Matthew chapter 11 this morning, Matthew chapter 11. We have the high and sacred privilege of examining the first six verses of God’s Holy Scripture in this marvelous eleventh chapter. Before we look specifically at the text, however, let me see if I can’t give you a little bit of a feeling for why this text is here and what it really is set about to do. Matthew’s gospel answers the essential question facing men. That question is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” That is the focus of Matthew’s gospel. Who is Jesus Christ?
Now, for ten chapters, Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has told us who Jesus Christ is. He has presented Him as the Son of God, God incarnate, the King, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of Israel, and the Savior of the world. Over and over again, he has reiterated that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the living Lord, the Son of God. And in the effort that Matthew has made to do this, he has tapped every effective witness to the claims of Christ. It’s as if he is an attorney, drawing witnesses into a courtroom who can give testimony to the claims that Christ made.
And if you look at the ten chapters in that way, you can see that they are really a series of testimonies to the deity of Jesus Christ. For example, in chapter 1, we begin with the testimony of history as we see the genealogy and ancestry that points to Christ as Messiah. Then, we see the testimony of the virgin birth, as the text tells us He was uniquely conceived by the Holy Spirit without a human father.
Then there is the testimony of fulfilled prophecy in chapter 2, as Christ fulfills the Old Testament predictions in detail. Then in chapter 3 is the testimony of the forerunner. John the Baptist; a prophet of God, a man filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, says, “This is the Messiah.” Then in chapter 3 is the testimony of God the Father, who at the baptism of Christ said, “This is My beloved Son.” Then in chapter 4, we have the testimony of power as Jesus Himself defeats the arch-enemy of God, Satan.
Then in chapters 5, 6 and 7, is the testimony of His words. The truthfulness, the power, and the authority of what He said verifying His claim. Then, in chapters 8-9, the testimony of His works: healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, forgiving sin, all testifying of His deity. And, finally, in chapter 10, as we have been learning in the past few weeks, the testimony of His disciples. They were so convinced that He was the Christ that they were willing to pay the dearest price of loyalty to Him, death itself.
So Matthew has laid out all of this tremendous evidence. All of these have been called, as it were, into the courtroom to testify that Jesus is the Christ. Now, as he approaches chapters 11 and 12, he has a new purpose in mind. Based upon all of this testimony, what is the reaction of those who have heard and seen? Matthew deals with that in chapters 11 and 12. In fact, he lists for us the various kinds of reactions to the claims of Christ. And through giving us brief narrative events in 11 and 12, he gives us categories of response to Jesus Christ.
And these chapters are filled with very common reactions to these claims of Christ, which were true then and are true today as much as they were then. For example, in the first 15 verses of chapter 11 is the response of doubt. From verse 16 through 19 of chapter 11, the response of criticism. From verse 20 to 24 of chapter 11, the response of indifference.
And then, going to chapter 12, the first 21 verses deal with the response of rejection; verses 22 and 23, the response of amazement; verse 24 through 37, the response of blasphemy and verses 38 through 45, the response of fascination. Now, those are all the negative responses: doubt, criticism, indifference, amazement, rejection, blasphemy, and fascination. And each of them, in a sense, is a – a kind of a unique response all its own, although there’s some overlapping as well.
But you’ll notice that I said nothing about the last section of chapter 11 and the last section of chapter 12, because both of those deal with positive responses, the response of faith, the right response. So that by the time you have covered these two chapters, you have run the gamut of possible reactions to the claims of Christ and you’ve crystallized the categories. They're very helpful, because as you’ll find out as we move through these two chapters, we’ll be able to see the varying responses that are just as true today as they were then, and understand, perhaps a little better, where people are coming from when they react to Jesus Christ.
Now, the first response that he deals with is the response of doubt. And that’s what we’re going to look at in the first six verses, the response of doubt. You might even call it perplexity or confusion, but doubt, I think, says it better than those other two terms. Now, let me give you a footnote as we go in so that you’ll understand something. When the New Testament talks about doubt, whether you’re talking in the – the gospels or the epistles, it primarily focuses in on believers. Okay, very important.
It’s as if you have to believe something before you can doubt it; you have to be committed to it before you would begin to question it, so that doubt is pointed up as the unique problem of the believer. There’s only one time in the gospels when it refers to unbelievers in reference to doubt, and when it does, it uses a word that means ‘to keep in suspense.’ And it is a term that is nowhere else used in the New Testament. The normal terms that surround the concept of doubt are used of believers.
Now I say that, in a sense, to encourage you, that doubt is something that occurs in the life of a believer. In fact, the illustration in Matthew 11 happens to be John the Baptist’s. Now, unless you might think – unless you might think that John the Baptist was a weak believer, verse 11 will help you. It says, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Now, if the greatest man that ever lived up until his time had doubts, then we can be a little comforted, can we not, when we doubt?
