Shall We Look For Another ?

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” – Matthew 11:2-3 (ESV)

I’ve begun this year reading through the Gospel of John and am amazed again at the man we know as John the Baptist. It’s difficult to find another person in Scripture who is a better example of real humility. Confronted by priests and Levites during his ministry to explain who he was, John the Baptist stated emphatically that he was not the Christ. Although he had a following of his own, John continually made sure to point these followers away from him and toward Jesus – “Behold the Lamb of God!” he said on more than one occasion to deflect his own disciples to the Messiah. As he is about to exit the public stage, John the Baptist declares, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30). John Calvin commented on this verse that “this zeal of John all pastors of the Church ought to imitate by stooping with the head and shoulders to elevate Christ.”

This is the last we hear of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John. We have other accounts of his ministry in the other Gospels, and one of these has always been a little puzzling to me. We are told in both Luke 7 and Matthew 11 that while John is in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him the following – “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This question doesn’t seem to square up with John’s prior testimony, especially with what we read in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.

I wonder what was going through the mind of John the Baptist at this point in his life. Was his faith faltering a bit here ? Did he expect greater earthly results from Jesus’ ministry ? Is it simply that he was just an earthly man, with doubts and struggles like the rest of us (and Jesus’ own disciples, for that matter, who deserted Him as well) ?

Just thinking out loud here without having any real opinion. John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease” ring loudly in my ears as a picture of what real humility looks like in the life of a Christian. I’m just wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on why he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him those questions. What might be going on here ?

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3 thoughts on “Shall We Look For Another ?

  1. Tony

    I guess I always felt like imprisonment and the possibility of death provoked the question. It seems that most of Jesus’ followers were surprised at how the Kingdom of Heaven was ushered in suffering and humiliation opposed to conquest and liberation. Good question!

    Tony

  2. Christina

    Hi,

    I stumbled upon your page as I sought the answer to the same question! Let us know what you figure out 🙂

  3. Sei ermutigt

    Joel, when we suffer unjust setbacks and our life is imperiled – and God hasn’t thus far intervened – I think it is wise to seek out Jesus to hear His witness as John the Baptist, blessed by God, sought to do.
    Certainly John the Baptist was a man, with doubts and struggles like the rest of us, but we only have to read God’s words about him to be in no doubt that
    his faith in Jesus stood firm.
    I’m reminded of those very important verses in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
    4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
    5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
    Jesus was the suffering servant and He conquered Satan and death.
    Rejoice for Jesus made atonement for our sins through the purity of His obedience which culminated in Him dying a sacrificial death on a cross.
    Behold the sinless, holy character of Jesus who poured out His precious soul unto death. Behold His perfect, finished, triumphant work on the cross. Let us all bow down before God Triune and praise Him!

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