“Now when John had heard in the prison about 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?”
Since men named John and women named Mary are numerous in the gospels, I’ll take a moment to clarify the text above. John in this case is John the Baptist. He is the very same John who, when Jesus appeared, shouted “Behold the Lamb of God!” He is the same John who later testified that the One who sent him to baptize (God) told him that upon whomsoever he saw the Spirit like a dove descend and abide on was the Messiah.
Now, John’s been thrown into prison and sends messengers to ask Jesus if he’s the One. Given his history, why would he do that?
Some will tell you he was having doubts. Others might say that his faith had failed, or he was feeling sorry for himself. If you’ve read a few of these blogs, you know I’m going to tell you that I don’t believe any of those answers. You also know that I’m about to tell you what I do believe. (Which you can take or leave as you see fit.)
I don’t know if John knew he was about to die. He was a prophet, so it’s not a farfetched notion. He is in Herod’s prison and his prospect of release probably doesn’t look good. John has staked his reputation as a prophet and a man of God on his identifying Jesus as the Messiah. He is not likely to get to test his hypothesis or method again.
However, a final confirmation of the facts and validation of his witness would make prison more bearable. Peter later would say that if you suffer for your mistakes, and take it, you’ve done well. Suffering for being right and taking it, glorifies God and contributes to making your calling and election sure.
John wants one last assurance that he was right. Notice that Jesus does not reprimand him. There’s no “Oh, ye of little faith” spoken here. What does Jesus do? He quotes the prophet Isaiah’s description of what the Messiah will do.
He tells the messengers to go and show John the things which they have seen and heard Jesus doing. The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed are those not offended by what he’s doing.
Christian faith, unlike modern government-sponsored science, is meant to be questioned and tested by those who practice it. Asking questions, reaching a reasoned decision on a course of action, and testing the results are all actions of an adult faith.
Paul said, “I know whom I have believed…” There is nothing wrong with accepting the word of a trusted authority, we all do it frequently. Testing the soundness (as we see John doing) of that authority is essential to a grownup faith.