(Today’s post by Joshua Jones)
In today’s reading, we begin with John the Baptist in prison. Going forward a little bit, we find that John was arrested for speaking out against Herod the tetrarch (Ch. 14). The last time we saw John the Baptist, he was boldly proclaiming God’s Word in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Messiah. (Mt. 3:1-12) Now as a result of his boldness, he is in prison, questioning what he was preaching to begin with. This doubt is where we pick up in verse 3. John sent his disciples with a very important question of Jesus- “Are you the one who is to come?”
Now, let us not forget that John had already been given the answer to this question- by God Himself! Remember what happened when John baptized Jesus? An audible voice was heard from heaven that said, “This is my beloved son, with Him I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). However, John finds himself in a situation now that brings him to doubt this truth.
John was doubting Jesus because he was in prison. When John preached in the wilderness, he prophesied about the judgment that the Christ would bring. Now, with John in prison, Roman rule was still in place. John was in prison for speaking out against sin, and Jesus was spending time with the sinners. He needed affirmation that Jesus would be who he was prophesied to be.
The beauty in this chapter is that Jesus answers the doubt with truth. His words to the disciples of John are taken from the book of Isaiah, (35:5-6 and 61:1), which any Jew of that time would know described the work that Jesus was doing to show He was that Messiah. These verses that Jesus quoted also came with a promise; they did not just show the miracles that Jesus was doing, but promised a day of coming judgment. Jesus was telling John that he needed to trust that He would bring a full and final judgment. Jesus closes by saying “And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.” (v.6). Here, Jesus closes by saying that if anyone trusts in his promises, and is not offended, then they will be blessed. Jesus combated the doubt of John by speaking the truth and encouraging John to submit joyfully to full trust and reliance on Him to accomplish the work He was sent to accomplish.
As we close today, think about this. In the next few verses, Jesus calls John the “greatest prophet”. John, the one who was doubting that Jesus was who He said He was. Even the “greatest prophet” had his doubts because he had yet to see what Jesus would accomplish. How much more sure should we be, and how much of a privilege do we have to know exactly what Jesus has accomplished? We know all that Christ has done. We live in the age after the Cross of Christ, and we can walk in faith knowing that redemption has been accomplished. Let’s take it one step further: Unlike John proclaiming the coming of Christ, not knowing what he would accomplish, we know what has been done, and we are given the privilege of proclaiming the crucified and risen Savior to the entire world.