2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the 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. 6And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:2-6
There are countless times throughout life that we are asked questions. Some of these issues are easy to answer. Like when you visit your favorite restaurant, and the waiter/waitress asks coffee or tea? Or when your spouse wants to know if you want to go out for Mexican or Asian for dinner?
Then there are those questions that will require a bit more thought to come to a decision. Like when you are trying to decide where to spend your college years. Do I pick a major university or a smaller college that may better fit my personality? When you are picking out, Christmas presents for that special someone. Do I go with jewelry or a gift card?
At some points in our life, the questions we must answer are life-changing. Remember when you were about to the ask the love of your life this question, “Will you marry me?” And yes, it would forever change your life, or it could be a heart-breaking, devastating, life-altering event. Or think about that moment in life when a wife asks her husband, “Do I look fat in this dress?” The answer to that question could also be life altering or at least life shortening. Then we have the question John the Baptist’s disciples posed to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The answer to this question is one that every person will wrestle with at some point in their life. Was Jesus indeed the Messiah, the one promised by God to come and save the world from the consequences of sin? Can we put our hope, our faith, our eternal destiny in the hands of this man from Nazareth? We will get back to the answers to those questions later. For now, I will leave you to ponder those questions.
Historical context: Why was John, the Baptist asking this question?
At the beginning of the Gospel of John, we are introduced to John, the Baptist. He was this strange prophet, the herald of God sent to prepare the people’s hearts to welcome the new King, Jesus Christ. But he had some odd behaviors. He would never make the cover of GQ magazine. He wore camel’s hair and a leather belt. His diet is not one I would recommend since he ate locusts and wild honey. He was the prophet that Isaiah referred to as, “The Voice of One Crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” John, the Baptist, is also the one who when he saw Jesus approaching boldly proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
So, how can this same John, the Baptist, the prophet who paved the way be the same man who now questions the authenticity of Jesus? He sends his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one?”
Let’s look, at all that has happened to John. It is possible that his recent struggles have led to a crisis of faith.
1) John is about to be executed.
John sent a group of disciples to question Jesus because he was currently sitting in a prison cell. John had the nerve to confront King Herod and his wife Herodias, whose complicated, sinful relationship could be the stuff of movies. For the curious minds: Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great. Her first husband was Philip I, son of Herod the Great, so she married her uncle, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, whom her mother used to destroy John the Baptist. Because, John, the Baptist, confronted this sinful arrangement, Herodias along with her daughter Salome concocted this scheme to dance before Herod. Because he was so intoxicated by her dancing, he offered her up to half his kingdom. She instead settled for the head of John, the Baptist, on a platter. John, in doing God’s work will now end up in prison about to face death. I would imagine that could shake his faith a bit.
2) John is having his doubts about the mission and work of Jesus.
Is John suffering from a case of spiritual failure? Would this fall into the category of faithlessness? Is it possible the one sent to prepare the way is backsliding? Jesus doesn’t judge John. Instead, he responds to him where he is at, at this moment in his faith journey. Now that John is at this point in his life, you can imagine Jesus is saying “Great, now that you are willing to let go of all the preconceived notions of who you think I am, now that you are prepared to let go of your expectations, come, discover the real me. Allow me to take your faith to a deeper level.”
Jesus tells the disciple “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Tell him that “…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
What Jesus is saying is “give John a living testimony to all that you hear and see.” Lives are being transformed. The broken restored, the hopeless encouraged, those who have lost community reunited. The lifeless given a new lease literally on life. Go back to John and tell him your stories. Tell him my stories. There is so much more to the Messiah if only you are willing to open your spiritual eyes and ears and see what God is doing in your midst.
Christians have questions also.
It is possible that our questions revolve around this: Has your life radically changed for the better because of Jesus?
As a Christian maybe, you have felt this way. Have you wondered if this all there is? It is possible you expected more. You expected life to be more comfortable. You had big dreams, and maybe those hopes have been met with only disappointment, yet the evil around you prosper. You understand John’s point of view. There may come a time in your faith journey where you need some assurances. Where you have questions, that need to be answered. John sends word to Jesus through his disciples asking “Are you the one?”
Jesus Hears You, and He Responds!
When you are searching for some answers at that point in your life this same Savior, Jesus Christ reaches out to you with compassion and love. He reaches down to find you wherever you are in your situation and reminds you He is real. His promises are true; He has come back to assure you eternal life is yours.
These signs give us the confidence to continue living in hope. Jesus says to look at the signs; they are evidence of my faithfulness. Who else loves you so much that they would offer their very life to save you. That is how important you are to Jesus; that is how real His promises are because those promises are sealed with His blood shed for you.