No one is immune to doubt. It can and does happen to us all. You’ve just got to know how to handle it when it comes. Even the greatest men and women of God recorded in the Bible had to deal with doubt. Jesus said of John the Baptist,
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11).
That means John was greater in the sight of Jesus than Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, or any Old Testament character you can name. Yet John doubted the most important thing of all by questioning whether Jesus was really the Christ.
John the Baptist had been cast into prison for criticizing Herod about marrying his brother’s wife, an incestuous relationship. He had been there sometime between six months and two years and became so discouraged that he asked two of his disciples to go to Jesus and ask Him if He really was the Christ. It’s easy to read that and not think much about it, but the truth is,
Think about who John was. He was separated unto God and filled with the Holy Spirit while he was still in the womb. Even Jesus wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. It is believed he lived in the desert near the Dead Sea with the Essens, the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were a people who were super-legalistic who dogmatically practiced many rituals of self denial. He certainly had not lived what we would call an easy life. John was separated and focused on his purpose.
His entire life was committed to preparing the way for the Christ. He spent thirty years preparing for a ministry that would only last six short months. John is the one who saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”(John 1:29). The anointing on his life had to be exceptionally powerful because his ministry defied logic. Thousands of people from many nations came to the middle of nowhere to hear this man preach, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And God had revealed to him that through a visible sign from heaven he would know who the Christ was. He would see the Spirit of God descending upon the Messiah in bodily shape as a dove. That came to pass when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
At that time, John was absolutely certain that Jesus was the Christ. He had zero doubt. He was so adamant about it that he said
“I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” in John 1:34. In Luke 3:16 he said, “One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” And in John 3:30 he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
However, after being imprisoned for a period of time, he began to doubt. This says a number of things, but an important one is the fact that anyone can doubt. How did Jesus respond to John’s doubt? Well, He certainly didn’t respond the way most of us do. He told John’s disciples to go back and tell him of the miracles they had witnessed and that John would be blessed if he would just believe. That’s it. Jesus didn’t try and make John feel better by letting him know He understood his pain or by making a few complimentary comments. Jesus reserved those comments till after John’s disciples left (Luke 7:24-28).
This puzzled me for many years. Why didn’t Jesus say these things about John the Baptist in the hearing of John’s disciples so they could have brought him that word? It seemed to me like that would have helped John more than just telling him to look at the miracles, and he’ll be blessed if he believes.
Years after I first had these questions, I was reading from Isaiah 35 and came across the passage that says,
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” (Is. 35:5-6).