LOOK NO FURTHER
Have you ever faced a situation that raised a bit of doubt in your mind? I believe all of us do from time to time. Doubt is an ever-present occurrence in this world which is so often filled with uncertainty. Doubt can sneak up within us when we least expect it, and at a time when we especially don’t want to doubt. A very serious matter concerning doubt is that it is a major stumbling block to our faith. And, as a result, it slows, stunts, or destroys the growth and strength of our faith. Doubt does not discriminate against anyone. If you leave the door open to invite doubt in, it will gladly walk right in and very comfortably settle inside you and be delighted to be there.
Included in the realization that no one is exempt from the creeping up of doubt in the mind, are those whom we might consider pillars of the faith. Even they have most likely been in a wrestling match with doubt more than once in their lives. It is a very human experience that most, if not all, of humankind knows something about through experience. We must be careful to guard against allowing our doubt to be the defining element of who we are. No one is exempt from it. But we do have the assurance that we have a powerful weapon to help us to dispel any doubt which attempts to steer us away from our faith.
We can look at one of the most obvious cases of doubt among one of the pillars of the Christian faith. It comes from the mouth of John the Baptist. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, and informs him that he and Elizabeth, his barren wife, will conceive and give birth to a son. And, he was to be not just a son. But he was to be a son who will walk in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah as a forerunner before Jesus Christ! According to Gabriel, this forerunner, John the Baptist, would turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. Not only that, but that the hearts of many fathers back to their children. And there is more: Luke 1:17 says, “….. He will turn the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” So, all of this will take place in order to ultimately prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah (see Malachi 4:5-6, Luke 1:13-17).
As this prophecy is fulfilled, John the Baptist appears in the wilderness in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. He begins preaching the gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the people surrounding the Jordan River, calling out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
It was he whom the prophet Isaiah spoke of in the Old Testament saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy concerning his ministry. Many people came to him to confess their sins and to be baptized in response to his call to repentance. The confidence John possessed as he expounded the message he was commissioned to proclaim concerning Jesus was evident in much of his preaching.
His profound statement was one of ultimate humility: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after Me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). The same level of humility was demonstrated when Jesus came to be baptized by him: "But John tried to prevent Him saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to Me?'" (Matthew 3:14). He understood, without a doubt, and he acknowledged who he was in light of Christ: “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said ‘I am not the Christ (Messiah)’, but I have been sent ahead of Him’" (John 3:28).
Sometime after he baptized Jesus, John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. This is the same Herod who issued the decree that all male babies born in Bethlehem born two years ago and under during the time of Jesus' birth must be killed (Matthew 2:16). Being a preacher of repentance preacher, John the Baptist boldly reprimanded Herod for selfishly divorcing his wife and marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Matthew 14:3-4). As a result, John was confined to prison. His crime was simply doing what he had always done. He was carrying out his purpose, which was to call people to turn away from their sinful behavior. While John the Baptist was imprisoned, he apparently grew discouraged and even doubtful of whether Jesus truly was who He said He was. Even when he heard about all the miraculous works Jesus was doing - healing, cleansing, and casting out demons. At that moment he needed some reassurance. So he instructs two of his disciples to ask Jesus a very important question on his behalf: “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Now, this was the same man who had forcefully proclaimed the coming of the Messiah in the wilderness, calling everyone to repent of their sins, and baptized numerous people in the Jordan River, including Jesus Himself. This was the same man who declared that he himself was not the Messiah, but that He who had been sent ahead of Him was indeed the Messiah! What happened to John the Baptist that made him question whether this same Man whom he spoke of with such confidence and reverence was actually the Coming and Expected One? Having been confined in prison on false charges, not knowing what his fate would be or how long he would be confined, and being unable to see the Messiah at work with his own eyes opened up a door for doubt to settle in John's mind and heart. Although he heard about the miraculous works that Jesus was doing, John wanted to hear from Jesus Himself!
Jesus did not condemn or pronounce judgment on John. Instead, He gives a profound message to John’s two disciples to bring back to him. That message was assurance. Jesus tells John’s two disciples to report back to John what they have seen and heard to assure John that Jesus’ ministry was making a difference in the lives of those with whom He came into contact.
The blind receive sight. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised up alive. The poor have the gospel preached to them.
In stating that the blind have received sight and that the poor have had the gospel preached to them, Jesus specifically quoted two prophetic passages from Isaiah (Isaiah 35:5 and Isaiah 61:1) in which Isaiah is speaking of the future works of Jesus Himself. By fulfilling these prophecies, Jesus was confirming to John the Baptist through his two disciples that He was indeed the Messiah, the Expected One. Jesus was not only doing what the Old Testament prophets said that He would, but He was doing what only He could do as God in the flesh.
Essentially, when John asked Jesus whether he should look for someone else, Jesus through His miraculous works instructed John the Baptist not to look any further, for the true Messiah had arrived! Isaiah 35:5
At times, we often find ourselves in a similar situation as John was in. We begin to doubt God as to whether He is who He says He is while we are in what we consider unfair circumstances. We especially question Him when we cannot see with our limited vision what God is actually doing for us and in us.
As a result, we turn to other sources outside of Him as we search for help, answers, and assurance. When we feel tempted to look beyond the God of the universe to fulfill our deepest longings, we must be very careful to remember, and continually ground ourselves in this truth: only the Lord our God can satisfy and supply our every need. Everything we need and earnestly desire can only be found in Him. His presence brings us the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). He alone can satisfy our longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good things (Psalm 107:9). He is El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One (Genesis 17:1). The Lord stands in the gap before each one of us daily. He instructs us and encourages us to look no further for the Messiah. Only He can provide the offering of an eternal all-sufficient Savior. The things that man, the world, and other false gods offer simply cannot compare to the All Sufficient God.
Gary K Fair
12 May 2021