2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah[a] was doing, he sent word by his[b] disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers[c] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone[d] dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet?[e] Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:2-11 NRSV)
When have you doubted? Doubted God? Doubted Christ? Doubted your faith? It’s okay to admit it — we all doubt. Sometimes for a moment; other times for weeks and months.
We doubt because we’ve seen something horrifying and say, “Why would God let this happen?” We doubt because we’re impatient for the kingdom to arrive. It’s been 2,000 years for heaven’s sake! We doubt because we read scripture and see a different interpretation and we wonder what’s true?
We doubt for various reasons. It’s part of our faith journey and it has the power to take us deeper into our faith.
Take John the Baptizer. He’s languishing in prison awaiting Herod’s decision on his fate. He may be released, he may be executed. He’s the one who pointed to Jesus early on. John announced that someone greater than he was coming and it was time to get their lives in order. With strong words he, announced that “…the ax [was] lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.” (Matthew 3:10 NRSV)
What we read further on, though, is Jesus teaching the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit and those who mourn, and the meek. Blessed are you who crave righteousness. Blessed are the peacemakers and the persecuted and when people revile and hate you.
Where’s the ax and the fire? Are you really The One?
He sends his disciples with that message. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (11:3b)
Jesus could have given him the short answer, “Yes. I’m the One.” The thing is, it’s not a convincing answer. So, Jesus responds by pointing at his work. “Look around you and see the results.” The list is lengthy: the blind see, the crippled are walking around, skin diseases are cleaned, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor are receiving the good news.
Oh. Okay then. I guess you’re the One.
But, Jesus has one more statement to add before John’s disciples return with the message. “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (v. 6)
Blessed is anyone who sees my work for what it is. Blessed is anyone who hears the truth of my message.
Jesus is busy in his ministry of healing and preaching. John is in prison trying hard to trust. John’s disciples are confused. The crowd is trying to understand.
We’re busy in our work, even if it’s retirement, reaching out to others in one way or another. Many of us live in prisons of our own making, uncomfortable with the new or angry at the staid and stale. We’re often confused and we attempt to gain understanding. Only to fall into doubt all over again.
It’s OK, Jesus. I’ll wait.
I’ll wait because you ask too much of me. Instead of freeing me from my prison, you leave me here. I’ll wait for another because I’ve been waiting over 2,000 years and you still haven’t returned. I’ll wait because your challenge that I serve the poor and crippled and hunger and lonely is simply too much.
Maybe I’ll wait for someone else. Someone with soft flowing robes who’ll provide me with earthly security and comfort. Someone who hates my enemies. Someone who doesn’t make uncomfortable demands.
John was the one who pointed to Jesus as The One who was to come. Yet, even he needed to have his eyes and ears opened to the new reality in Jesus Christ.
The good news is, we’re invited into this new reality that the world labels as counter-cultural. We resist because we’re afraid of the insecurity of the unknown. We want peace on Earth now. Today. We’re tired of the 2,000-year-old promise. We’re tired and worn out and we need healing of our own.
Healing arrives in the form of eyes opened to see Christ’s work in the world today. Healing arrives in the form of ears opened to hear peace-filled words in an angry world. Healing arrives when we see the efforts of so many people who are feeding the hungry and healing the sick.
I see in John my own doubts. I’ve learned to embrace them and use them to deepen my own faith. Surprisingly, it can be the doubts that cause me to step out and do something.
In a world of instant gratification, it’s good to slow down and smell the roses. I choose not to wait. I choose to step out in faith and, yes, doubt, to serve where Jesus sends me. I’m scared most of the time because of the unknown. And when doubt gets in my way, I remember to look at the example Jesus set and remember his final words, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
All glory and honor be to God.