Session #080 Not As Expected
Scripture Matthew 11:1-6
Summary Matthew 11:1-6 records John the Baptist’s own questions about Jesus as he wrestled with doubt and discouragement from prison. What happens when expectation and experience do not line up? Is doubt ever allowed when moving on kingdom assignments? What can we learn from Jesus’ answer to John’s question? Henson addresses these questions and more in this teaching.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matthew 11:1–6
In our spiritual journeys, we all have expectations of God of who He is, how He should be. When it does not happen according to our expectations, we ask “why?” Doubt sets in, then disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment.
John the Baptist had his expectations of Jesus too. When things did not turn out as he had expected, he had to clarify his expectations and questions.
John the Baptist and Jesus, the Cousins
John was introduced in Matthew 3. The chapter starts with John but ends with Jesus.
Two interesting verses link John and Jesus. Jesus hears about John’s imprisonment in Matthew 4:12 “Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.” and
John hears about Jesus’ works in Matthew 11:2 “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Now as we begin Matthew 11, Jesus speaks at length about John the Baptist, using John as an example of a messenger who remained faithful to Christ despite opposition.
John’s Kingdom Appointment and Assignment
John is the forerunner, the one who comes before the king. He is the voice in the wilderness, calling and proclaiming the kingdom of God, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 10:7. He points to the King of the kingdom (Matthew 3:11) calling for repentance and to bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8-10). As he calls the people to holiness and righteousness, he warns of the final judgment, and the wrath to come (Matthew 3:11-12).
John’s assignment does not make him very popular or well-liked. He calls out the religious leaders’ hypocrisy. He calls out Herod’s relationship with his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, which lands him in prison.
Faithfulness to kingdom assignments can bring you predicaments you do not necessarily want to have, and to places, you do not want to be.
Faith and Doubt (Matthew 11:2-3)
Is doubt allowed? Jesus seems to speak against doubt in Matthew 14:31 and Matthew 21:2. So we conclude that faith and doubt cannot co-exist. If you have faith, you cannot doubt. If you doubt, you have no faith.
We do see that many biblical characters expressed doubt and had many questions. I believe doubt is allowed and even to be expected as we grow and mature, and especially when we move on kingdom assignment. When we do have doubts, we should look to God and seek His Word.
What causes the doubt? Often, the issue is not that we do not believe in Jesus, but our expectation of who Jesus or God is and how we expect Him to move or not move surfaces cracks in our relationship. Although we know that His ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), we still expect Him to move as we would, want, or desire.
John and Jesus both proclaimed the same message, “The kingdom of heaven is near.” John has been faithful in his work but landed in prison. So as he heard of Jesus’ ministry, he must have some questions.
In times of doubt and discouragement, it is fine to ask Jesus. John did not just ask his disciples for their opinion about Jesus. John sent his disciples to hear it directly from Jesus. Hearing from others is good as we learn from others but hearing directly and personally from Jesus is even better.
Jesus does not align to us. We align to Him. It is not what I think that matters in the end. It is who Jesus is and what He is doing that takes precedence over every situation I may find myself in.
John did not ask to give up his faith, he asked so as to build up his faith.
Your posture when asking makes all the difference. He was not tempting Christ to prove His unworthiness. He was testing Christ to prove His worthiness.
Works and Word (Matthew 11:4-5)
John heard about “the works of Christ” and wanted to know if Jesus was indeed the Christ. Jesus answered according to what John asked, by listing the works expected of the Messiah (Matthew 11:5). The works of Christ confirmed the word declared about the Messiah. Jesus is the coming Messiah. This is Matthew’s Christological Intent.
Jesus in answering John pointed to the messianic prophecies that are being fulfilled (Isaiah 29:18–19, 35:5–6, and 61:1–2). Jesus fulfilled His messianic appointment and messianic assignments. If we are people who declare the word of the King, then we must also do the works of the King.
Yet, not everything is fulfilled. The kingdom is here and not yet. Wrong expectations will lead to doubt and disappointments as we move on kingdom assignments if we do not discern and understand prophecy correctly. Understanding prophecy helps us to respond rightly in times of doubt and disappointment. We have a future hope and all will be good when King Jesus comes for His kingdom and people.
Expectation and Experience
John hears about the works of Christ from his disciples and the miracles and breakthroughs confirm Jesus’ Messiahship, but John is still in prison.
When an expectation is not matched by experience, when miracles are experienced by everyone else except you, will doubt set in? Is Jesus really who He says He is? Can I trust Him and His word? Why not me? What is wrong with me? Did I sin? Do I lack faith?
It does not change the fact that Jesus is who He says He is. He is still a healer, provider, master, and king. He is still good, faithful, gracious, and loving. He is still ruling and reigning, and sovereign. It does not change your status and position in Christ. You are who you are in Christ. No one can take that away from you. It does not alter the assignment He has given to you.
We are called to be obedient and faithful. We keep on going, regardless. The demonstration of the kingdom is for those who do not know the King. As for those who know the King, our faithfulness is not dependent on such encounters and experiences. We do not live by feelings or by sight, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is what maturity means. The external conditions do not determine your internal convictions. Outwardly, we are perishing. Inwardly, we are being renewed (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Our expectation is to be eschatological, in the hope of the future.
Real and Authentic
Matthew’s record is not meant to discredit John’s ministry or faith. Jesus affirms John and his ministry in Matthew 11:7-19. This is a very real and raw representation of the weakness of man.
John was not the first to feel this way. Elijah fled at Jezebel’s threat. Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth. Moses asked to die. John will not be the last to feel this way.
If these can feel this way, how about us? It is not wrong to have doubt or to be discouraged.
It is how we respond in such situations that matters. Do we take God at His word, no matter how we feel or what we experience, or not experience? Do we give in and give up on God and our assignments or faith?
We can be real and authentic with Jesus, and with one another. We do not need to play-act with God or Jesus. He knows everything. Do not just listen to nice positive stories and testimonies.
Learn even more from those who hold on to the faith even when there seems to be no breakthrough insight.
Discouragement and Encouragement (Matthew 11:6)
Jesus accepted John’s doubts and discouragement, He did not rebuke John as He did the disciples and Pharisees.
The way Jesus answered John indicated His regard for John’s position and maturity in the things of the kingdom. He expected John to know and understand the Scriptures. He expected John to rise above experiences and feelings. He expected John to be mature enough as a spiritual leader of his right to make the right decisions after he has heard from Jesus. Jesus encouraged John with a beatitude statement, Matthew 11:6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
If you are not caused to stumble or compromise because of Jesus. Jesus is encouraging John and us to continue in our faith even when we suffer for Christ. Look at Isaiah in Isaiah 8:11–15: Fear God, Not Man.
In times of disappointment and discouragement, Jesus can be a stone of stumbling or a rock of offence or He can be a sanctuary. The choice is yours to make, to deny or to confess.
What are your expectations of Jesus? Of serving Him? What if it is not as expected?
We expect God to come through in a certain way when we remain faithful. Yet, there are times when He responds or does not respond in ways we expect.
Jesus does not rebuke us but encourages us. He is who He is, no matter what. Will we find shalom in Him. Or will we be stumbled by Him? Look to God’s word when you doubt.