In Luke 7:19, we read about an interesting encounter where John the Baptist, who was in prison, sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This question has puzzled many readers over the years. Why would John, who boldly declared Jesus to be the Messiah earlier in the Gospel (Luke 3:15-17), now question if Jesus was truly the Coming One? A closer look at the context provides some helpful insights.
First, it is important to understand the dire circumstances John was in at this time. John had been arrested and thrown into prison by Herod Antipas for openly rebuking the tetrarch for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias (Luke 3:19-20). John likely spent over a year in prison before sending his disciples to question Jesus (Luke 7:18-19). This imprisonment must have been incredibly difficult and disheartening for John.
While in prison, John had a lot of time to reflect on his ministry and the identity of Jesus. Previously, when John had affirmed Jesus as the Coming One, Jesus had not yet begun His public ministry. Now, having heard reports of Jesus’ activities, John probably expected the Messiah to act in a particular way. However, Jesus did not conform to common Jewish expectations of a military and political deliverer who would overthrow Roman oppression. Instead, Jesus moved about preaching, teaching, and healing those in need. John likely struggled to reconcile Jesus’ ministry approach with what he anticipated the Messiah would do.
This leads to the second insight. John’s question does not come from disbelief, but from honest confusion and doubt. His difficult circumstances in prison had caused him to question what he thought the Messiah would look and act like. John knew the prophecies, but struggled to see how Jesus’ ministry aligned with the mission of the foretold Messiah. Therefore, he sent his disciples to investigate if Jesus really was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.
Third, John’s disciples did not ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, but if He was “the one who is to come” or if they should “look for another.” This wording reflects Messianic expectations from Old Testament prophecies such as Malachi 3:1 (“I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.”) and Isaiah 35:4 (“He will come and save you.”). The disciples’ question reflects John’s confusion about Jesus’ approach to ushering in the Messianic age. Jesus did not answer them directly, but pointed to the miracles He was performing as proof of His identity (Luke 7:21-22).
After hearing Jesus’ response, John’s disciples returned and relayed all they had seen and heard. While we are not told exactly how John responded, Jesus offered high praise for John and his steadfast faith even in the midst of his doubts and circumstances (Luke 7:24-28). This shows that what mattered most to Jesus was John’s heart and commitment to God’s plan. John’s doubts did not reflect a lack of faith, but rather temporary confusion stemming from unmet expectations. We can take comfort that Jesus understands our questions and seasonal doubts, and He is gracious in the ways He affirms those who belong to Him.
In summary, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the true Messiah because John was struggling with doubt and confusion. His difficult imprisonment caused him to question if Jesus aligned with his expectations of the Coming One. However, this honest questioning was not a mark against John’s faith or status before God. Jesus graciously eased John’s concerns and affirmed that His fulfillment of Messianic prophecy would not always meet human assumptions. John’s story shows us we can bring our honest questions to Jesus in faith. He is gracious when we wrestle with doubt and confusion as we seek to know Him more.
The account of John’s disciples questioning Jesus serves as an important reminder that even faithful followers of Jesus can wrestle with doubt. John had courageously declared Jesus to be the Messiah, but later, when his circumstances in prison were not what he expected as Jesus’ forerunner, he wondered if he had been wrong. Rather than rebuking John for his doubts, Jesus gently corrected John’s disciples’ false assumptions about what the Messiah would look like. This shows Jesus’ compassion and understanding toward honest questioning.
John’s doubts arose from difficult life circumstances and unmet expectations, issues believers still face today. When we walk through pain, waiting, disappointment, or confusion about God’s plan, we may also begin to question like John. Why does life look so different than what we thought it would? Why does God seem silent when we cry out for help? Does God still see and care?
It is incredibly reassuring that Jesus does not condemn our sincere doubts, just as He did not condemn John’s. What matters most is continuing to pursue Jesus in the midst of uncertainty. When John’s disciples asked about the identity of the Messiah, Jesus responded with grace. He reminded them of His miraculous works that fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies about the Coming One. Jesus met John in the midst of his confusion and graciously eased his concerns.
