This Week's Scripture & Reflection: Matthew 11:2-6
Doubt is a constant in a world filled with uncertainty. It can creep up within you when you least expect it and when you least desire it. Doubt is a major stumbling block to faith, and subsequently progression. It does not discriminate against any individual; if you open up the door, it will gladly walk in and settle comfortably inside without a second thought! Even those whom you consider to be pillars of faith have most likely wrestled with doubt at some point in their lives. Although we are not defined by our doubt, it is still a very real human experience nonetheless! No one is exempt from it, which is why assurance that originates from truth serves as a powerful weapon to disarm doubt!
Perhaps one of the most perplexing cases of doubt among the pillars of the Christian faith in the Bible is John the Baptist. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, and informs him that he and his barren wife Elizabeth will conceive and give birth to a son who will walk in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah as a forerunner before Jesus Christ! According to Gabriel, John the Baptist would turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God and the hearts of many fathers back to their children, in order to ultimately make the people ready for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah (cf. Malachi 4:5-6, Luke 1:13-17). In fulfillment of this prophecy, John the Baptist appears in the wilderness in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar and begins preaching the gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the people surrounding the Jordan River (cf. Matthew 3:1-2).
It was he whom the prophet Isaiah spoke of in the Old Testament saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight” (cf. Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy concerning his ministry, as many people came to him to confess their sins and to be baptized in response to his call to repentance. The confidence John exuded concerning Jesus was evident in many of his statements: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after Me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (cf. Matthew 3:11a). He demonstrated this same level of humility when Jesus came to be baptized by him: "But John tried to prevent Him saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do you come to Me?'" (cf. Matthew 3:14). He fully understood and acknowledged who he was in light of Christ: “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said ‘I am not the Christ (Messiah)’, but ‘I have been sent ahead of Him’" (cf. John 3:28).
Sometime after he baptized Jesus, John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, the same Herod who issued the decree to kill all male babies born in Bethlehem born two years & under during the time of Jesus' birth (cf. Matthew 2:16). Being the repentance preacher that he was, John the Baptist reprimanded Herod for selfishly divorcing his wife and marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (cf. Matthew 14:3-4). As a result, John was confined to prison for simply doing what he had always done: call people to turn away from their sinful behavior! While John the Baptist was imprisoned, he apparently grew discouraged and even doubtful of whether Jesus truly was who He said He was, even as he heard about all the miraculous works Jesus was doing, such as healing, cleansing, and casting out demons. Seeking reassurance, John the Baptist instructs two of his disciples to ask Jesus a very important question on his behalf: “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
This was the same John who had loudly proclaimed the coming of the Messiah in the wilderness, called everyone to repent of their sins, and baptized numerous people in the Jordan River, including Jesus Himself. This was the same man who declared that he himself was not the Messiah, but that He who had been sent ahead of Him was indeed the Messiah! What happened to John the Baptist that made him question whether this same Man whom he spoke of with such confidence and reverence was actually the Coming and Expected One? Perhaps sitting in prison unjustly, not knowing what his fate would be or how long he would be confined and being unable to see the Messiah at work with his own eyes opened up a door for doubt to settle in John's mind and heart. Although he heard about the miraculous works that Jesus was doing, John wanted to hear from Jesus Himself!
Rather than condemn John the Baptist for doubting, Jesus gives something profound to John’s two disciples to bring back to him: assurance. Jesus tells John’s two disciples to report back to John what they have seen and heard:
The blind receive sight
The lame walk
The lepers are cleansed
The deaf hear
The dead are raised up
The poor have the gospel preached to them
In stating that the blind have received sight (cf. Isaiah 35:5) and that the poor have had the gospel preached to them (Isaiah 61:1), Jesus specifically quoted two prophetic passages from Isaiah in which Isaiah is speaking of the future works of Jesus Himself! By fulfilling these prophecies, Jesus was confirming to John the Baptist through his two disciples that He was indeed the Messiah, the Expected One! Jesus was not only doing what the Old Testament prophets said that He would, but He was doing only what He could do as God in the flesh! Essentially, when John asked Jesus whether he should look for someone else, Jesus through His miraculous works instructed John the Baptist not to look any further, for the true Messiah had arrived!
Similar to John the Baptist, we often find ourselves doubting God as to whether He is who He says He is amid what we deem to be unfair circumstances! We especially question Him when we cannot visually perceive what He's doing! As a result, we turn to other sources outside of Him in search of aid, answers, and assurance. When we feel tempted to look beyond the God of the universe to fulfill our deepest longings, we must remember and continually ground ourselves in this truth: only the Lord can satisfy! Everything we need and earnestly desire can only be found in Him! In His presence, there is fullness of joy (cf. Psalm 16:11). He alone satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with good things (cf. Psalm 107:9). He is El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One (cf. Genesis 17:1). The Lord stands before each one of us daily and instructs us to look no further! The things that man, the world, and other false deities offer simply cannot compare to the offerings of an eternal, All-Sufficient God!