So doubt is basically a problem encountered by believers. Over and over, for example, in Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples, “Oh you of” – What? – “little faith.” And on some occasions, “How long will you doubt?” he said. They had committed themselves to Him. They had believed, but their belief, from time to time, hit some snags that made them doubt. Jesus said to them in John – in Matthew 21:21, “If you have faith and doubt not, you shall not only do this to the fig tree, but also,” and He goes on to talk about moving mountains. So He had to continually remind them not to doubt.
And it is amazing, but in twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, clear at the end, after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared unto them. And verse 17 says, “And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted.” Incredible! In Luke – and we’re not simply skipping Mark because there’s nothing there. There are several passages in which the doubt of the disciples is discussed. But in Luke 12:29, He says, “Seek not what you shall eat or what you shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.” And again, He says to them don’t doubt. And there He uses an interesting Greek word, meteōrízō, from which we get the word “meteor.” And the word means “to be suspended in midair.” It is used in Obadiah 4 in the Septuagint, of eagles flying in the air. Don’t be hung in mid-air; get your feet firmly planted.
You’ll remember that God said to Peter in Acts 20, in reference to taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, “Don’t doubt. Trust Me; believe.” In I Timothy 2:8, he said, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands, praying and not doubting.” James said, “If you doubt, you’re like a – a divided man, unstable in all his ways.” So doubt is a matter that belongs in the life of a believer. That’s sort of the – the place it fits, not that it ought to be there. But it is, so we’re not so shocked when we see the one who is the illustration of doubt being none other than John the Baptist.
Let’s read these six verses. You follow as I read.
“It came to pass, when Jesus had ceased commanding his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their 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 the one whosoever shall not be offended by me.”
Now, let’s examine the passage first of all, and then we’re going to talk about the problem of doubting. Verse 1, “It came to pass, when Jesus had ceased commanding His twelve disciples,” – Now, that is what went on in chapter 10. He had taught them, He had trained them, He had prepared them to go out into the world and represent Him. He knew that, ultimately, they would be sent out, empowered by the Holy Spirit, after His ascension, and the whole building of the church would depend upon their availability and their ministry.
They were critical. He had invested the time in them, and now they were ready for their first training mission, their first short-term training exercise. And after chapter 10, He sent them out, and they were to go and to carry on the things that He had stated to them in the tenth chapter. Now, they did that, and it says – “He departed from there,” – that is, the place where they were sent – “and went on to teach and preach in their cities.” And that means the cities of the disciples, which were the cities of Galilee. Eleven of the twelve of them, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. So He continued His Galilean ministry.
Remember, at the end of chapter 9, He had said, “Pray with Me that the Lord will send forth laborers.” They prayed, they became the laborers, and now they are sent on their first mission. But as a true leader, having sent them, He doesn’t just kick back. He does His ministry too. It reveals His leadership. It also reveals His great heart for the work. Now, notice it says He went, “To teach and to preach.” And I would just say we’ve already looked at that in chapter 4, verse 23 and chapter 9, verse 35. That was the twofold ministry of Christ: teaching and preaching, and they are different.
The synagogue was a place where the Scripture was read and exposited. Philo, the historian, says the synagogue’s main feature was to read and give a detailed exposition of Scripture. So the Lord would go into the synagogue, and since any resident expert who happened to be there could speak, He would take the occasion to speak and He would take the Old Testament and give them the meaning of the Old Testament and apply it to Himself. He was an expository teacher.
He was also a preacher. The word means “to proclaim.” And He would go from the synagogue to the streets and the hillsides, and the highways and the byways and the corners and anywhere, and He would preach and proclaim His Kingdom. So He continued doing this. We may also assume, based on verse 5, that He continued the miracles of healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and forgiving sin. So the Lord goes on about His work. He is alone now. The Twelve are gone, they're are out on their first mission.
And as Christ is ministering, in verse 2, He is approached by two disciples of John the Baptist. Because John had heard in his prison about the works of Christ, so he sends these disciples to ask, “Are thou he that should come or do we look for another?” Now, the question that the two disciples of John the Baptist ask – and remember, John was the forerunner of Christ, the one who announced His coming, the one who said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” the one who said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John had already known Christ, he had already pointed to Christ, he had already baptized Christ. He had affirmed that he believed in Christ.
But there were certain things that caused him to doubt. So he sends these two to say, “Is this the Messiah, or are we looking for somebody else?” It reflects his perplexity and it reflects his doubt, even though he had affirmed his belief, even though he had known about Christ. For example, back in chapter 9 for a moment, in verse 14, Jesus, at this particular point in time in Galilee, has called Matthew.
