news, Jesus told John’s disciples to go back to their leader and report to him what they had seen and heard. To me this is evidence that John was wavering in his faith.
And to say this is not to cast aspersion on him, since he'd be in really great company. David certainly had doubts, if the Psalms are any indication. Abraham, the father of all who believe, didn’t show 100% trust in the Lord at all times. I'd submit that every believer, or at least most of us, go through periods of doubt in our walk with the Lord. When times are really tough and every indication is that he's abandoned us, it’s pretty common to question his goodness and plan.
But John did what we need to do when experiencing doubt. He went to the Lord about it. That’s what the doubting Psalms do: They go to him with our fears, uncertainties, anger, and even doubt. We have to talk to him about our feelings. Don’t pretend they don’t exist.
And notice how Jesus responded. He didn’t castigate or harshly condemn. He simply pointed the doubter back to what God was doing and who he (Jesus) was. In fact, he gave John a huge compliment in public. John was not a “reed swayed by the wind,” someone who'd change his message to fit opinion polls. He wasn't distracted by the lure of creature comforts. He stood in front of a king who could order his death in a heartbeat and called him out. And Jesus was extremely pleased with him. So doubts don’t have to disqualify us from faithful service which our Father smiles upon. If you’re going through some doubts right now, these are some good lessons for us to take to heart.
Father God, I know I need to trust you completely, and I really shouldn't doubt you at all. Please help my unbelief, and help me to be faithful. I'd love to someday hear you say the same things about me that you said about your servant John. With your help, it can happen.
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