Sometimes it’s hard to believe

One of the most perplexing stories in Scripture for me was a part of my morning devotions. It is the story where John the Baptist asks two of the disciples to go ask Jesus if He is the Messiah or should they look for someone else. John’s mother was Mary’s aunt. When Jesus and John were still in their mothers’ wombs, John leaped when Mary came near Elizabeth. John knew before he was born that fetus Jesus was the Messiah. Because they were related they probably saw one another from time to time growing up, and I bet when they were pre-teens (about the time when Jesus stayed behind in the Temple and told a worried Mary and Joseph that He had to be about His Father’s business), they talked about their callings and how their futures were intertwined.

As young men, John became a preacher calling people to repent and make way for the coming of the Lord. Jesus, apprenticing as a carpenter, was probably following John’s ministry and one day went to him for His baptism. John spoke with great faith that day, “No, Lord, it is I who should be baptized by you.” Jesus encouraged him to baptize Him, the Father spoke, and Jesus’ three years of ministry was launched — through the sacrament of baptism by the hands of John.

So both men are in the midst of their ministries. John’s ministry, knowingly and by the will of God, is decreasing and Jesus is increasing. John is arrested and placed in chains in the dungeon of Herod. From the dungeon John does something that I think is quite peculiar, he asks the disciples to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah or should he look for another. My husband said, as we read the ten commandments from Deuteronomy 19 this morning, that Herschel Shanks says that the commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is first because it is so hard. Herschel Shanks is editor of Biblical Archeology Review. He says people need facts and faith is not about facts. His magazine is dedicated to finding facts that back up Scripture!

I think Herschel is correct. Faith is not about facts. I don’t know if the disciples reporting back the miracles Jesus was performing helped John because John preached powerfully before a single event happened. He believed before there was anything. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). John did not have to see things. He simply believed. So what was causing him to doubt? He was in prison. He was suffering. Jesus was not sending a miraculous escape. John knew he had to step aside, but rotting in a dungeon was not how he imagined “decreasing”.  In his gut he was beginning to wonder, “Was this really the plan?”

When God throws us what we perceive to be a “curve ball” what will we do with it? We may be set aside when we thought we had favor. We may lose something of great value and have to trust that God knows how much that meant to us and how badly we hurt. We may have misunderstood God’s plan and have to make an “about face” on the authority of the Creator of the Universe. John is sitting in a dark, stinking prison in chains and he wants to know if this is the plan. I think I understand.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe,



4 comments on “Sometimes it’s hard to believe

  1. Dawn, I found your post causing me to think —- and that’s a GOOD thing! In some ways, it does seem that John is asking some of the “doubting” questions that we would much more expect from Thomas. But maybe we should give John the benefit of the “doubt” and look at these things going on with him as perhaps wanting confirmation before leaping for joy again. Sometimes it’s hard for US in this time and age to look back, knowing how the whole story turned out, and we wonder why in the world anyone would question anything. But here they were, hundreds of years of silence since God had spoken through prophets, etc. And I understand through other historical writings that there were many who had claimed to be the Messiah and proven false. By John asking this question, he also opened his heart to have to make a decision as to accepting the answer, and he did accept Jesus’ answer by faith. So much faith that he lost his head for it. So much faith that was way before Jesus’ ministry of miracles and teaching, death and resurrection had even started. No, we don’t NEED facts and confirmation of things through archeology, etc. But isn’t it nice once in a while to have an “I told you so” and to feel that little smile turn on our faces and light a twinkle in our eyes?????

    • Dear Cora,

      I am so glad you responded and finished the post. Yes, indeed, John did believe — so much so he lost his head for it. Yes, we may get caught up in the whys and wherefores sometimes, but what we do with them is what matters. John held the end.

      May I be in his company,

  2. This is a wonderful passage… I was reading it the other day with my husband. I like what you say about ‘doubt’ afflicting John. He was indeed in a difficult place and him wondering is this was all a part of God’s plan definitely would come into the picture. What a tremendous relief and joy it must have been when his followers returned with the news, ” tell him, the sick are being healed, the captive set free and the dead raised to life!” What a confirmation in the midst of a death sentence… what a hope!

    • My Dear Susan,
      I can’t help but wonder if John wondered why he wasn’t rescued. I wonder that many times. Why did _____ get healed, but _______ had to suffer? The passage in Hebrews 11 where the writer makes it clear to us that He deals with each of us differently is really important to me. It is comforting to know that when we’re being dealt with harshly it doesn’t necessarily mean He’s displeased with us and visa versa.

      32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
      39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

      Highly favored may mean highly persecuted, only He knows.

      Praising Him for this Powerful passage!

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