He is at the north end of the Sea of Galilee, has called Matthew to follow him. Matthew has gathered together a lot of sinners for a feast. It’s in that setting that verse 14 says, “Then came to him the disciples of John,” and they asked Him a question. Now, the point that I want you to see is this. The disciples of John were sort of tracking Jesus. You see, John was in prison and he needed a report on how things were going and so some of his disciples would follow Jesus around. And in this particular point, they got involved in the conversation.
Now, look with me at Luke 7 for a moment, another utterly essential text. In verses 11 to 17, Jesus raises from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. He touches the casket, verse 14, and He says, “Arise,” and the dead son sat up, began to speak, and He turned him over to his mother. And a great fear came on them all and they glorified God, and so forth. So He raised the dead, and the rumor, verse 17, went, “Throughout all Judea” and everywhere else. And then this little note in verse 18, “And the disciples of John showed him of all these things.”
Now, you can go back to Matthew. You see, the disciples of John were poking around the crowds and hanging around the edges and watching what Jesus was doing, because it was utterly important to John to fulfill his task as the one who announced the Messiah. And he wanted to be sure that the one whom he had announced was indeed the Messiah. And so, his disciples stayed close to Jesus, as well as to John. It also indicates that though he was a prisoner, he had some kind of access; they could come and see him. It is also true, as another footnote, that he had some disciples who apparently didn’t stay very close to him, because in Acts 19, we meet some of his disciples who never even knew about Jesus.
He had a lot of followers. In fact, early it says in John, that the whole city and the whole country was coming out to John the Baptist, so he had many followers. The ones who stayed very close to him and worked very closely with him, he dispatched to follow this Jesus around to be sure that he was right. But now, there were some reasons for him to doubt. And so, he asks this question. “Art thou he that should come?” Now, that sounds like such a vague question. Who he, right? “Art thou he that should come?” Who is he talking about. Well, that’s only because the English text doesn’t really say what the Greek text says. The Greek text says, “Art thou ho erchomenos?” it’s basically a participle, “the coming one.” And it should be that way: “Are you The Coming One?” You ought to write that in your margins and capitalize it.
The Coming One is a title for the Messiah. It is a Messianic title, like The Branch, The Seed of David, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace, the Coming One. Well, in fact, it is one of the most common titles for the Messiah. In one form or another, it is used in Matthew; it is used in Mark; it is used in Luke 5:26; it is used in John; it is used in the epistles. It was first introduced in Psalm 40, verse 7 and Psalm 118, Verse 26. The Messiah is called The Coming One.
Now, if you were to go back to Matthew chapter 3, verse 11, when John first speaks in the New Testament, he says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is cometh after me is mightier than I.” In other words, The Coming One is the term John used to refer to the Messiah.
In Mark 1, Mark says, “John was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, ‘There comes One mightier than I after me.’” The Coming One again. And that becomes a constant title for the Messiah. He is the Coming One. In Luke 3:16, where Luke writes regarding John, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh.” The Coming One. In the epistles, Hebrews 10:37, the Messiah is called The Coming One.
By the way, the Jews clearly understood this as a Messianic title, so what John is asking is very simple. He is saying, Are you the Messiah? “Are you the Messiah, the One promised?” That’s the first question. The second one is this, “Or do we look for another?” Are we still looking for somebody else? This phrase indicates the element of Messianic expectation, but it indicates that he was perplexed. “Are you the One, or are we looking for somebody else?” Now, listen to me. John had doubt, and then that’s okay, in a sense. I mean, we – there are reasons why he had doubt, and we’ll see those in a minute.
The thing that was so good about John is that when he had doubt, he went to the right source to have his doubt dealt with. Where did he go? To the Lord. Now, some people might want to come and say, “Well, John didn’t believe.” No, no, that’s not true. The form of the question implies that he believed but he was having some perplexity. He’s saying, in effect, “Should I continue to believe what I believe, or should I believe something else?” It’s as if he’s saying, “I believe that You’re the Messiah; am I wrong in believing that?”
In a sense, the very fact that he would ask Jesus to answer this indicates that he hadn’t lost his faith in Jesus, right, or he never would have gone to Him for assurance. If he is saying, “Would You assure me that You are the Messiah,” then he must have believed that to start with. Well, he didn’t just deal with his doubt in himself, and he didn’t just talk about other people. That would have dragged everybody down in doubt. He went to the Lord. His faith had found a difficulty, a perplexity. And you’ve had that and so have I.
John believed, he preached, he expected the Messiah to fulfill the promises, he had baptized Him, he had pointed to Him, he pronounced that He was the Messiah, and yet, he was confused. And we shouldn’t be too surprised, because he didn’t really know everything. Even though some of the things he predicted from his own mouth were from God, there were so many things that he didn’t know that sometimes, he had a difficulty interpreting what he did know. What do you mean by that? Well, it’s just like I Peter 1, verses 10 and 11. And it says regarding the prophets, that they inquired and searched diligently what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, and what person.
