John the Baptist has doubts about Jesus. Doubts are real. Faith asks that we believe what we cannot see or prove with our senses. John has doubts about Jesus.
John came preaching and the cities, the regions around the Jordon responded. The crowds came to be baptized. He was so effective that the people began to question if maybe John was the one, the promised messiah.
As always happens, time passes on. Jesus appears on the scene. His ministry influence rises as John’s declines. John knew this would happen and spoke the words, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Yet, even for John, Jesus doesn’t act right. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
Everyone is expecting messiah to come on the scene and overthrow the Romans and reestablish power to Israel. The prophets said that God would establish his thrown in Jerusalem and the nations would come. Here comes Jesus, born in a barn in insignificant Bethlehem; no one takes notice. His family flees to Egypt to avoid Herod who decreed that all male children under the age of two must be executed. Jesus and his family are alien strangers in a strange land. When they return to Israel they settle in Nazareth in Galilee, the wrong side of the tracts. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus is baptized in the Jordon like everyone else who comes to John. Not very regal, not very messiah like based on popular expectations.
Jesus gathers his disciples; not the rich, or the theologically astute. Jesus calls some working stiffs, fisherman, a tax collector, hated by all, a young radical, a zealot, and a few other ordinary people. No one special is among Jesus’ inner circle. No one of significance is called to follow him. Jesus develops a following; he does some miracles among the people, but the underlying question is when does the revolution begin?
God takes John out of the picture. He has fulfilled his purpose. John was to prepare the way for messiah and once he appeared John’s work was done. John is arrested. Jail is a good place for self reflection, there is little else to do. He begins to question is he has gotten this thing right. Is Jesus the promised one or should we be looking for someone else?
We all have doubts. Faith always has an element of doubt or it’s not faith. Everything about us challenges our belief system. Our history is filled with religious wars. Many make the point that if religion were removed war might cease. Some argue that the very fact that there are different denominations, that the body of Christ is so divided raises serious questions about the existence of God. If the Bible is the clearest revelation of God that we have, why can’t we agree on what it says? Bright minds than ours argue logically why god can’t exist. They often use science to make their point. Not knowing the whole story doubts are raised. Church history doesn’t always help. The church has fought against science in the past and lost, remember Galileo? Every time we decide before hand what God is going to do, or pass judgment on what he is like we miscalculate and there is the potential for doubt.
John is sitting in prison for the cause of Christ. He head is on the chopping block, literally, and the doubts come. You sit in your office, in the classroom, you walk through your community and you witness for Jesus in word and deed, or maybe you don’t, you can’t out of fear. Doubts race through your head, is Jesus the one?
John sends his disciples to Jesus to pose the question. For John and for us there is a lot at stake. John is about to be beheaded, to die for his stand for Jesus. All of us as well are looking at choices. Don’t fall for the line that even if God is not real the Christian lifestyle is a better one. Paul said, “If Christ has not risen from the dead I am to be pitied among all men.” “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
When I was running the streets my philosophy was why work all week to get high on the weekends. Just get high all the time because this life is all you get. Have fun while you can.
This Jesus question, the one John poses, is real. We are preparing for the celebration of the coming of the savior. If Jesus is the one we have life decisions to make. Francis Schaffer posed the question, “How shall we then live?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us that to follow Christ is a road of death to self. Jesus said if we will not leave all to follow him we are not worthy to be his disciples. How we live our life matters if we are Children of the most high God. We are part of a different kingdom and therefore limited in our earthly choices because we serve a different king.
If Jesus is not the one then life looks different. Why suffer and sacrifice, why say no to the things of the flesh? Why be the odd man out in situations, taking the moral high ground is Jesus isn’t the one?
Jesus’ reply to John’s disciples who brought to him John’s question is simply, “Tell John what you have seen and heard.” Bear witness to what Christ has done is the charge that all of us have been given. The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead live and the poor hear good news. We run into trouble because we do not remember what God has done.
Advent is a time of reflection, of preparation. The season has a way of keeping us so busy that we don’t take the time to reflect on what God is doing and has done among us. When we run through life with out taking the time to stop and think we run the risk of doubt. Maybe God has not moved in our lives? Maybe things just happen?
Every time we go through struggles as a congregation I remind myself that we were given this building. Everyone who hears the story gives glory to God for the miracle of this space. When we don’t remember we take if for granted and the problems we face become overwhelming.
When you look out on Sunday morning and see only thirty of forty people are worship after five years of hard work you can get discouraged. Is God at work in this place? But when you take the time to reflect on the fact that over 140 people have passed through this ministry you begin to give glory to God for the impact we have had on people’s lives.
Think back over your life this past week, this past month, this past year. What has God been doing in your life? How has he touched your life, answered your prayers moved in situation that you had no control over? It is in the recognition of the work of God in your life that your faith is strengthened and your doubts confronted.
John, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets sat in prison and wondered if he got it right, was Jesus the one. If he has doubts I am sure you at times do as well. Jesus doesn’t question why he has doubts. Jesus doesn’t chastise him for his lack of faith. Nor does Jesus do that to you or I. What Jesus does do is asks John to remember. He asks the same from us. When our faith is challenged we don’t need to cower in the corner of hem and haw at what we believe a little embarrassed by what we confess to believe. At times like that when doubts arise we need to remember and bear witness to what God has done in the past. No need to go into in-depth reasoning, just tell the story. Remember what you have seen and heard. Faith is a gift from God. As you remember and tell the stories your faith in the savior will grow stronger. This season we are asked to simply remember.