Lessons from Matthew 11: Righteous Despite Doubt
Let me ask you something. Have you ever been so close to someone that you almost felt like one? You know, somebody who shares your interests, concerns, and delights. Someone who thinks a lot like you think, or maybe can even finish your sentences before you do.
Maybe it’s your spouse, a child, a friend. Someone you have become so close to that when you are together you feel complete. When you are apart, however, there is a longing or a disconnection.
I have to tell you that a number of years ago my son Matthew was in the hospital for an extended period of time with what we believed to be a GI bleed. During that time my sister came and stayed with Matthew while my husband and I went home to get some much-needed sleep. Before I left, I explained what was going to happen and Matthew said to me, “Mom, you can’t go, you and I are like one and when we are apart we will miss each other.”
I explained that though that was very true, in order for us all to be strong and at our best we both needed rest. Beautiful Grandma (as he calls her) would fill in for me. I reminded him that she loved him and would take care of him while I was away, to which he agreed!
In this lesson we see that John the Baptist was feeling the effects of separation from Jesus and the work he had been called to do. As they were separated, John began to doubt or have questions about Jesus. But he took his doubts before the Lord, and that is our first division for Matthew 11 (Matthew 11:1-15). We could headline it:
Disciple Declared Righteous Despite Doubt!
After Jesus completed giving instructions to His 12 disciples and commanded them to go and help, heal, and restore the lost sheep of Israel by proclaiming the good news that Jesus, their Promised Messiah was living among them, Jesus Himself continued doing His Father’s work of teaching and preaching throughout the towns in Galilee.
And as He was doing so, John the Baptist heard of all that was taking place through Jesus. Scripture tells us that John began to question whether or not Jesus was really the one who was expected. Was He the Great King or Promised Messiah? Because He and His work seemed to be contrary to what John, and maybe others, expected.
Before we go any further, I want us to stop and reflect on what has been taking place. John the forerunner had announced the coming of Jesus and declared the call for people to repent. Not long after that, Jesus appeared on the scene and John recognized Jesus as the Promised Messiah, the Lamb of God who had come to seek and save the lost.
He had even baptized Jesus, at Jesus’s request. And he had seen heaven open up and the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus. He heard the voice from heaven come forth, announcing God the Father’s pleasure and delight in Jesus, His Son, confirming Jesus’s call!
But now John found himself imprisoned for doing what was right in the sight of the Lord (denouncing the sin of King Herod). He was probably feeling as if he had misunderstood God or His message! And apparently things didn’t look like they were getting any better. In fact, they looked worse from where John was sitting.
Have you ever felt like that? God has given you a promise from His Word to hold onto and you have the faith to believe in that moment and even a day or two later. But as time goes on and things don’t change, or maybe they do but they are not what you thought or imagined, you begin to doubt or question yourself or God.
As far as John could see, the world was just as wicked or maybe even worse than it was before Jesus began His ministry. He may have been questioning, “If I am the forerunner and Jesus in the Messiah, why am I in prison?”
He may have wondered, “If I was sent to prepare the way for Jesus and His coming judgment, why I am sitting here locked up in prison, unable to communicate with the people? And why is Jesus going about healing and restoring and forgiving and not condemning and judging the people for their sins?”
We must remember that though the Holy Spirit had come upon John and anointed him for special service, the Holy Spirit did not indwell John in the same sense that He permanently indwelled believers after the day of Pentecost. John did not experience this, nor would he witness the scene at the cross with Christ on it.
So John’s vision was limited at best. And yet John did the best with the vision he had. Jesus told John’s followers not to go and rebuke John for his doubt or to scold or correct Him. No, Jesus simply and lovingly instructed these men to “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.”
Jesus is the One. He is the one who opened the eyes of the blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf. He is the one who caused the lame to leap and the mute to shout for joy. The diseased were healed and the dead were raised and the good news was preached to the poor. And then Jesus finished His sentence with these words in verse 6, “Blessed is the man who does not stumble on account of me.”
The proof was not only in Jesus’ words by also in His actions.
Jesus is everything He says He is and His words and works prove it.
Can that be said of you? Do you merely proclaim to know God through Jesus Christ, but you do not follow as He leads? You are not obedient to follow His Word in your everyday living? What would others say is the proof of Jesus’s existence in you and your life?
Do you have questions or doubts or fears? Like John, won’t you take them to the Lord in prayer?