In other words, they prophets studied their own writings to figure out what they were saying because they couldn’t figure out the exact person, or the exact time. And that was John’s problem. He wanted to be sure it was the right person at the right time and so he sent two disciples. And Jesus answered them, verse 4, and said, “Go and show John again the things which ye did hear and see.” Now, He knew they had been around for a while, and they’d seen a lot, and reported a lot. So He says, “Go tell him more. Go back again and tell him. And tell him the blind receive their sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the poor have the gospel preached to them. You go back and give him all the credentials.”
Look with me for a minute at Luke 7 again. This is absolutely thrilling. Luke records the same incident. He says they came and they asked the question, “Are You he that should come, or look we for another?” In verse 20 they ask the question. Then in Luke 7:21, watch what happens as soon as they asked the question. “And in the same hour” – ‘Instantaneously, momentarily, immediately – “he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, ‘Go your way, and tell John what things you’ve seen and heard.’
You know what He did? He did a whole plethora of personal miracles and said, “Here, these are for John. Now go tell him.” Go tell him. Not second hand, He just let the power fly, and then said, “Now you saw it all, you heard it all. Go tell him.” Clearly, those are the credentials of the Messiah. And then He had gave a closing Beatitude. Verse 6. “And blessed is the whosoever shall not be offended because by Me.” What does He mean by that? Well, it’s a gentle rebuke, a gentle warning. “If you want to be blessed,” He says, “Then don’t stumble over me. Don’t doubt.” The word “offended” is skandalizō. It means “a trap.” “Blessed is the man who is not trapped.”
It was a trap. In it was a crooked stick, and the bait was on the crooked stick. And when the animal grabbed the bait, the crooked stick fell, and the trap got him and he was dead. And it became to mean “to be offended.” And the Lord is saying this, “If you want to be blessed, don’t allow anything I do or anything I say to lure you into the trap of doubt and make you stumble.”
You see? Don’t doubt; I'm warning you. Don’t doubt, because if you doubt you won’t be blessed. It’s a Beatitude. blessed is the man who doesn’t doubt. and blessed is the man who trusts. It’s a tender rebuke. And by the way, I need to add that it didn’t eclipse the Master’s love for this prophet, because from verses 7 to 15, He gives the greatest testimonial to anybody He ever gave in His whole life, written in Scripture and tells us that this was the greatest man who had ever lived up until his time.
And that’s comforting, isn’t it, to know a man as great as this can doubt? And even when he doubts, his greatness is instantly reaffirmed. The praise which follows shows that his doubt did not lessen our Lord’s esteem for him. Now, we understand the basics of the passage. Now, let’s talk about that. Why did John doubt, and why was he perplexed? As I looked at the text, I found four reasons why he doubted, and I believe they are the same four reasons why we doubt, why we have times in our lives when we doubt God.
Reason number one, difficult circumstances. Difficult circumstances tend to make us doubt. Humanly speaking, the career of John the Baptist had ended in disaster. You see John was this fiery, dramatic, dynamic, confrontive, bold, courageous man who preached exactly what needed to be preached to whom it needed to be said when it needed to be said and never had any fear. Bold, powerful, aggressive. When he saw sin, he rebuked it, and rebuked it in the person he saw it in. Well, that resulted in his being imprisoned. I mean, you’ve got to be careful who you rebuke.
And Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, had paid a visit to his brother in Rome. And when Herod went to see his brother, he took a liking to his brother’s wife, so he seduced her. And when he returned home, he proceeded to divorce his own wife and then steal his brother’s wife, whom he had seduced, and take her as his new wife. And John the Baptist heard about that. And do you know what he did? He did not write an anonymous article. You know what he did? He went in front of public view, in the face of Herod Antipas, and told him he was a rotten, vile sinner who was an adulterer and gave him the whole line right to his face, which didn’t go over real big with Herod, who proceeded immediately to throw him in prison, and would have killed him, except he was afraid of the people, because the people thought he was a prophet.
And not just any prison. Five miles east of the northern tip of the Dead Sea, fifteen miles south was an old, Herodian palace that had been turned into a fortress. The name of it was Machaerus. In the bottom of it was a pit, a dark, stifling, stuffy, hot dungeon in the middle of that bleak desert. That’s where he put John. Eighteen months John had been in the limelight, a free spirit in the wilderness, preaching, teaching, and proclaiming. And the whole country was coming to him and he was in the middle of the action, and the crowds were there and the hurrahs were there and the excitement was there. And now, for over one year, he’s been in the blackness of a stifling pit without any fresh air, in a place that in modern times is called Kiryat Mukawir.
