So he [Jesus] replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Luke 7:22-23
Have you ever heard the voice of God and then doubted that you heard it because circumstances didn’t line up to what you expected? John the Baptist did. The prophet already knew that Jesus was the Son of God. He had baptized Him in the River Jordan, seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove, and boldly told everyone: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Yet the Bible tells us after a few chapters that John the Baptist still sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
What made John doubt who Jesus was?
It’s not farfetched to think that perhaps John was expecting a Messiah who would challenge the Roman government in the process of “taking away the sins of the world.” John, after all, was pretty vocal with confronting government, whereas Jesus was telling people to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar.
Or perhaps John was wondering why Jesus wasn’t so public in the same way Jesus’s own brothers told Jesus to “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7:3-4).
Whatever the cause of doubt, Jesus directed an answer for John toward His actions: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” This was an echo of the prophecies in Isaiah that the Messiah would come so that “the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:5,6). Hearing this would have lit the fire in John the Baptist’s heart, testifying to the identity of Jesus and reminding him of old prophecies.
Certainly John the Baptist was no stranger to the Books of the Prophets, since his own father was a priest who served at the Temple. No doubt, too, that his father would have told him the circumstances surrounding his birth and his cousin Jesus. With the Messiah long been prophesied by the prophets of old, John the Baptist would have certainly wondered about this “Suffering Servant” named Jesus. Wouldn’t He be the Messiah who would “free captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:7)? The Messiah who would “march out like a mighty man, like a warrior, he will stir up his zeal; with a shout… raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies”? (Isa.42:13)
But what he needed to hear from Jesus, he received from Jesus—capped with the line: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” These FINAL words of Jesus were necessary for John to hear. The same Messiah who could “set the captives free and open prison doors” would have a different story for the world and for John the Baptist, who would eventually die in prison, beheaded by Jewish authority.
Sometimes, we really don’t understand the ways of God. We don’t see the whole picture. We quote scripture and believe in Him for an answer that doesn’t come. We are heavily disappointed with God or offended. We start doubting God and His goodness. We believe He should have worked another way in our lives. On days like these, we can remember Jesus’ words: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
These are words for the maturing son and daughter of God. Strong words that make us see that in our Christian life, we will certainly have doubts and be disappointed with God. We will be disillusioned. However, we will have a choice to bring our questions to God and to trust Him despite our questions.
Even the twelve disciples—the very people whom the Savior traveled and did ministry with—were confronted with disappointment and disillusion. A moment came when many who followed the Lord left Jesus because of a hard teaching. Jesus then asked the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him by saying “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (see John 6:67-69).
Jesus holds the worlds of eternal life. We go to Him even when we don’t understand Him at all. He sees all facets of life and knows every promise He has made to us. When we have our doubts, the best thing to do is STILL to go to Jesus; to pour out our hearts to Him, our questions. As we mature in Christ, let us remember that He has the words of eternal life, and He will speak the very words we need to hear.
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.