John the Baptizer wasn’t so sure anymore. It wasn’t that long ago that he stood at the Jordan River crossing when “he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I and has priority over me, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him [as the Messiah]; but I came baptizing in water so that He would be [publicly] revealed to Israel'” (John 1:29-32, Amplified). The narrative continues, “John gave [further] evidence [testifying officially for the record, with validity and relevance], saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him [as the Messiah], but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this One is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have [actually] seen [that happen], and my testimony is that this is the Son of God!'” (vv. 32-34).
However, sometime later Matthew gives us another picture of John; this time not so confident, this time not so sure. He was now in prison, having been sent there by Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1-4). Some of those who followed him had come to visit him, but there was no sign of Jesus. Surely He must have known; someone would have told Him. Better yet, they were family; they were cousins! Yet Jesus had not visited. He had made no effort to have him freed, but had simply continued His ministry. According to Matthew, “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?” (11:2-3). Jesus responded with an interesting choice of words, “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 he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (vv. 4-6).
It was not by accident that Jesus sent that specific message back to John. In Jewish tradition, the miracles He mentioned all pointed to the One who was the Messiah. In addition, John would have recognized the prophesy of Isaiah in those words. Jesus was saying, “The works I do speak for Me; they tell who I am.” But knowing the source from which John’s question came, Jesus’ last words to John were also pointed, “And blessed [joyful, favored by God] is he who does not take offense at Me [accepting Me as the Messiah and trusting confidently in My message of salvation]” (Amplified).
When John received the message, he would also notice that Jesus did not include Isaiah’s phrase “proclaim liberty to the captives.” John would not be freed, but he could rest assured Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It is instructive that John’s doubts surfaced in part because of what Jesus did not do. We too are in danger of the same thing. Has Jesus met all our expectations of Him? Has He done all we want(ed) or expect(ed) Him to do? Whether or not He has does not change who He is. It does not change His work in our lives. In John’s doubts, darkness, and pain Jesus gave him a promise to sustain his faith. He can and will do the same thing for you.