Even John Doubted

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, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And He added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of Me.” (Matthew 11:2–6)

John the Baptist had now been imprisoned for some time by Herod Antipas for denouncing the tetrarch’s adulterous marriage to Herodias (Luke 3:19–20). You would have thought that the Jewish leaders would have been up in arms defending John’s position and denouncing Herod’s action. Yet, they were silent. Most likely their attitude toward Jesus is what resulted in their lack of action on John’s behalf. After all, John had honored Jesus and proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. But then again John was also not popular with them by his own right. He didn’t cater to the crowds, let alone the Pharisees. He was a man of conviction and courage — the greatest of the prophets (Matthew 11:11).

He came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) and even dressed and ministered like him (2 Kings 1:7–8, Matthew 3:4). Like Elijah, John had a message of judgment for the apostate nation of Israel. The prophet Isaiah had announced John’s coming (Isaiah 40:3). John’s ministry was to prepare the nation forJesus and present Jesus tothe nation.

But now his voice had been silenced. He could not preach to the crowds from a jail cell. This voice with a divine mandate to proclaim was being muffled in prison. And he became discouraged, and perhaps broken.

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John’s disciples had been watching Jesus and keeping John apprised of His movements, His miracles and His message. It’s very probable that John was expecting Jesus to, at any moment, declare His authority as the Messiah, establish His kingdom and His government, and free the nation from Roman rule. John was anticipating that any day now the Messiah would begin His reign and the door of John’s prison cell would be opened and he would be set free. John was probably trying to understand why Jesus was taking so long to assume the throne. More than likely, this was his context when he asked, “Are You the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” As we have traveled through the previous chapters in this book thus far, we have seen that common thread running through the minds of the disciples and the followers of John. Now we see it expressed by John himself. Even the way the Pharisees felt threatened by who Jesus was, largely resulted from the fact that He didn’t look anything like the Messiah they were selfishly expecting! Everyone had a picture in their mind of who and what the Messiah would look like — and Jesus didn’t look like that picture! Even John was beginning to doubt!

So Jesus tells John’s messengers, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen….” Tell him, “… the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Jesus was using the very words of the prophet Isaiah — “Say to those with fearful hearts,‘Be strong, and do not fear,for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.He is coming to save you.And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blindand unplug the ears of the deaf.The lame will leap like a deer,and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!’” (Isaiah 35:4–6). Jesus is sending John a word of encouragement — not a word of rebuke. And when He adds, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of Me”, He is reminding John of what Isaiah also wrote:

He will keep you safe.But to Israel and Judah,He will be a stone that makes people stumble,a rock that makes them fall.And for the people of Jerusalem,He will be a trap and a snare.Many will stumble and fall,never to rise again.They will be snared and captured.”Preserve the teaching of God;entrust His instructions to those who follow me.I will wait for the Lord,who has turned away from the descendants of Jacob.I will put my hope in Him.(Isaiah 8:14–17)

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Though God Himself would be a stumbling stone to Israel and Judah, He would not cause those to stumble who trust Him! Songwriters Babbie Mason and Eddie Carswell communicated that message well when they wrote, “when you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.”

As we walk with the Master, we, too, will encounter circumstances that we never expected and we certainly don’t understand. We were expecting the Lord to do one thing in our life — and He does something totally different — or He allows something totally different — at best, disappointing — or at worst, tragic. He doesn’t look anything like we think God should look like. He hasn’t done what we think He should do. We’re like John — we know the Scriptures — we know the promises of God — but we just got “sucker-punched” — and we don’t understand! The pain, the sorrow, the devastation, or even the disappointment will more than likely cause us to question Jesus. It could cause us to ask, “Jesus, are You really who I think You are? If so, how could you allow this to occur? Are You the One to follow or should we keep looking for someone else?

In that moment, Jesus has a message for us as well.

All things work for our good

Though sometimes we don’t see 

How they could

Struggles that break our hearts in two

Sometimes blind us to the truth

Our Father knows what’s best for us

His ways are not our own

So when your pathway grows dim

And you just don’t see Him,

Remember you’re never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand

When you don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

Trust His Heart

He sees the master plan

And he holds our future in His hand,

So don’t live as those who have no hope,

All our hope is found in Him

We see the present clearly

But He sees the first and the last

And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me,

To someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand

When don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

He alone is faithful and true

He alone knows what is best for you

God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand

When don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

When you don’t understand

When you don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

Trust His Heart

Songwriters: Babbie Y. Mason / Eddie Carswell

Trust His Heart lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.