Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Did John Lack Faith?
JOHN the Baptizer, who has been in prison about a year now, receives the report about the resurrection of the widow’s son at Nain. But John wants to hear directly from Jesus regarding the significance of this, so he sends two of his disciples to inquire: “Are you the Coming One or are we to expect a different one?”
That may seem a strange question, especially since John saw God’s spirit descend upon Jesus and heard God’s voice of approval when baptizing him nearly two years before. John’s question may cause some to conclude that his faith has grown weak. But this is not so. Jesus would not speak so highly of John, which he does on this occasion, if John has begun to doubt. Why, then, does John ask this question?
John may simply want a verification from Jesus that He is the Messiah. This would be very strengthening to John as he languishes in prison. But apparently there is more to John’s question than that. He evidently wants to know if there is to be another one coming, a successor, as it were, who will complete the fulfillment of all the things that were foretold to be accomplished by the Messiah.
According to Bible prophecies with which John is acquainted, God’s anointed One is to be a king, a deliverer. Yet John is still being held prisoner, even many months after Jesus was baptized. So John evidently is asking Jesus: ‘Are you the one to establish the Kingdom of God in outward power, or is there a different one, a successor, for whom we should wait to fulfill all the prophecies relating to the Messiah’s glory?’
Instead of telling John’s disciples, ‘Of course I am the one who was to come!’ Jesus in that very hour puts on a remarkable display by healing many people of all kinds of diseases and ailments. Then he tells the disciples: “Go your way, report to John what you saw and heard: the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised up, the poor are being told the good news. And happy is he who has not stumbled over me.”
In other words, since John’s question may imply an expectation of Jesus’ doing more than he is doing, such as freeing John himself, Jesus is telling John not to expect more than all of this.
When John’s disciples leave, Jesus turns to the crowds and tells them that John is the “messenger” of Jehovah foretold in Malachi 3:1 and is also the prophet Elijah foretold in Malachi 4:5, 6. He thus extols John as being the equal of any prophet who lived before him, explaining:
“Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. But from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.”
Jesus is here showing that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom, since a lesser one there is greater than John. John prepared the way for Jesus, but his death occurs before Christ sealed the covenant, or agreement, with his disciples to be corulers with him in his Kingdom. That is why Jesus says that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom. John will instead be an earthly subject of God’s Kingdom. Luke 7:18-30; Matthew 11:2-15.
◆ Why does John ask whether Jesus is the Coming One or whether a different one should be expected?
◆ What prophecies does Jesus say that John fulfilled?
◆ Why will John the Baptizer not be in heaven with Jesus?