After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Jesus replied, "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."
The one issue we all deal with or at least I have dealt with through this trial is doubt. Not doubt in my faith or beliefs but doubt when I would say, “God did I hear you correctly?” For me this is mostly born out of my expectations not being met. I heard God and believe God said Andrea would be healed but then I play out in my mind how it will happen and convince myself that is exactly how I would do it if I were God. Then when things don’t pan out that way I think, “Did I not hear God correctly? Did I miss something? Because I sure thought we had this worked out and Andrea was supposed to be healed by now. Remember how we worked it out? How everything was lined up perfectly?” This really troubled me for a while and I was beginning to be afraid to have the faith Andrea would be healed as time after time I was “let down.” I was fearful to say with convection Andrea will be okay. As I thought about it those “let downs” were nothing more then my own expectations projected onto God. God was not letting me down I was. As I read Matthew 11 I found myself relating to John the Baptist as he sent his two disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
At this point John the Baptist is in prison and is about to be put to death. As I read this verse I could related to the underling doubt that was in the question. I wonder was John like me and had he played out the events in his mind of how things would go only to be struck by the reality of what was happening. I don’t mean to add to scripture but as I put myself in John’s shoes I would have asked the same question, “Are you the one?” John had to know Christ was the Messiah. In Mathew 3:11-17 it states,
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
What I think John did not know was what Christ had come to do. Christ was not there to free Israel from Roman rule and bondage but to free them from the bondage of sin. Christ did not come to set up an earthly kingdom but and heavenly kingdom. God had an eternal plan that far exceeded John’s earthly imagination. Unless God reveled there was no way for John to understand this. John knew what God had told him and the rest John filled in the blanks if you will. Much like what I was doing in my life. I took a known revelation and expanded it beyond its boundaries only to find out I had over stepped my own bounds. I needed to take what I knew and anything beyond that was faith, not faith to fill in the blanks but faith to trust the way God took me to the destination He reveled to me. Did John wonder what was happening because his physical circumstances and his expectations did not match? When you look at John’s life he knew his calling; he lived in the wilderness, ate locus. Was he not dedicated? Could he have done more? Yet something made him doubt or wonder, just like we do when our life does not match our expectations. We wonder are we in God’s will? Why is this happening to me Lord? This is not what I expected. I think John may have asked, why am I in prison. How can this be for me? Why are bad things happening to someone who was faithful?
Did Christ come to give us an easy life, a life without trials? Is this Christ’s example? Christ came to give us life more abundantly. We love to interpret this to me we get all we want or ask for, and in doing so we set ourselves up to be frustrated and confused when life does not go as we planned. I think Christ called us into a deeper faith, a faith beyond the shallow religion of be good and receive good. We tend to view those whose life is easy or “blessed” as people of faith. We are not sure how to take someone going through difficult times. There must be some sin in their life, as if there is none in ours. Sometimes I think we would give the same advice as Job’s friends. We expect to receive for what we do, of course we only expect to receive for the good we do and we want the bad parts of our life forgotten, by a loving God. Is it funny that we expect a good life because we focus on our good deeds? Yet God sees all of us, even the parts of our lives, our actions, and our thoughts that we don’t want to think about.
Is there any wonder why John ask, “Are you the one?” Is there a little fear in those words? Fear that John was on the wrong track, and he had wasted his life. What could be worse then being totally committed to a calling and then in the end wonder, was I right? Have you ever experienced this type of doubt in your life? Did you take a job or move feeling God leading you, and then after a while things are not going at all like you thought they should? The natural response is to think, “God did I hear you wrong?” Maybe this move or this job change was not God’s will, maybe it was just what I wanted. You see we all face these questions when we see life as only in God’s will when life is going well, when there are no difficulties or trials.
I loved the way Christ answered John’s disciples. “Go tell him the things you see and hear.” (Mat 11:4) When I read that I thought would it not have been easier for Jesus to have just answered “Yes”. Don’t we want those easy to understand answers form God when we are asking questions? We just don’t have the patience or energy when life is difficult to discern or interpret God’s answer. We do like things quick and clear when we are in a panic. We want the answer to so clear to remove our doubt, an answer that does not leave room for interpretation or potential confusion and more doubt. “Lord we are struggling with doubt, make the answer perfectly clear, just say yes or no.” Yet Jesus says tell him: "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 telling John don’t doubt, Who else could do these things but the Christ? I am the one! At first I thought verse 6, “blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me”, was out of place. But I think Jesus was telling John I know what you are really asking I know you are struggling with doubt. I know you are in prison, yes you will die for me, but I am the one don’t doubt and I will bless you. In our lives where blessed means a good job, a big house, a nice car, we might look at John as being punished by God, but Jesus said he would be blessed if he did not fall away on account of him. How would we look at John’s life? He served God forsaking everything and his reward was a beheading. We would be confused if we only think of blessings as earthly.
God’s calling in our life is beyond an “easy” life. I think that is a shallow view of our God who sent His son to suffer and die for us. Jesus’ example was not, “Follow me and have an easy life.” It was, “Follow me and you will be treated as I was, but you will be blessed by our heavenly father.”