Lesson 125—August 14, 2016
Jesus, I Have a Question
[As the report of Jesus went forth throughout all the regions], John the Baptist was still languishing in Herod’s prison for his daring denunciation of Herod Antipas for having stolen his brother’s wife. John was incarcerated in the virtually impregnable fortress of Machaerus. The castle towered over town and countryside. It was surrounded by massive walls and flanked by towering bastions (a projecting part of a fortification). Within was Herod’s luxurious palace. Its dungeon was deep, and in that terrible prison lay John the Baptist (Phillips).
Months have passed since John the Baptist had announced and presented Jesus as the promised Messiah. But during these months little had changed. The Romans were still in control. The Herods still ruled, and the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees still played their fictitious game of religious piety. As far as John could see and understand, nothing had changed. Politically, Rome still ruled; religiously, the Pharisees and scribes still held the chief seats in the synagogue, and Israel was no better off.
John was discouraged. In his mind were unanswered questions that dominated his thoughts and created doubt. The ultimate question looming in John’s mind was: Could I have been wrong; was Jesus really the Messiah?
(v. 19) While in prison, John got reports from his followers concerning Jesus and His ministry, so he knew what was happening with Jesus. But with the question burning in his heart, fueled by his own discouragement, John sent two of his loyal and dependable disciples to find the answer. They go directly to Jesus Himself. They will accept no hearsay answer. It will not come through a third party; it must be answered by Jesus. The question: “Are You the Coming One (the Messiah), or do we look for another?”
Have there been times in your life when you found your faith being put to the test? Please prayerfully explain.
To better understand John the Baptist’s plight, Warren Wiersbe shares some interesting insight:
It must have been difficult for this man, accustomed to a wilderness life, to be confined in a prison. The physical and emotional strain was no doubt great, and the long days of waiting did not make it easier. The Jewish leaders did nothing to intercede for John, and it seemed that even Jesus was doing nothing for him. If He came to set the prisoners free (Luke 4:18), then John the Baptist was a candidate. There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind; we cannot understand what God is doing or why He is doing it. Unbelief is a matter of the will; we refuse to believe God’s Word and obey what He tells us to do. In John’s case, his inquiry was not born of willful unbelief, but of doubt nourished by physical and emotional strain.
How can fatigue affect your ability to handle a situation?
How does stress affect you physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually?
What do you believe were the factors in John the Baptist’s life that brought him to the question of verse 19?
If you are having trouble understanding how John could have reached such a low point in life, Warren Wiersbe helps us to understand:
You and I can look back at the ministry of Christ and understand what He was doing, but John did not have that advantage. John had announced judgement, but Jesus was doing deeds of love and mercy. John had promised that the Kingdom was at hand, but there was no evidence of it so far.
When we look at John’s position, from John’s own perspective, we can better understand his question and perceived doubt.
Have you ever been guilty of too quickly coming to a conclusion concerning the reason or cause for someone’s struggle?
Please offer your understanding of this old Native American proverb: “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.”
Before we move into Jesus’ response to John’s question, Charles Swindoll can perhaps also help us in our understanding and dealing with doubt.
Contrary to popular opinion, doubting is a normal, healthy, perhaps even necessary, experience in spiritual growth. Disciples who never suffer periods of trembling confidence in their God, the Bible, the gospel, or their calling are most likely playing it safe and living in denial. Doubts force us to pursue the truth. Doubts fuel the believer’s pursuit of real answers to life’s most troubling questions. Doubts make deep divers out of novice swimmers. Doubts cause us to go down into the labyrinthine realm (deeper passageways beyond the norm) of profound truths to find treasures many people don’t even know exist.
(v. 20) When the men reached Jesus, they quickly identified the source of the question, John the Baptist, and identified the question itself.
(v. 21) At first glance, verse 21 may seem to be a parenthesis statement between the question offered by the men on John the Baptist’s behalf and the response given by Jesus. But as we study this verse, I believe it is written by Luke with great purpose.
“At that every hour”—The very hour that Jesus would be approached with a question concerning His messiahship, “He cured many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits and to many blind He gave sight.” At the very time the question was being asked of Jesus, He was doing the work and ministry of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets of old. The prophets had spoken concerning the very actions of the coming Messiah. In the midst of this very question, first without even responding, Jesus was testifying to the very answer to the question (see Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1). Before Jesus spoke a single word in response to John’s question, His actions testified to the fact of His Messiahship.
(v. 22) Now Jesus responds verbally to John’s question: “Go and tell John…”
(v. 23) Jesus gave instructions for the men to go back and tell John what they had seen and heard. Jesus’ witness and actions revealed who He was. He would let John come to his own conclusion drawn upon what Jesus had said. Jesus had no doubt that John would understand. John, himself being the last in a long line of God’s prophets, would understand the evidences and would therefore have unwavering trust and faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
Has there ever been a time in your life when your faith needed reassurance? Please explain.
For the honor of the Lord and perhaps for the help of someone in your class today, please tell of a time in your life when doubt clouded your path of faith. What questions did you have for Jesus during that time in your life? Please be real and honest.
Notice that Jesus did not scold, condemn, attack, or criticize John. In fact, it is very interesting to see and study just what Jesus had to say about John. Join us next week as we continue our study together.