William Barclay may have captured something of the significance of this when he wrote, “John was the child of the desert. All his life, he had lived in the wide-open spaces, with the clean wind on his face and the spacious vault of the sky for his roof. And now, he was confined within the four narrow walls of an underground dungeon. For a man like John, who had probably never lived in a house, this must have been an agony.
“In Carlisle Castle, there’s a little cell. Once long ago, they put a border chieftain in that cell and left him for years. In that cell, there is one little window, which is placed too high for a man to look out of when he is standing on the floor. On the ledge of the window in the stone, there are two depressions worn away. They are the marks of the hands of that border chieftain, the places where, day after day, he lifted himself up by his hands to look out on the green dales across which he would never again ride. John must have been just like that. And there’s nothing to wonder at and still less to criticize in the fact that questions began to form themselves in John’s mind.” End quote.
I mean, he was a true saint. He was a prophet of God. He was a great, holy, faithful, selfless, loyal prophet. He had done exactly what God told him to do, and he had done it well. He had announced the glorious coming of the Messiah, who would make all things right and set up His Kingdom. He was even a close relative to the Lord. He had been filled with the Spirit since the time he was in his mother’s womb. He had taken the Nazarite vow, the highest level of spiritual commitment possible. Was this his reward? Was this it?
You see, doubt comes from our inability to deal with negative circumstances, trials. I mean, if You’re the God of all comfort, and if You're the Christ that cares, why am I going through this? It doesn’t square. I’ve been faithful. And John must have thought, “Didn’t Isaiah promise in chapter 61, verses 1 and 2, that when the Messiah came, He would free the prisoners and set loose the captives? What’s going on here? I mean, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Isn’t there a place of blessedness for such a faithful man as I have been?”
You see, our doubts come like John’s doubts. We convince ourselves that we belong to the Lord, and the Lord is going to care for us. And when something goes wrong, we really begin to doubt. We lose a child to death or we lose a child to unbelief, or we lose a – a husband or a wife, or a mother or a father, or a dear friend. Or somebody gets cancer or has a heart attack, or a child is struck by a car and crippled for life, and we begin to say, “God, is this what it’s supposed to be like when You care and love us?” If everything doesn’t go the way it should go, we – we wonder if God loves us and fall easily into doubt. And once we start thinking that way, Satan gets behind and just starts shoving.
In our selfishness, ignorance, and failure to see the whole plan of God, and in our constant problem of getting tied down to this passing world, we doubt God. And we doubt that He cares and loves us. And we lose our job or something like that, and we just start questioning God. Well, John doubted because of difficult circumstances, and I understand that. I understand that. But you know what he did. he did the right thing with his doubt. he went immediately to the Lord. That’s the place to go if you have doubt over those kinds of things, go to the Lord.
Yes, he had begun to stumble; verse 6 makes that clear. He was offended, he had stumbled. But he asked the Lord to help him deal with his doubt. And he sent these two, and said in effect, “Lord, would you help me?” You see, the Lord was glad to respond, and even said, “Blessedness can come if you’ll just trust me, even in the midst of mystifying circumstances.”
Paul was in prison in Philippians 4, but Paul didn’t doubt. He said, “I rejoice.” He said, “I Rejoice always, and again I say, rejoice. Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication,” he got tuned in to the Lord. And he said, “I know how to be abased and how to abound; I know how to have everything and have nothing. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and have the confidence that my God shall supply all my needs.” He went to the source. Negative circumstances are tough, but all they need to do is drive us to the Lord, who will respond to those struggles by replacing our doubt with faith.
And what did he say? Verse 5, He said, “You tell John that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached.” What are those? What is that list of people? That’s all the hurting, broken, crippled, crumbled people. And He’s saying, “John, if you think I don’t care about the people who are hurting, take a look at the kind of people I touch,” see? “I care. And this, John, is only a preview of coming attractions in the Kingdom.” That’s what He’s saying, “I do care. Can’t you see that by the people I touch, by the people I reach out to?”
And by the way, John’s circumstances never got any better. They got worse, he got his head chopped off. Doubt comes from difficult circumstances, but that only gives us an opportunity to exercise faith. And faith, when it is exercised, gets stronger. And so, He sends that little rebuke in verse 6 and says, “Now, John, if you want to be blessed, don’t doubt. Don’t let anything lure you into the trap of doubt, not even difficult circumstances. I do care. Can’t you see that by the people I’ve touched? And someday, you’ll be delivered. Maybe not in this world, but in the next.”
Second thing that causes doubt is worldly influences, worldly influences. You'll notice it says in verse 2 that John had heard about the works of Christ, and this confused him. You know why? Because the works of Christ – listen to me – the things Christ was doing did not parallel what the people thought the Messiah should do. Are you ready for that one? You see, the people all thought that when the Messiah came, He would first knock off the Romans, right? Wipe out all the Romans, get them out here, give Israel back her land. Secondly, free food, instant welfare state.
