Doubting John – dealing with a crisis of faith

By David A. Liapis

Thoughts on Matthew 11:1-15

We’ve all likely heard of “Doubting Thomas,” but what about “Doubting John”?

We are introduced to John the Baptist in Matthew chapter three as a fiery preacher of repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven who reluctantly baptized Jesus (saying the baptizing should have been done by Jesus to him) and then witnessed the heavens open, the Spirit of God descend like a dove on Jesus, and the voice of the Father say, “This is my beloved Son…” In the Gospel of John we also read of other proclamations John the Baptist made about Jesus being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and about himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy as the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness” who would “make straight the way of the Lord.” Yet, in spite of these robust credentials as a believer in the Messiah who heard the very voice of God confirm who Jesus is, we read in Matthew 11:2-3 that John, who had been imprisoned by King Herod, sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the Messiah. If John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said, “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater” waivered in his faith, then we should not be surprised or alarmed when we have our doubts about Jesus and our faith in him.

I have been a Christian for more than 20 years now, and there have certainly been times I have either questioned my standing before God, or even if God, Jesus, the Bible and all this Christianity stuff is even real. What if it’s all a hoax? What if everything I’ve believed is false, and Jesus Christ was just a wise Jewish teacher who was executed by the Romans? What if I have missed out on so many pleasures of life because of the morals and rules I have thought God wants me to live by?

Have you ever thought those things, or something like them? The encouragement we have from Matthew 11:1-15 is that Jesus does not want us to remain in doubt and unbelief. He wants us to stop looking at ourselves and look to him and his Word (the Bible) to find renewal of faith and hope. John’s disciples were immediately sent back to him with assurance that Jesus is who he says he is based on what he was doing – things only the Messiah could do: healing the blind, deaf, lame and leper; raising the dead; and preaching the Gospel to the poor (fulfilling Isaiah 35:5-6 and 61:1). He didn’t tell John’s disciples to reprimand their leader for his lapse of faith just like he didn’t send Thomas away for doubting Jesus’ resurrection, but rather called him to see and touch him, and to believe.

When (not if) we struggle in our faith we need not look to ourselves to muster up more faith and push through the unbelief, as if we had the ability to do so anyway (faith is a gift from God – Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, we need to look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the Word of God as Doubting John, Doubting Thomas – and Doubting (your name here) – were and are called to do.

When doubt and unbelief assail me, to the Savior I must return

When I feel my faith is failing, from God’s word I must relearn

That Jesus is the founder and perfecter of my faith

And that He calls me to himself, offering grace upon grace

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