Just as Jesus gently corrected John’s misconceptions about the Messiah through Scripture, He will also guide us to truth when we come to Him with doubts. As we seek Jesus through studying the Bible, prayer, corporate worship, and other means of grace, His Spirit will strengthen our faith and give us wisdom, even when we cannot understand all the details of our circumstances. Jesus honors honest questioning when it stems from a heart eager to know God more deeply. May John’s story encourage us to cling to Jesus when we have doubts rather than turn away in fear or shame.
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was the Messiah, despite having declared Him to be the Messiah previously, it can seem perplexing on the surface. However, John’s questioning gives us a model for wrestling through our own doubts and confusions as followers of Christ. John’s story shows us that doubts stemming from difficult circumstances are normal even for faithful believers. The key is responding properly when doubts come.
The way John handled his doubts provides an excellent blueprint for working through our own uncertainties. First, John went directly to Jesus with his questions. He did not allow his confusion to turn him away from Christ. Instead, he directed his disciples to inquire of Jesus Himself. When doubts arise in our hearts and minds, our first response should also be to draw near to Jesus, honestly laying our questions before Him.
Second, John clung to what he did know about Jesus despite his questions. Though uncertain if Jesus aligned with his own assumptions about the Messiah, John still called Him “the Coming One” (Luke 7:19). John anchored his questions in his existing belief that Jesus was sent from God as the Messiah. When doubts plague us, we must also hold fast to the truths about God we do know in Scripture even while wrestling with what we do not understand.
Finally, John approached Jesus with humility, not demanding answers but honestly seeking. This models how we should bring our doubts to God—not arrogantly insisting He comply with our expectations, but humbly asking Him to reveal more of Himself so we can know Him as He is. As we seek Jesus through prayer, Scripture, community, and other means in times of doubt, He promises to meet us in grace and give us wisdom if we draw near in faith.
John’s questioning also shows that following Jesus does not exempt us from doubts that stem from unmet expectations, long seasons of waiting, disappointment, or confusing circumstances. But we can take courage knowing Jesus treats our honest questions with compassion, just as He did John’s. He understands our human weakness. When we seek Him in the midst of doubt rather than hiding in fear or shame, Jesus graciously affirms His love for us. He guides the humble in justice and teaches the humble His way (Psalm 25:9). May John’s example give us courage to persist in seeking Jesus when doubts trouble our souls.
In Luke 7:18-23, we read the account of John the Baptist sending disciples to ask Jesus if He was truly the Messiah. Considering John’s earlier declarations about Jesus (Luke 3:16-17), his questioning has perplexed many over the years. Why would John, who had previously identified Jesus as the Christ, now need confirmation? A closer examination reveals some valuable insights.
First, John was now imprisoned for his faithfulness to God’s call. His dire circumstances likely caused him to doubt, especially since Jesus was not fulfilling common Jewish expectations of a political Messiah. John probably expected the Messiah to overthrow corrupt leaders like Herod Antipas who had jailed him. The synoptic gospels hint that John had Messianic misunderstandings that Jesus sought to correct gently (Matthew 11:2-6).
Second, Jesus’ initial ministry focused on preaching repentance, teaching God’s Word, and healing the sick. He had not yet directly confronted the corrupt religious leaders or Roman oppressors. From prison, John only heard secondhand reports about Jesus’ ministry, which may have sounded different than he expected of the foretold Messiah.
Third, John’s disciples did not ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, but if He was “the one who is to come”—terminology pointing back to Messianic prophecies in Malachi and Isaiah. John was not doubting Jesus’ identity, but wondering why Jesus’ ministry did not align with his expectations of the Coming One’s activities.
Fourth, Jesus graciously responded by citing specific miracles He performed that fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah’s ministry—the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, and the dead being raised. He provided theological evidence to clarify John’s confusion.