That’s why, in John 6, when He fed the multitude on the side of the hill, they tried to make Him a king in the same chapter – health, wealth, and instant happiness, bliss. All the right – all the wrongs are made right, everything would be as it ought to be immediately. You see, that was the – the existing expectation, and doubt is caused – caused by worldly influence. John had become a victim of the thinking of his day. Isn’t it supposed to be this way? I mean, is Jesus supposed to be walking around, meek and lowly, nothing much going on that changed the environment? The wrongs are still wrong, the injustices are still there, the sin is everywhere. I mean, it isn't the way it’s supposed to be. And he had become victimized by the thinking of the people around him.
By the way, this is very clearly a problem with the disciples. And the disciples were forever fighting doubts about Jesus because they had these current expectations of the Messiah, and Jesus didn’t live up to them. That’s why, even in Acts 1, they’re saying to Him, “Is this the time You’re going to bring the Kingdom?” And He says to them for the umpteenth time, in effect, “You still are asking the same dumb question. It’s not for you to know.” And that’s the reason, even after all of those years of being with them, He says to them in John 14, “Have I been so long with you and you still do not know who I am?”
I mean, they had these confused concepts that came from the world around them. You know, one of the interesting things the Jews believe – and it comes up in Matthew 16. They believed that when the Messiah came, before He got here, there would be a long succession of other guys who would come. It’s a whole bunch of guys would come, and the Messiah would be the final one. That’s why, in Matthew 16, Jesus said to them, the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They said, “Oh, some say You’re Elijah, some say You’re Jeremiah, some say You’re one of the prophets.” Well, “who do you say that I am?” “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What did that reflect? That reflected the current Jewish thinking that there was going to be this long string of people coming. First would be Elijah, then Jeremiah, then a bunch of prophets, then that prophet of Deuteronomy 18. And finally, the Messiah would come. When Jesus did not do what John thought He should be doing, John began to think, “Maybe He’s back up a few guys, He’s somebody else.” And so, he says, “Are you him, or do we look for what? Somebody else? Where are you in the line?”
So he was even affected by that misinformation. The Jews expected the Messiah to be a certain thing, and it wasn’t turning out that way and there was confusion. Jesus even said in John – in Matthew 16, “I’m going to go and die,” and what did Peter say? “Lord, let it not be so.” You’re not going to die; that’s not in the plan! And Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan.” You don’t even know the plan. You see, they really never understood it.
And they were all sitting around – the night Jesus was going to be betrayed and taken to be executed, they were sitting around, arguing about who was going to get to sit on the thrones in the highest point of the Kingdom. And the Lord was talking about dying. Right on by! And when the Lord was taken prisoner, Peter was so totally disillusioned that he went out immediately and three times what did he do? He denied Jesus.
I mean, it didn’t make any sense to him at all, and it didn’t make any sense to Thomas, and it didn’t make any sense to the road – people on the road to Emmaus, who were going along moping, saying, “Oh, we thought He was the Christ.” They had all become victimized by what the people around them thought He should be. In fact, in John 10:24, the Jews said to Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? Tell us who You are.” You know what He said to them? “I told you who I was.” Like this, phweep, they weren’t even on His frequency. He was saying it over and over, but their expectation was so different that they couldn’t hear what He was saying.
Now, we face the same causes for doubt today. We doubt because we’re perplexed by the plan of God. And I think the world imposes that on us. Have you ever heard this question? “If God is a God of love, why is the world so messed up?” You ever hear that one? “If Christ loves everyone so much, how come children die and people starve and people get disease, and there’s war and death? And if your God is such a God of love, why doesn’t He make things right in this world? Why is there so much injustice? If your God is so loving and your Christ is so loving, how come he’s going to send all those people to Hell?” You ever heard that one? Sure.
They say, “We’ll tell you what kind of Christ we want. If yours fits, we’ll believe.” And you see, we cannot become victimized by that, can we, or we’ll begin to doubt. Well, you say, “I don’t know. Why doesn’t God do something? I may not say what – hey. If there’s a God, how come there so many false religions? I mean, if He wants everyone to love Him, and He’s so powerful, why doesn’t He wipe out the false religions and we’ll all believe?” And when you start letting the world dictate to you what God's going to be and what God's going to do, and what Christ is going to be and what He’s going to do, you're going to look at the Bible and you're going to wonder, and you're going to be perplexed.
The world does not know God; the world does not know God's plan; the world does not know Christ; they do not understand who He is. “The natural man understandeth not the things of God.” And if you begin to let the world force you to think that Christ must be who they say He must be, then you're going to start doubting. And again, the solution is to go to Him. And what do you find when you go? He says this. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached.”
