Room for Doubt

Listen to Luke Chapter 3 or read "Prepares the Way"
The people were waiting. They were expecting something. They were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ. ...John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I am will come. I'm not good enough to untie the straps of his sandals. ... But John found fault with Herod, the ruler of Galilee ... Herod locked him up in prison. (New International Reader's Version)
We know from the other written accounts about Jesus (Matthew, Mark, & John) that before John the Baptist is put in prison he has an encounter with Jesus and Jesus asks him to baptize him. We will read about that tomorrow in the next passage reading. Today I find myself reading a little ahead in the Word to learn about John the Baptist.

Sometime after John baptizes Jesus the following takes place:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him. John said, "Look! The Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I was talking about. ... (Part of John 1:29-30, New International Reader's Version)

Then John told them, "... I give witness that this is the Son of God." (Part of John 1:32-34, New International Reader's Version)
Later John the Baptist is put in prison. His disciples were keeping him informed about all the incredible things Jesus was doing and how many people were recognizing him as a great prophet from God. John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask him a question.
The men came to Jesus. They said, "John the Baptist sent us to ask you, 'Are you the one who was supposed to come? Or should we look for someone else?' "

At that very time Jesus healed many people. They had illnesses, sicknesses and evil spirits. He also gave sight to many who were blind. So Jesus replied to the messengers, "Go back to John. Tell him what you have seen and heard. Blind people receive sight. Disabled people walk. Those who have skin diseases are healed. Deaf people hear. Those who are dead are raised to life. And the good news is preached to those who are poor. Blessed are those who do not give up their faith because of me."

So John's messengers left. Then Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John. He said, ... "I tell you, no one more important than John has ever been born. But the least important person in God's kingdom is more important than he is." (Part of Luke 7:20-28, New International Reader's Version)
It is recorded that John believed Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. After this public confession a little while later when he was in prison it appears that John was wrestling with some questions about who Jesus was and whether he was in fact the one. Is Jesus the Messiah? He even sends a couple of guys to ask Jesus himself. Jesus doesn't reject his question or mock him for not believing, but encourages him with news of more remarkable miracles and changed lives.

In a chapter titled Room for Doubt Philip Yancey in his book Reaching for the Invisible God writes ... (I know yes, again this book, but it is a great book. He just has a way with words.)

I must exercise faith simply to believe that God exists, a basic requirement for any relationship. And yet when I wish to explore how faith works, I usually sneak in by the back door of doubt, for I best learn about my own need for faith during its absence. God's invisibility guarantees I will experience times of doubt.

... Over time, I have grown more comfortable with mystery rather than certainty. God does not twist arms and never forces us into a corner with faith in himself as the only exit. We can never present the Final Proof, to ourselves or to anyone else. We will always, with Pascal, see "too much to deny and too little to be sure ...

I look to Jesus, God laid bare to human view, for proof of God's refusal to twist arms. Jesus often made it harder, not easier, for people to believe. He never violated an individual's freedom to decide, even to decide against him. I marvel at how gently Jesus handled the reports of John the Baptist's doubts in prison, and how tenderly he restored Peter after his brusque betrayal."

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