Luke 7:18-23 (ESV)
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John,  calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ”  In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight.  And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, b the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
John the Baptist sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He really is the Messiah or if they should be looking for someone else. This is the miraculously born son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. This is the boy who has been told from infancy that his role in the world is very special. We would be foolish to think that little Johnny wasn’t taught by his parents, and others, about the events surrounding his birth. Imagine the wide eyed excitement on his face as Daddy related to him about the time that the angel Gabriel visited him while he was ministering in the temple and told him that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son. He told him about losing his speech and told him, with uncontainable delight about getting his speech back when that baby was born and he would recite again the song that he composed that day to celebrate what God was doing (Luke 1:57-79). “That son was you John. And your job is to announce to the people that the Messiah has come”. John would no doubt have been told that while he was still in mommy’s tummy he leapt for joy when cousin Mary visited once, because Mary was the mother of the Messiah. “And John, your cousin Jesus is the one that all the prophets said would come”.
This is the same John who proclaimed about Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This is that John who, before he agreed to baptize Jesus, said he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ shoes (Luke 3:15-16). John himself announced that he was the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding the promised one to come (Luke 3:4-6). And now he sends his followers to Jesus because he is having doubts about whether Jesus really is the “one who is to come”.
Matthew’s account of John sending disciples to Jesus to ask about who He was, we are told that John was in prison when he sent them (Matthew 11:2). This imprisonment would lead to John’s death and it may be that he is aware of that. But in any case it seems that things are not working out the way that John had envisioned. It seems that he is believing that if Jesus really is the Messiah then things should be happening differently than they are.
Doubt is not a good thing. We should not conclude here that if John the Baptist fell into doubt then it is OK if we do. Not at all. But we do conclude that if someone as great as John the Baptist, with all the miracles that he had seen, with the knowledge of his own birth and purpose, with having actually met Jesus and baptized Him – if John the Baptist falls into doubt, then it is likely that we might too. John ends up in prison and begins to wonder what in the world is going on. Jesus has not performed according to expectations.
Doubts are not new. We do not fall into doubt because our times are more uncertain or because we know more about science and the universe. We doubt because “seeing is believing” and we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. John had expected to see unbelievably great things happen by now. He may have expected to be sitting on a throne next to Jesus by now. Unfulfilled expectations may have contributed to John’s doubt. What contributes to yours? You say you never have any? Great. Now you have a lie added to your sins. We all have doubts.
In replying to John, Jesus simply draws attention to what He is doing. Circumstances can make us doubt. We get sick. There’s no money. Giving the Gospel doesn’t produce the converts we had hoped for. In fact, it gets us ridiculed. Christians fight with each other. The list is long of things that contribute to our doubts. Jesus, as with John, does not respond by clunking us on the head with a rock. He draws our attention to Himself. What is tugging at your faith today? Be assured that greater people than you have had them and God got them through them. And He does not love you less. He will help you too.
Get into the Scriptures and in your prayers tell God that you are having your doubts. John the Baptist took his concerns right to the source. You should do the same.