And [Jesus] said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them . . . "
When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. ". . . . Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom scripture says: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John . . . .” (Luke 7:19-28).
If I ever doubted the Lord’s compassion for me (and I have), this passage about John the Baptist ought to put those doubts to rest for ever.
I mean, here’s a guy who knew all about Jesus’ miraculous birth and the events of His childhood. After all, John and Jesus were cousins. Surely, John’s mother told him how he leaped in her womb the moment she heard Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:41). Surely John also knew of his own miraculous birth, of the angels who visited his father Zacharias, and then visited his aunt Mary. John knew of his father’s prophecy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give to his people the knowledge of salvation . . . .” But there’s more. When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove.
It doesn’t get any more supernatural than what John experienced in his relationship with Jesus.
So why did John ask, “Are you the one, or should we keep looking?”
I wonder if John might have been at his lowest ebb. Stuck in a filthy rat-infested dungeon, confused, depressed, lost and probably feeling forsaken, I don’t doubt he wondered, “If you really are the Messiah, why am I in this place? Why don’t you deliver me?”
I can understand his point. I’ve been tossed by similar emotional upheavals more than a few times. And in those times Satan has often dropped into my mind something like: “Is what I have known all these years really true? For if it is, why am I suffering so?”
I’ve read this story in Luke many times. But this time through I spotted something I’d missed before – or at least, had not thought much about. I focused on Jesus’ response to the crowd after He sent away John’s disciples. The Lord didn’t use John as an illustration of weak faith. He didn’t tell the crowd how disappointed He was in John – “who should’ve known better.” Instead, Jesus called John not only prophet of God – a great tribute in and of itself – but He added, “No one on earth is greater than John”(verse 28).
Yes, John should’ve known better. But that is not so much the point as the Lord’s compassionate understanding of John’s fear and doubt. Surely, “God knows our frame. He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
John should have known better.
And so should I.
And so should you.
But – Oh, how I love the ‘buts’ encapsulated in Biblical truth – but just as Jesus told the crowd how well He thought of John, despite John’s confusion, I like to think Jesus also turns to the crowds of angels and tells them how well He thinks of us – you and I who love Him – even when we are confused, depressed, lost or feeling forsaken.
He knows our frame. He is mindful we are merely dust.
And oh how much He loves us.