18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”Luke 7:18-23, ESV
Who is John?
The man commissioned by God to prepare the way of the Lord accomplished His divinely mandated task. John preached the gospel of the Kingdom, baptized repentant people, identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. The height of John’s ministry came as Jesus rose out of the water, and God revealed His Trinitarian nature as the Spirit descended upon Christ, and the Father spoke from Heaven to make Jesus’ Sonship known. John was the ordained forerunner, and he executed his office perfectly.
Why is he in prison?
In this sixth chapter of Luke, John the Baptist is in prison. Herod Antipas seemingly captured that peculiar man of God for rebuking his immorality. Antipas had essentially stolen his brother Phillip’s wife, and John preached against the Herods’ wickedness. Now the blessed prophet of God was a captive of an evil tyrant.
Why is John doubting?
During John’s imprisonment, his disciples had continued to serve him, and Luke tells us that the Baptist had a curious question for Jesus. John’s disciples came to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” It appears that the mighty Baptizing prophet was struggling with doubts. The question is essentially asking if Jesus is the promised Messiah or not. John may have been confused due to his own presumptive idea of what the Messiah had come to accomplish. The common notion of Jesus’ original followers was that Messiah would ascend to power as the King of the Jews by overthrowing the occupying Roman government. This picture of a conquering King is likely John’s envisioned work for Jesus to accomplish, but the reality of Jesus’ ministry was far more humble and grassroots. Was Jesus the Son of David that the prophets foretold or not?
Jesus graciously answered John’s question in the affirmative by performing miracles predicted by the prophet in Isaiah 35. The Baptist was struggling with belief because his perception of the Messianic prophecies was not matching with the practical unfolding of Jesus’ ministry. The problem was rooted in John’s interpretation of the Messianic prophecies. John was looking for a King who would usher in a new world and overcome all of Israel’s enemies. That’s who Jesus was, but the physical kingdom that John was envisioning was still yet to come. The mystery of the gospel was to unfold in two stages. The first stage was Jesus’ advent as a suffering servant, and the second stage would be Jesus’ future advent as a conquering King. Eventually (Act 1), angels will tell Jesus’ disciples, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” When Jesus returns, He will establish the Kingdom that John was envisioning. However, John was living during the time of Jesus’ first advent, and His kingdom was real but not tangible in the way John expected.
Christian, this story isn’t recorded for John’s humiliation, but it is written for our help. John the Baptist is going to be called by Jesus the greatest man born of women. That is a shocking statement coming from the infallible lips of Jesus. Consider, if John is the greatest and he struggled with doubts, is it possible that Jesus would have a gracious response for your doubts as well? I think so. Like John, our doubts can arise when we have a mistaken interpretation of God’s Word. I know the heartbreak of doubt that creeps in through an incorrect understanding of scripture. If we’re honest, we have all been guilty of incorrectly reading or applying God’s Word. My friends, we are fallible. God’s Word is infallible. Therefore, if our experience seems contradictory to our understanding of scripture, the problem will not be a failure of God’s Word but a failure to correctly understand God’s Word.
Be patient, be humble, and never seclude yourself from your brothers and sisters in Christ as you seek God’s answers to your questions. Look at John with his question. Did John doubt God’s Word is true? No. Did He know Jesus was the Messiah? Yes. The problem arose because He could not understand how His view of the Messiah was wrong. At least, He could not understand until Jesus revealed the truth to John’s disciples, who returned to that Baptist with the blessed news of a right interpretation. If John could misread the prophets, then I could too. May we all look to Jesus to have a proper understanding of God’s Word because He is the express image of the invisible God. Search the scriptures, Christian, and in them, you shall find the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation to be the central theme (Luke 24:44-45). Jesus’ last words to John’s disciples were, “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” In other words, All who will realize their problem isn’t with Jesus but with their own faulty assumptions; those people are blessed.