Today’s reading: Luke 7:24-50
John the Baptist was the preordained herald of the Messiah. He fulfilled is mission perfectly. He clearly knew who Jesus was and announced him as such when Jesus came to the Jordan river to be baptized. Despite this, while he is imprisoned and shortly before his death, John sends emissary’s to Jesus to ask him if he is indeed the Messiah:
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” Luke 7:18-20
If in his earlier years John so clearly knew that Jesus was the messiah why does he ask these questions now?
Unfortunately, I don’t think the text provides a ready answer. We can speculate and pray on a couple of things. First, some have suggested that the prophecies of the coming messiah foretold that among the great miracles of healing that innocent prisoners would go free. However, John the Baptist is still being held unjustly, perhaps that has prompted this inquiry. Another explanation that is proposed it that John the Baptist was transferring the loyalty of his disciples to Jesus. When he sends his disciples to Jesus and Jesus answers by working miracles, John is showing his disciples that Jesus is the Messiah and they should shift their discipleship to him. Finally, a third explanation is that John just doubted. Despite knowing so strongly his mission and purpose early on time and circumstances (his incarceration) had just caused John to question. Personally, while I do not think this is the case, the idea does give me comfort. If John could doubt and Jesus still calls say of him, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28), then there is a great hope for us.