“If Jesus is who he says he is, then why is he not doing what I expected? If Jesus is who he says he is, then why do I still hurt so much?” These aren’t the questions of a skeptic; they’re essentially the questions of John the Baptist, who languished in prison after he was arrested by King Herod: “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?’” (Matthew 11:2-3).
Really, John? You announced the coming of Jesus with such passion, such confidence, such boldness. What happened? Expectations—that’s what happened. John’s were a bit off. He declared that Messiah’s ministry would be one of judgment, but all the reports he heard were about a ministry of mercy. But if Jesus really is the Messiah, where’s the fire and brimstone? Before he was locked up, John thundered, “His winnowing fork is in his hand….The ax is already at the root of the tree!” But the only ax to fall was the one that landed right on John. He’s in jail now getting ready for execution. How could he not wonder, “Is that what I get for serving Jesus? Did I miss something?”
Maybe you can relate. Has Jesus ever acted in a way that you didn’t expect? The healing you prayed for didn’t come through. The financial deliverance you needed didn’t turn out. The promotion you hoped for went to somebody else. The ministry you served in didn’t go as planned. The child you gave birth to is different from all the other children. Jesus didn’t do what you thought he would do, and that stings. John the Baptist knows how that feels.
At some time or another, every thinking believer will wrestle with the problem of doubt. How can I be sure that Christianity is true? What if I’ve put all my hope in Christ, but I’m wrong? What if the resurrection never really happened? What if the critics are right and the Bible is not the Word of God? Questions like these can harass the heart of the sincerest believer.
The good news is that God gives his people reassurance when they need it. “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’” (Matthew 11:4-6). In other words, the reasons for doubting Jesus are in the end unreasonable. Just look and listen. Your eyes and ears will verify in time that Jesus is who he says he is.
That said, Jesus then gives a remarkable public endorsement of John and his ministry. He stands with his people today, too, even when they’re confused by what he’s up to. That’s because Jesus let the ax fall on himself at the cross. His love for his people is truly “wonderful, deep, and strong.’
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