Though we tend to paint a golden halo around everyone in the Christmas story, I’m glad they were normal human beings who messed things up on a regular basis. John the Baptist was one of those of guys, though he had a radical job description. He would prepare the world for the King of their hearts, as found in his very own cousin, Jesus.
Later in life when John was in jail, he began to have doubts about his value and purpose. He sends his followers to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3 NIV).
John is basically asking, “I was born to prepare the way for the Savior of Israel. Did I get it all wrong? Did I peg the wrong guy? Was my life a waste?”
Why would John ask this? He was so sure that Jesus was the Lamb of God when he baptized Him and yet now he’s second-guessing Jesus’ identity. I can’t blame him. Here’s John at the end of an exciting career in a deep dark pit awaiting his death.
When I go through times of darkness I question too. I land in a pit of depression occasionally and begin to doubt as well. I push Jesus away and try to manage depression on my own.
But John did the right thing. He asked questions like, “Are you really who you said you were? Are you really our Savior?”
That’s a lesson for me. Jesus never turns us away when we ask. He wants us to seek Him out, to question who He is, and to struggle through the mystery of His identity.
If I would go to Jesus with my doubts and pester him with my second-guessing, I would receive this same answer from Him as He gave to John:
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:5).
Jesus did not rescue John. He was still be-headed in prison, but as the shadows of death fell on him he was reassured that his life had value, and that he had not wasted it.
John had spent his entire life preparing for the right Person; he had poured all his energy into affirming the deity of Christ and it turns out that Jesus really was God our Savior.
My life has value too and it’s all wrapped up in Jesus’ identity. He is faithful. He is still the Man of Miracles. He rose up out of that dark tomb and because of that, I can rise too.
Affirming Jesus’ identity gives me strength when I feel weak, and pours light into my cistern.
I’m thankful that John the Baptist had the courage to doubt, along with enough foolishness to question. His example encourages me to do the same when I’m in a dark place.