“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2)
That’s a powerful question.
It may be troubling to some people to think that John the Baptist has come to a point of such deep doubt. After all, we know that John had made one of the earliest public confessions of Jesus when he cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Then he said, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Make no mistake. John knew who Jesus was. How could a man who was so certain about Jesus now harbor such doubt? The text does not tell us exactly, but I think I know part of the answer.
It is no wonder that as he languished in prison, not knowing when (or if) he would be released, John began to wonder, and then he began to doubt. He at least knew enough to ask the right question. “Are you the one sent from heaven, or is there someone else who will be our Savior? Are you really the promised Messiah?” The answer our Lord gives is very instructive. He does not rebuke John or put him down. He simply gives him the evidence he needs in order to regain his faith. Go back, he says, and tell John what you have seen. Then he lists six miracles (v. 6):
The blind see.
The lame walk.
The lepers are cured.
The deaf hear.
The dead are raised.
The poor have the gospel preached to them.
Jesus essentially says, “Go back and tell John that in my name, the hurting people of the world are being totally transformed.” He goes on to praise John calling a prophet “and more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:9). He’s the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (v. 10). It’s as if Jesus is saying, “John may doubt me, but I don’t doubt him. He’s still on my team. I still believe in him." He affirmed his faith in John while John was still in his doubts. He knew that underneath those doubts there was genuine faith. Jesus is saying, “He’s still my man, doubts and all.” What an incredible affirmation.
Above the front door of every church in the world we should erect a two-word sign: DOUBTERS WELCOME. That should be the church’s message.
If you have doubts, come inside.
If you have questions, come inside.
If you are uncertain, come inside.
If you are a skeptic, come inside.
If you are searching for truth, come inside.
God never turns an honest doubter away. Never. Come to him with your doubts, your skepticism, your fears, your hard questions, your uncertainties. He welcomes your hardest questions. Doubt is not a sin. It’s what you do with your doubt that makes all the difference. Don’t let your doubts keep you from Jesus. Come to him just as you are, and bring your doubts with you. He will not turn you away.
Gracious Lord, we are glad that you are not threatened by our doubts nor are you shocked when we ask hard questions. Help us to doubt our doubts, not our faith. We believe, Lord, help our unbelief. As you helped John the Baptist, help us too. Amen.
According to Matthew 11:2, where was John the Baptist when he asked today’s question? How can doubt be the springboard to a deeper faith? If you could ask the Lord Jesus one question today, what would it be?