“Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?”—Luke 7:19
John was in prison. It certainly was not a very cheerful place to be in, and it would be easy for us to understand his doubtful heart. “I don’t know fellows, this is not at all what I expected. Maybe you should go ask the Master if He is really the Messiah?”
Many people read this account and think it strange that the bold and fearless, John the Baptist, could really be in doubt. “It just isn’t possible that such a great, heroic man should ever waver in his confidence.” They forget that John, as great as he was, did not have the full story yet. He was not blessed with the New Testament, or a long history of Christian faith—or even a resurrected Saviour. And as for being the forerunner, declaring, “Prepare ye the way…” he was in a Roman dungeon and there was no one there to listen. Why should we think it strange that he might become discouraged and wonder? The truth is, there is not a one of us who is not sometimes disheartened—by much less of a cause than that of John the Baptist.
We always seem to be amazed at every one else’s spiritual blindness, dullness of vision, or unbelief, but not our own. Other people’s failures look very large to us, but we rarely see our own at all.
Have you ever wondered how Moses once—under terrible stress and provocation—lost his temper and spoke a dozen hasty and impatient words; and yet we can scarcely get through a single day without “losing it” under far less pressure. We wonder how John, the beloved disciple, with all his gentle humility, could just one time show ambition for a place of honour. Yet we, in our secret moments are forever scrambling for attention and position. We scratch our heads and say, “Isn’t it strange that people won’t believe on Christ when they see His power and love?” Yet the ways in which we do not believe are more than can be counted. We find it hard to understand how John the Baptist grew despondent when his trials were so great, and yet, we are often plunged into gloom by the smallest bump in the road.
God graciously lets us see people—even His greatest servants—in the light of their frail humanity. This story of John the Baptist is finished with a wonderful commendation of John by the Lord Himself. “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28).
The lesson is not to let ourselves judge others who may be struggling with a trial of their faith, but to pray for them, and be certain that we look to the Lord in our times of disappointment as well.