And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.
These are the assuring and comforting words of Jesus to John the Baptist. Encouraging him not to allow the setback and suffering of the prison to lead to a floundering of his faith. There is always a challenge to doubt the Lord as trials and tribulations undermine our assurance. In John Bunyans Pilgrim’s Progress Christian finds himself in Doubting Castle for three days and nights. The hymn writer William Williams honestly confesses his “troubled spirit, the world’s distracting voices, tempting tones of ill, all my dark misgivings, my doubting and my fear.”
These seasons are real and debilitating as they create uncertainty. Was John disappointed that his ministry season had come to such a sad end? He had been faithful in challenging Herod’s sinful disobedience. Loyalty had landed him in lockup. Had he misunderstood the nature of Christ’s kingdom and ministry? Whatever the causes of his doubt it is real as he questions the very person of Jesus – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” This is so surprising coming from a man who had such clarity and conviction about Jesus when he began his ministry. This is the passionate preacher who proclaimed confidently – “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) and “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:34) But now no such clarity but confusing, conflicting doubts. So where’s the key to unlock the chains of his uncertainty? What direction must we go to find the sweetness of assurance?
“He sent his disciples to ask him…” vs 2&3. He takes his anxious doubt to Jesus. C. H. Spurgeon says “He sends to headquarters to make assurance doubly sure.”
Our joy is journeying “to the Lord in prayer.” Honest confession is always a helpful starting place. We are there in the presence of the One who is the source of all our certain assurance. He deals gently and lovingly with John. Specifically, Jesus points John to the Messianic promises of Isaiah (35:4-6 & 61:1) anticipating the authority of Christ in miraculous healing ministry. Then come the remarkable words ‘Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.’ (vs 4). The eyewitness evidence of promises fulfilled are there for all to clearly see. Here is the sure foundation of faith.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Let us soak ourselves in the refreshing, sure and certain promises of God. As John’s disciples leave, they are given a final word of consolation for their struggling master. He is blessed as he patiently perseveres on account of Christ. Don’t give in, don’t give up but go on! Is there a safer, happier place to be than under the blessedness of the Lord? His circumstances will not change, indeed a cruel beheading awaits him. But although a sword will sever his head from his body nothing will separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He will soon enter eternal blessedness. Living today under the blessedness of Jesus is our joy and strength. Living forever in his blessedness will be our pleasure and everlasting delight.
Far off I see the goal — O Saviour, guide me;
I feel my strength is small—Be Thou beside me;
With vision ever clear, With love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere, O Lord, provide me.
Whene’er Thy way seems strange, Go Thou before me;
And, lest my heart should change, O Lord, watch o’er me;
But, should my faith prove frail, And I through blindness fail,
O let Thy grace prevail, And still restore me.
Should earthly pleasures wane, And joy forsake me;
And lonely hours of pain At length o’ertake me,
My hand in Thine hold fast Till sorrow be o’erpast,
And gentle death at last For Heav’n awake me.
There, with the ransomed throng Who praise forever
The love that made them strong To serve forever,
I, too, would seek Thy face, Thy finished work retrace,
And magnify Thy grace, Redeemed forever
R. R. Roberts
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road