15TH DECEMBER 2021
THE DILEMMA OF DOUBT
Is 45: 6c‐8, 18, 21c‐25; Ps 85: 9ab‐14; Lk 7: 18b‐23
Is it really true? This is a question many have asked over the years, and it brings to light the reality of doubt. Doubt is a season which many people pass through. When we think of someone who doubted, we probably think almost immediately of Thomas. He is even known as “Doubting Thomas.” Peter also experienced some moments of doubt, and it is safe to assume other of Jesus’ first followers may have had a doubt or two. In the passage we just read, we find another individual going through a season of doubt.
You would never have expected John to doubt what Jesus was doing. After all, they had grown up in the same extended family, as cousins. Jesus was not exactly an unknown quantity. There by the banks of the Jordan, only a short while before, John had baptized Jesus and had witnessed the Spirit descending as a dove to authenticate Him as the Christ. John had every reason to believe in Jesus and to believe in what He was doing. But the moment came when this extraordinary man, John known as the Baptist, let loose anxieties and sent messengers to express some doubt.
The story comes after Jesus had done a series of healings. Great and unusual things were happening for people because of Jesus. People were being helped in ways they never expected to be helped. The story also comes at a time when John is in prison; he had gotten a little too pointed about King Herod and his love life, and so was cooling his heels as a guest of the taxpayers. And so, John wonders: Jesus was helping people. But John wasn’t so sure the help was real. How did
Jesus’ deal with the credibility problem?
First, notice that Jesus just accepted John’s doubt. He accepted the doubt. He did not criticize John, He did not try to argue the case, He did not attempt to pull the props out from under John’s concern. Jesus simply accepted John’s doubts, as they were. Jesus gave John room for his feelings to be his feelings. Sometimes, you know, we look at another person’s life, and we say, "I don’t see where he or she is coming from. Doesn’t make any sense to me." But the fact is that they feel the way they feel; right, wrong, or indifferent, that’s just the way they feel. And Jesus accepted John’s doubt without argument, without getting upset, without becoming defensive. John wanted to know, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" To this Jesus replied with no accusations, no defensiveness, just acceptance. He accepted John’s doubt.
Now once Jesus accepted John’s doubt, notice that His response was one which affirmed John’s dignity. Jesus knew that you do not help people by putting them down, making them feel small; so, Jesus replied to John and all his anxieties in a way which preserved John’s dignity.
Go and tell what you have seen and heard. He does not say, go and tell John what a great guy I am. He does not say, go and tell John to get off my case. He does not say, go and tell John he’d better believe or else plan to taste the fires of hell. He simply says, go and tell what you have seen and heard.
Many of us, however, when we are challenged, jump to protect ourselves. When we are questioned, what are we tempted to do? We are tempted to put people down, to accuse them of faithlessness; we want to argue with them. We make ourselves the issue. And so, what have we done? We have stripped those who challenge us of their dignity.
Jesus let John keep his dignity. Jesus called him no names, made no accusations, nothing. Jesus simply pointed to what had been done and asked John’s messengers to witness to what they had experienced, first‐hand. John kept his dignity.
Jesus accepted doubt. When John doubted whether Jesus was authentic, Jesus recognized that he had to let John feel
whatever John felt. Jesus accepted doubt.
Jesus affirmed dignity. It was not necessary for Jesus to feel successful that he put John down. He simply and quietly pointed to what God was doing and let John draw his own conclusions. Jesus affirmed the dignity of the doubter.
Which leads us to Jesus’ great invitation to everyone. Whoever it is, His invitation is always the same. It is to discover grace and forgiveness, to discover power and healing, through Himself. Whoever it is, whoever you are, He spreads wide the invitation to discovery. "Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
Come and see, discover. For we are here to go and tell what we have seen and heard. The blind receives their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed … blessed ... blessed is anyone who take no offense at