What do you mean by that? I mean, “look. Can’t you see I’m the one who will make things right? I am reaching out to the poor, I am reversing disease, I am reversing death. Can’t you see it?” It’s limited, however, because of the unbelief and sin of the world. Can’t you see that I am the one who is going to make it right. I have the power to make it right. I have the power to reverse the curse? And someday He will, won't He, in his Kingdom? These are previews of coming attractions, a taste of what He will do in the future.
The Jews said to Him in Luke 17, “Well, where is the Kingdom of God? I mean, where is it? You’re the King and You talk about a Kingdom, but what are –what are you doing about it?” And He says, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Midst. You just can’t see it.” And He says to John, “See, I can do all that. I can stop the disease, I can give resurrection life to the dead, I can touch the poor, I can preach good news to hurting people. It is going to be right. Just trust Me for the right timing.” Then He adds the Beatitude here, the “be blessed by not doubting.” Negative circumstances make us doubt, but we don’t have to doubt. And we don’t have to doubt worldly influence – because of worldly influences either.
Thirdly, incomplete revelation. It says in verse 2 that John had heard. Now, John had heard about Jesus and he had heard what was going on. And his disciples had come back and said they had seen this and seen that. But he really doubted because he didn’t have the opportunity for a firsthand look. And I think there’s a sense of legitimate doubt here. He didn’t have the opportunity, like Peter said, to be an eyewitness of His majesty. He didn’t have the opportunity, as John, to – to handle Him with his hands, as he said in I John 1:1.
He didn’t even have a more sure word of Scripture, as we have. He didn’t have a complete revelation. There was a lot missing and he was getting some stuff secondhand there. And so, he says, “I need some firsthand information.” And the Lord said, “Okay, you need some firsthand information, I’ll give you some.” And remember Luke 7. Right there, on the spot, Jesus did massive miracles and said, “These are for John! These are John’s miracles, now take them to him and tell him.” And the Lord filled in that space where he needed a more complete revelation.
You say, “How does this relate to me?” Do you know why a lot of people doubt? Not only because of negative circumstances and worldly influences, but a lot of people doubt because they just don’t understand God’s revelation. You’ve got to know the facts. He says, “Go tell John the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached.”
In other words, “Give him the revelation, give him the manifestation. Tell him what I’ve done.” I would – I would promise to you that your doubt is erased as you daily expose yourself to the revelation of God. Let God speak through His Word. That spells the end of doubt.
You know, the two on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, were walking along. They were in the middle of doubt and confusion and perplexity, and the Lord came along and opened to them what? The Scriptures. And began to speak out of the Scripture the things concerning Himself, and their eyes were opened, and they saw Him. And they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke with us along the way and opened to us the Scripture?”
You see, what dispelled their doubt was the revelation of Himself in the Scripture. We all need a firsthand manifestation of the living Christ to dispel doubt, and it comes through the pages of Holy Scripture. That’s why the Bereans were more noble, because they what? Searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. He gave them the evidence.
Fourthly, people doubt because of unfulfilled expectations. They doubt because of unfulfilled expectations. John says in verse 3, “Ask Him if we’re looking for somebody else. Do we look for another?” Why would you say that, John? Only because He hasn’t fulfilled my expectations. What do you mean, John? Well, when John preached about Christ, do you know what he said? “There comes one after me mightier than I, who comes with unquenchable fire, who has a winnowing fan in His hand, by which He will separate the wheat from the chaff,” which means judgment.
In other words, he said, “The Messiah is coming in holy judgment.” That was his message. That’s always, always, always, he was preaching, “Repent, repent, repent, repent.” In other words, “You’d better get your life right because the Messiah is coming.” The implication, if you’re life wasn’t right, you're going to regret it. He was preaching the Messiah was coming to judge. I mean, he expected the Messiah to land with brass feet blazing in fire. He expected the Messiah to come blasting evil things with divine thunderbolts. And here comes Jesus and he collects a little group of twelve totally inept characters, meekly wanders around through Galilee. And John just can’t figure it out.
Jesus was on a mission of mercy, and John’s was a message of judgment. And he was waiting for the fury and the fire and the flame and the wrath. “When are You going to blast Your enemies?” He sounds like David, doesn’t he? Psalm 9, Psalm 10, Psalm 35, Psalm 52, Psalm 58; all those psalms where David asked God to do in His enemies. He sounds like the people under the altar in Revelation 6, “How long, Oh Lord, how long are you going to tolerate this?” If you’re the Messiah, what’s going on? Unfulfilled expectations. Really, impatience can lead to doubt. We expect divine intervention and it doesn’t happen. You expect God to do something. How long can you let that – you know, you know something that – somebody in your life who is a wretched, evil, vile person, and they seem to prosper all the time, you say, “How long, God, can you – this doesn’t seem to fit.”
