I’m writing this post in response to a comment by blogger christenfindenruhe to my post on John the Baptist. To give a quick summary the post analyzed the answers that Jesus addressed to the crowds about the questions they had about the authenticity of John the Baptist’s ministry and his credibility as a prophet. Jesus defends John (and by implication himself since John was his messenger) to the crowds and challenges their expectations of what a man of God should look like and/or be. So in that post the crowds were questioning John (and by implication Jesus) but right before that John was actually questioning the authenticity of Jesus!
“John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ “Matthew 11:2-3
Now it could be that John didn’t actually know who was doing all these things and so he sent his disciples to confirm that the Jesus he had baptized was this same man, but I don’t think that is the case because if you look at the question he’s asking “Are you the Messiah” after he had already baptized a man that he (John) had himself declared was the Messiah (Matthew 3:15)! I credit the authors of my New Living Translation study bible for suggesting this in their commentary (p. 1563 of Life Application Study Bible) but I agree, John was actually doubting that he had baptized the Messiah and was probably doubting his own calling and ministry as well.
So here we have John, of whom Jesus said there was no man greater who had ever lived (Matthew 11:11) doubting Jesus Christ and his life’s calling, probably because he was in prison and suffering persecution for his beliefs. He faltered, as Peter did when he denied the Lord when amongst the Roman guard was questioned as to whether or not he was with Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:69-75). What is Jesus’ response to his own cousin’s lack of faith, this man he as God specifically anointed as his chosen messenger? Was Jesus upset? Did he publicly condemn John for his unbelief?
This is the greatness of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t even mention the fact that John doubted him. He just answers John’s disciples with proof of his ministry.
“Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” “Mathew 11:4-6
Jesus, being Jesus (i.e. God), is doing multiple things at once with this statement. First, he is providing proof of his ministry and divinity to John and the crowds who are listening by giving them his spiritual resume. Second, he is forgiving John’s unbelief implicitly by deciding to actually answer his disciples’ questions instead of turning them away and chastising John who baptized him and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on him (John 1:32-34). Finally, he is encouraging John who is languishing in prison by saying those who keep the faith despite persecutions are blessed (and also encouraging the crowd who is listening , and us as readers, to keep going despite persecutions).
So there we have it. Even the greatest of us, the most holy of us, is still human because there is only one man (who was God) who never stumbled. When we do stumble let us remember these words of Jesus Christ and know that we are blessed when we keep the faith in the midst of persecutions.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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