John the Baptist receives far less recognition than he deserves from modern day Christians. We treat the passages about him as little more than filler or introduction to the story of Jesus, but for much of Jesus’ ministry, John likely had the larger following. His campaign to call the people of Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom was wildly successful, drawing huge crowds and plentiful converts. Most who lived during Jesus’ lifetime probably thought of Jesus as John’s cousin, rather than the other way around.
But the glory days of John’s ministry were now a memory. Herod Antipas - the son of the Herod that attempted to kill the infant Jesus in His crib - had arrested John for speaking the truth about Herod’s infamous affair with his brother’s wife. John wasted away in chains - too important to be immediately executed, but too dangerous to the regime to be allowed to roam free.
And so John, the one who was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah and His Kingdom, was forced to sit on the sidelines as Jesus’ ministry swept the countryside. He never got to see the signs or hear the sermons, except as rumors whispered through the bars of his cell. Like Moses before him, He had led the people to a promised land He would never enter.
In the darkness of that cell, John began to wonder if it had all been for nothing. Had he succeeded? Was the kingdom truly at hand? Was Jesus really the Messiah John had been waiting for? Or had he been mistaken? Had it all been a foolish dream? Was his life a waste?
Anyone who has lived the Christian life for any length of time is familiar with doubt. No matter how firm our conviction or knowledgeable we are in the faith, there are times when even the most devoted believer stumbles. We wonder if our faith or salvation are real, if God really answers us when we pray. We all struggle with temptation and with our own feelings of inadequacy.
Sadly, many of us don’t realize that these doubts are a normal part of our walk with the Lord. Instead of regarding them as part of our journey, we conceal them, believing them to be some shameful secret we cannot utter aloud. Instead of seeking the assurance of others, or of the Lord, we suffer in silence, trying to wish our doubts away instead of confronting them head on.
John the Baptist knew what to do about his doubts. Rather than pretend they didn’t exist or worry about what others would think, he brought his concerns straight to the Master. He knew that Jesus was big enough to handle his doubts, and so he set that at the Lord’s feet. Far from chastising John for weakness - as many of us worry Jesus would do to us - He assures John of the truth, and then tells the assembled crowd of John’s greatness.
The same Jesus who calmed John’s doubts still stand waiting to do so for you. All you need to do is go to your knees and ask.