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When In Doubt, Ask
© 12.12.16 By D. Eric Williams

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent is found in Matthew's account and reads, When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent a message by his disciples and asked Him, "Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed." As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings' palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about: 'Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You; he will prepare Your way before You'" (Matthew 11:2-10).

John the Baptist was perplexed. The man he had heralded as Messiah was not acting the way he expected. After all, the Baptizer said Jesus had arrived with a winnowing fork in his hand, ready to separate the wheat from the chaff, ready to burn the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 2:12). Yet, Jesus had not proven to be the revolutionary John expected. Thus John felt the cold, creeping fingers of doubt reaching for his heart. And so, John did exactly what he should have done: he asked Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else? In other words he moved to exorcise his doubt. And the first step in removing doubt is to ask questions.

When one asks a question one expects an answer and that's exactly what John received. Jesus sent a reply designed to assure John that the Messiah had come indeed. The Lord drew his answer from Isaiah chapters 35 and 61, even adding something the prophet had not foretold: the dead are raised at the Messiah's command. Jesus' answer directly addresses the Baptizer's misunderstanding of the nature of God's kingdom. Jewish expectations assumed a warrior king in the Davidic mold. It was the militant messianic prophecies of Isaiah that drew the attention of most pious Jews. Nonetheless, Jesus provided support for his messianic claims by highlighting his servant leadership instead.

After Jesus sent the disciples of John on their way he turned to the crowd and spoke to them concerning the man. He reminded them John was a stalwart messenger of God, never swayed by public opinion. Moreover, John refused to curry favor with kings and willingly embraced the harsh existence of a politically incorrect messenger of God instead. Indeed John was the fulfillment of prophecy, a predestined follower of God prepared to play a part in God’s eternal plan of salvation.

Like John we may have doubts. That's fine - as long as we seek and accept resolutions to our questions from God's Word. But don't be surprised if the Bible gives you answers you don't expect. We must let the Bible speak for itself even when it sets our expectations on their head. Yet even when the Scripture makes our head spin we can be assured that in Christ we are the chosen children of God. He has a plan for us and when we rest in that plan we can be certain that all things are working for our good - the good of being formed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

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