Wait a minute. Why does John ask Jesus if Jesus is the “one?” Shouldn’t John know by now?
Last week, our gospel reading introduced John the Baptist to us. John the Baptist is a prophet preaching in the wilderness. John gains followers and his message puts him in conflict with the local authorities. John is arrested and thrown in prison. While in prison, John receives word that Jesus is preaching and teaching throughout Israel. John, who heard a voice from heaven declare “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17), sends his followers to question Jesus. As we heard last week, John has high expectations for what the Messiah will do. Even though John heard the voice announcing Jesus, John still wonders who Jesus is. John’s questions, in the words of Bonnie L. Pattison (Feasting on the Gospels: Matthew Volume 1, pg. 288), asked for some “clarification” for his faith.
Doubt can be unsettling. When we look at the people around us and hear the stories about Jesus’ followers in the Bible, we assume we do not measure up. We see the people around us as the true believers while we are lacking. We might have questions. We might long to experience God. We might, after a tough experience or a profound loss, wonder if this faith thing is for us. Something might happen that knocks our faith ajar or challenges our basic assumptions about God and ourselves. The very fact that we are asking questions can make us wonder if we really believe or not.
But I want to invite you to welcome the questions. Even John the Baptist, who was at Jesus’ baptism, wasn’t always sure. Even John had questions. Questions are not a sign that we do not have faith. Questions are a sign that we have it. In our questions, we are opening ourselves to a conversation with God about who we are and who God is. Jesus didn’t run away from questions. He answered them. And Jesus will answer your questions too.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 12/11/2016.