Are You the Coming One?
Doubting is Human Nature
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and exclaimed; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John knew the Savior immediately and responded accordingly. Later, as Jesus ministry became more evident he declared, “…this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease,” but as time went on John found himself on the business end of Herod’s anger and wound up in prison. Prison in that day and age was not the same as today where prisoners are, for the most part, treated humanely. In the time of John the Baptist prisoners were subjected to inhuman treatment, starvation, exposure, beatings and general abuses we simply cannot imagine. John could have been in prison for nearly two years by the time he was executed and it must have worn on him greatly.
Eventually, John the Baptist began to question what he knew to be true about Jesus. We see this in Matthew 11:3 when John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” He’d gone from the mountain top of ministry where he’d declared “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” into the depths of despair in prison where he asked “Are you the Coming One?” Perhaps he thought Jesus may intervene on his behalf or maybe Jesus would institute the Kingdom of God right then and there. Whatever the reason, John asked “Are You there Lord?” Jesus gave an answer that would reassure but not necessarily encourage John the Baptist. He told John’s disciples to report what they had seen then quoted the prophet Isaiah; “the 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” (Matthew 11:5). Jesus reminded John of the very thing he preached; “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” He reminded John of his own belief, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Then Jesus offered correction to John the Baptist, “…blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus was saying; “John, you know who I am and you have to be content with what you know.”
After addressing John’s disciples Jesus had much more to say. He explained the ministry of John and in Matthew 11:12 proclaimed; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” What a dramatic statement. Violence! Did Jesus actually mean physical violence? There is some room for interpretation which is supported by a similar account in Luke 16:16. Here is another way to view what Jesus said; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is advancing rapidly, and determined men lay hold of it.” I’ll take a little liberty here to make a point. It is possible Jesus was teaching; “The ‘kingdom of heaven’ advances regardless of the emotion of the moment.”
What does that mean for us? Have any of us ever questioned God? Be honest! Doubting is human nature when things to go amiss. We all have times where we find ourselves wondering where God is in our circumstances and find ourselves asking; “Are You there Lord?” That’s the question John the Baptist asked in the depths of his despair and the answer Jesus gave John is the same answer He gives us. It’s a simple answer but not always easy to accept and sometimes even more difficult to embrace. We must rest on faith which is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We have to go with what we know rather that how we feel. We must be determined as the apostle Paul to “…press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
The next time we find ourselves at the bottom of a valley and our doubting human nature asks; “Are You there Lord?” Rest in the assurance of what we know, remembering; “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is advancing rapidly, and determined men lay hold of it.”
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”