(Hey Inspired Readers – please note that I accidentally posted this a day early. Click here to read the post on Matthew 10.)
Some number of years ago, like a tidal wave, the thought came over me that Jesus was perhaps not the Son of God. The idea seemed to come from nowhere, debilitating and strange in its suddenness. And I was unnerved. Of course, I had experienced other doubts before in the course of my Christian life, but this one came over me along with all the fear that the enemy can throw at one of God’s children.
I can only imagine what John the Baptist was feeling in the cold confines of Herod’s dungeon, and beginning to have…doubts.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Matthew 11:2-3 (ESV)
This is a thunderbolt, and one of the many events/admissions in the New Testament that give it the air of authenticity. John the Baptist was supposed to be a hero, but this doesn’t leave him looking so heroic. No, I would say that weak is the better word. In fact, the only reason that Matthew would tell us about this (let alone future church leader Peter’s soon-to-come failure)…was because it really happened.
And I’m so glad it did. Aren’t you?
The story helps us because of Jesus’ reaction. In the midst of John’s incredible doubt about the very person of the Son of God, Jesus tells everyone who will listen that the Baptist is still…the greatest man ever born.
And now I don’t feel so bad.
Os Guinness has written a helpful book on this subject aptly titled, Doubt. In it, he distinguishes between doubt and unbelief. You see, Jesus always strongly condemns unbelief. He gives it no quarter. But doubt…doubt is something that wonderfully brings out the Lord’s compassion.
This is so helpful because we often condemn ourselves for doubt. For instance, when the man whose son had a deaf and mute spirit came to Jesus, the father famously condemns himself for his unbelief in the memorable words, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” But he’s really dealing with old fashioned doubt, for in compassion, Jesus graciously answers his prayer.
And yet we should not take doubt lightly. Guinness says, “Find out how seriously a believer takes his doubts and you have an index of how seriously he takes his faith.”
As for me, in the midst of my struggle, I remember simply turning to one of the gospels and immersing myself in the writings that were made for this sort of thing. As John said, “…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 ESV) It’s foggy now, but more than likely my sweet Diane was helpful too, as well a faithful friend (Thanks Jeff).
And who knows, maybe this little episode makes me the second greatest man ever born? Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath for that award in heaven.
Tomorrow, Thursday January 15: Matthew 12