According to Jesus, John the Baptist was as good a man as the world had ever known. He was born to preach and usher in the Kingdom of God. John was popular among the people, but maybe not so much among the classes. He spoke out against religious leaders and political leaders. He warned of coming judgment and promised the arrival of one who would baptize with fire.
And yet, as Jesus’s ministry begins to pick up speed, John doesn’t find himself side-by-side with Jesus teaching, healing, ministering, and serving. No, John finds himself in prison. John’s prophetic words caught up with him and Herod had him imprisoned because John spoke out against King Herod’s illicit marriage.
John is 31 years old. His entire life has been consumed with preparing the way for Jesus. And when Jesus’s ministry becomes public, it doesn’t look exactly like John expected. John promised one who would baptize with fire. But Jesus doesn’t speak with the fiery tones of John. John was an ascetic living in the desert. Jesus is the life of the party. John didn’t see fire.
And so, languishing in a prison cell, John begins to doubt. John begins to question. Could he have have wasted his entire life? He calls a few of his disciples to him and sends them to Jesus with a message:
Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?
John sees death approaching and John sends Jesus a question: Was I wrong? Have I wasted my life? Are you the one?
Maybe you have been like John. Maybe there have been times in your life when you questioned your relationship with or commitment to Jesus. Maybe you doubted that Jesus was who he claimed to be, or that he could possibly love you.
John had doubts. But John was honest. He didn’t sit in his cell and sulk or grow angry. John was honest. He went to the Lord with his questions and his doubts. He went to Jesus.
When Jesus heard John’s doubts, Jesus didn’t judge John. Jesus didn’t reprimand John. Jesus didn’t slap his hand. Read Jesus’s words to John:
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me
Jesus sent John a word of hope and encouragement. Jesus told John that he had not been wrong. Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and his works of mercy and healing were evidence of his messianic ministry. But, that wasn’t all that Jesus sent to John.
Jesus encouraged John, but then Jesus blessed John.
John had spent his entire life ministering, serving, preaching, working. John was now in prison doing nothing. John was not ministering. John was not baptizing. John was not ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven. But John was blessed.
John was blessed by Jesus because Jesus’ love for John was not works-based. Jesus didn’t love John for what John could do. Jesus loved John. And, when John couldn’t do anything except sit in a prison cell, Jesus still loved John.
John sent Jesus questions, fears, and doubts. Jesus didn’t just answer John’s doubts. Jesus assured John that even in his doubts and fears, he was still the object of Christ’s blessing.
John’s ministry was important. But, the time had come for John to be ministered to.
Do you have doubts? Do you have questions or fears? Do you worry that if you voice those doubts that perhaps Jesus won’t love you? Are you afraid that if you admit your doubts then your faith will falter?
Jesus knows your heart. He knows your doubts and fears. Tell him. He already knows. And, in your moments of greatest fear and doubt, you can trust that his mercy comes running to you.
Throughout the years, I’ve been called to my kids’ bedsides because they had a bad dream. Often, their dream was that something happened to me or my wife. We left or we got attacked by a monster or are lost in a fire. Our kids get scared. They cry out. They sheepishly admit, “I thought you were gone.”
My response has never been to slap their hands because they were afraid I left them. I hug them, I remind them that daddy is right there with them and that they are not alone. If I, though sinful, can give these good gifts to my children, how much more our Heavenly Father?
Jesus didn’t reprimand John. Jesus loved John.
Are you afraid today? Do you have doubts or concerns? Take them to Jesus. He won’t slap your hand, and he won’t turn you away. He is and will be the God of your troubled heart, and you can trust him.