“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)
John the Baptist knew Who Jesus was for he is the very one who declared Him the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). I do not believe that John was uncertain about Jesus’ identity here but rather His methods. Consider what the Baptist had prophesied about Jesus:
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)
John doubtlessly had in his mind the coming King from the lineage of David spoken of by Isaiah who said of the Messiah, “…He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). He was looking for a Judge Who would punish the wicked, but Jesus came offering forgiveness. He was looking for a Conquerer Who would wage war on the enemies of Israel, but Jesus came offering peace with God to whomever would believe. He was looking for a King Who would sit upon the throne of Jerusalem, but Jesus came as a Servant Who wandered the hills of Galilee. John looked for One Who would set the captives free, yet he himself languished in Herod’s prison.
That God was moving, John the Baptist did not deny. But He was moving in a way that John had not expected. The Romans still controlled Israel, Herod still sat upon his throne, and the corrupt Pharisees and Sadducees still oversaw the religious affairs of the nation. And all the while Jesus was miles removed from the City of David and was spending His time healing the sick and preaching a Gospel of reconciliation. John the Baptist’s confusion was understandable.
Jesus will ultimately fulfill all of the prophecies concerning Him, including those which John the Baptist himself had spoken. The first time He came as a Savior but the next time He will come as a Judge (cf. Revelation 19:11-16). But it seems that John was wondering if maybe God was going to send someone else to “clear the threshing floor” at that time.
As Christians, we know that God is always working in our lives and on our behalf, but often He acts in a way that we are not expecting or that we do not understand. Perhaps there is something that we are certain God wants to do in our life, yet it doesn’t seem to be happening. Maybe, like John the Baptist’s expectations, ours are not being fulfilled right now because it is not the right time. Or it could be that God is doing things differently from what we were anticipating.
Jesus sent words of comfort to John the Baptist by telling his disciples to report back to him with what they had seen. God was surely moving even if it was wasn’t the way he was expecting!
“THEY all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.” (1)
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
(1) From the poem, “That Holy Thing” by: George MacDonald
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]