Or maybe you’ve been looking for the Second Coming so long, you just sort of gave up. I think some people have been looking for the Rapture so long, they figure it will never come. They just decide to be post-trib. I mean, they just threw away imminence. They’re so tired of “Ooh, ooh, He could come at any minute,” that they’ve decided it’s a lot more comfortable to be post-trib. Then we can right to the Tribulation, and just mark off the events as they happen and know when He’s going to come. I think it’s more emotional than biblical.
Have you ever noticed how when you – there's sort of waves of prophetic interest? You know – you'll preach a series on prophecy, everybody gets really excited and they’ll start asking questions. “Do you think the Lord will come any minute?” “Oh, yeah, oh boy,” see? And you get a real kind of a fever pitch and everybody’s really turned on, the Lord can come. And then in about six months, he doesn’t come. Everybody’s sort of, ah, you know, they're back down to the basic principles of living the Christians life and stuff, you know.
Three or four years later, you come back and jack them up on the Second Coming. And they get real hot on that and put their pajamas on and go sit on a roof somewhere, and are really, really excited about it. And He doesn’t come. And they go right back down again. And I’ve also discovered in my life that it’s new Christians that get most excited about Christ’s imminent return. The ones who have lived for 40 or 50 years as Christians, they just kind of figure, “I mean, we've been waiting a long time. Nothing has happened.”
And you sort of just – you know how that happens. Well, here, this is John. I mean, I had all these expectations and – and so maybe you say to yourself, “Ah, I wonder if He ever will come. Is this – is this whole thing really true? I mean, every – I’ve had people say to me, “Everybody’s always believed that, and He’s never come yet.” Then I read in 2 Peter 3:3, “Scoffers will mock His coming, saying, ‘Where is the sign of His coming? All things continue as they were from the beginning.’” See. Watch Jesus’ answer.
If you’re worried about whether I’m going to come and set up the Kingdom, listen to this. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached.” Why does He say that? Those are all signs of the Kingdom. For in the Kingdom, all disease is eliminated; for in the Kingdom, there will be a lessening of the power of death; for in the Kingdom, the world will hear the Gospel.
And these were all signs of the Kingdom. Isaiah 35, “In the Kingdom, it says the blind and the deaf and the dumb and the lame,” – Isaiah 61 – “the poor will all be healed and have the Gospel preached to them. Those are Kingdom promises, Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 61. And He is saying, “John, if it’s your Kingdom expectation that’s causing you doubt, look again at these things. These are all the marks of the Kingdom. You’re seeing them in a preview.” It will come, believe me it’ll come. So don’t let anyone catch you in the trap of doubt, or you’ll lose your blessing.
The works of our Lord then – mark it, people, answer the problems of doubt. If you doubt because of difficult circumstances, look at His works. They prove He cares for a people in difficulty. If you doubt because of worldly influence, look at His works. He is in control, and someday will show it fully. If you doubt because of incomplete revelation, then look at His works and study them and read them, and see who He is. If you doubt because of unfulfilled expectation, look again, for these are all the previews of what He will do in the Kingdom. If He could do them then, He proves Himself to be the one who can do them in the Kingdom.
You want to know the best part of this story? It’s a part Matthew doesn’t put in, and it’s this. John had his doubt removed by the Lord’s answer. How do you know that? Look at Matthew 14. One verse tells you. Start at verse 10. And it talks about John being beheaded and his head is brought on a plate or a platter. “And then after that, his disciples came” – John’s disciples – “took up the body and they buried it,” – I love this – “and they went and told” – What? – “Jesus.”
Why did they go and tell Jesus? Because Jesus was the most important person; because they believed in Jesus. And why did they believe in Jesus? Because John believed in Jesus. Because John had made them to believe in Jesus. The fact that they went immediately to Jesus is indicative that John was satisfied with the answer that he got. Jesus fit into their lives. Jesus fit into plan because He fit into John’s plan.
Now, we all doubt. Know this, would you? Second Timothy 2:13 says, “If we doubt, if we believe not, He abides faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” When you doubt, God will be faithful. If you doubt, you're not going to lose your relationship to the Lord. He’ll be faithful. He can’t deny Himself, and He has affirmed that you're His child and He’ll hold on. Knowing that, you can have the confidence and you can go to God with your doubt, and He’ll give you the answer you need. So as Luke 12:29 says, “Neither be of a doubtful mind.”
Father, we know that everyone’s faith has weak moments, and we know that no single chapter is the full story of a man’s life. We all have struggles. Thank You for what You’ve taught us through John. Thank You that you taught us you do care. You cared that he understood, you cared that his doubt was removed and that You didn’t think any less of him, because you extolled him as the greatest man even though he had doubts. Father, the sign of his greatness was that he knew where to go with his doubts. Help us to know that as well. And may we, as Paul instructed Timothy, pray without doubting, that You may be glorified thorough our faith. In Christ’s name, Amen.
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