Does this not surprise you? Really. It is the kind of thing we might expect from Thomas maybe, but John the Baptist?
Before John was conceived, Gabriel, sent from the very presence of God, had appeared to his father and revealed both his name and his prophetical calling as the forerunner of the King. Months before his birth, his little body jumped at the presence of the virgin Mary, indicating with that very act the unusual character of both his person and that of the Messiah in the virgin's womb. As he was growing up, his parents would have repeated to him over and over again the miraculous nature of his conception. Finally, when he baptized Jesus, he clearly heard the Father’s voice and watched the Spirit descend as the Trinity came together for the occasion.
How could he possibly doubt Jesus’ identity?
It was John who gave us famous phrases like, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”, or “He must increase, but I must decrease.”. This was a man who knew exactly who he was as well as what his divinely appointed mission was. He lived a life so radically different from the rest of “normal” human beings and so intensely focused that we cannot possibly question his commitment to God.
But as the days went by in that wretched prison, no longer free to go and preach wherever he wanted and eat his wild and exotic menu, John’s friends came to him with reports of what Jesus was doing and he began to wonder.
What exactly was Jesus' plan? The things John was hearing didn't fit in at all with what he understood to be the role of the Anointed One. In fact, it didn't seem like his special cousin was in the least bit trying to set up God's kingdom.
I’m pretty sure he had voiced his uncertainty with his closest friends, and they all tried to make sense of it. Finally, he decided it was time to get this thing settled once and for all and sent a couple of his followers to personally ask the Lord if He was indeed the Messiah or not.
I find two things very significant: first, that he sent his friends with the request, and second, that the Holy Spirit had Matthew record it for us.
Most importantly, Jesus did not chastise John for voicing his legitimate concerns. Rather, he gave him a personal and clear answer that focused on the miraculous changing of lives, in both the physical and spiritual realms. Then He went on to honor him as one of God’s great prophets. All of this, both the questioning and the honoring, were clearly recorded for us to learn from.
When we are troubled by disconcerting circumstances and see our expectations completely wiped out, it is important to be honest with God and go to Him for answers. If we are sincere and willing to accept His responses, whether we understand them or not, He will ultimately bring peace to our hearts and increase our trust.
Dear Father, thank you for John’s honesty and for letting us in on his private and somewhat confused state of mind. Thank you for his courage and determination to know the truth. Give me humility and patience in dealing with others who may go through this valley at any given time.