Finally, Jesus praised John as a faithful prophet despite his doubts. He knew John’s questions stemmed from honest confusion, not defiant unbelief. Jesus understands the frailty of human hearts. He is compassionate when we sincerely seek understanding amidst questions and doubts rooted in painful life circumstances.
John’s story provides a biblical model for working through doubts. Like John, we can go directly to Jesus in prayer about any confusion, clinging to what we do know to be true even while questioning what we do not understand. As we humbly seek Him, Jesus promises to meet us in grace and truth, just as He gently corrected John’s misconceptions. We can have confidence in approaching Jesus, the compassionate high priest who sympathizes with our human weakness (Hebrews 4:15).
When John the Baptist sent disciples to ask if Jesus was the Messiah, it can seem perplexing considering John’s earlier affirmations about Christ’s identity. However, by looking closer at the context, we gain insight into the reasons behind John’s questions. John likely doubted because his dire imprisonment contradicted his expectations of what coming before the Messiah would look like.
Additionally, Jesus’ initial healing and teaching ministry did not conform to common Jewish assumptions about the political liberator and military conqueror they anticipated. John, who only heard secondhand reports while in prison, understandably struggled to reconcile Jesus’ approach with the prophecies about the Coming One.
Therefore, John sent his disciples to inquire not if Jesus was the Messiah, but if He was the one who fulfilled Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 35:4-6 predicting the forerunner preparing the way and God Himself coming with healing and salvation. Jesus graciously eased John’s doubts by citing specific miracles that aligned with Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies.
Jesus warmly commended John’s steadfast faith and commitment to God’s plan despite his doubts fueled by his difficult circumstances and unmet expectations. This account shows Jesus understands and gently corrects even a devout prophet’s honest misconceptions and questions. We can take comfort that Jesus will also compassionately meet us in the midst of our own doubts as we seek understanding.
When doubts trouble us, we would do well to emulate John’s posture. First, he persisted in seeking Jesus for answers instead of hiding his questions. Second, he clung to what he did know to be true about Jesus’ identity even while uncertain about the details. Third, John approached Jesus with an open, humble heart, not demanding Jesus fit his assumptions. As we follow John’s example, Jesus promises grace.
The account of John the Baptist questioning if Jesus was the foretold Messiah provides a helpful model for working through doubts today. All believers, even faithful followers of Jesus like John, can struggle with seasons of confusion, pain, disappointment, or unmet expectations that result in honest doubts. John’s story shows that bringing these questions to Jesus directly is the right response.
We see Jesus handled John’s doubts not with condemnation but with compassion. He knew John’s misgivings stemmed from challenging circumstances, not defiant rebellion. Jesus corrected John’s faulty assumptions by citing biblical evidence about the nature of the Messiah’s ministry. This reflects how Jesus graciously clarifies our misconceptions and strengthens our faith when we seek Him amidst doubt.
John clung to what he knew to be true about Jesus’ identity even while wrestling with his questions. We must also anchor our doubts in Scriptural truths about God’s character while waiting for fuller understanding. As we emulate John’s persistence in inquiring of Jesus, humility in the asking, and clinging to faith, we can have confidence that Jesus will meet us in grace and truth. He understands the frailties of human hearts and how difficult circumstances can challenge our faith. But those who seek Him will find a sympathetic high priest who gently guides the humble of heart onto surer footing.
When John sent disciples to ask if Jesus was the Messiah, it stemmed from honest confusion, not defiant doubt. His dire imprisonment contradicted his expectations of coming before the Christ. When Jesus’ ministry did not align with common assumptions about the Messiah’s activities, John questioned what he thought he knew from prophecy. But Jesus did not rebuke John for asking. Instead, He reassured John with evidence from Scripture that His miracles fulfilled Messianic prophecies, even if His methods seemed unconventional. Jesus knew John’s heart remained faithfully committed to God’s plan despite his doubts fueled by painful circumstances. This account shows Jesus graciously understands and meets us in the midst of our own doubts when we, like John, persist in seeking Him.