John the Baptist Has Doubts
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ash him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lance walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see?
A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you that among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear:"
Jesus relied very much upon the success of the mission of John the Baptist. When this very John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask turn, "Are you really the messiah?" it was more painful for Jesus than if he had stabbed him with a knife. Anger overwhelmed him. Jesus refused to answer yes or no to that impossible question. Instead Jesus said, "Blessed is he who takes no offense at me." (Matt. 11:6 RSV)
This was Jesus' sympathy for John when he saw that John was failing. Jesus was really saying, "Poor John, man of failure. You no longer have faith in me. You are taking offense at the Son of God. I am sorry for you. John." And then Jesus spoke to the crowd about John in indignation, saying,
What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Matt. 11:7-9)
John was more than a prophet, because he came to bear witness directly to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was born for this extraordinary mission. God entrusted that glorious responsibility to John. What an honor for a man to be called "more than a prophet" by Jesus! Yet John failed to live up to this honor. Therefore, Jesus said in Matthew,
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
John had fallen to the point where even the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. The meaning of Jesus' statement has remained mysterious. Christians have not understood its true significance because they have not realized that John the Baptist was a man who failed his mission. Tonight we know the true meaning.
John the Baptist was finally beheaded. He could have been a glorious martyr, had he been beheaded for performing his ordained mission: witnessing and proclaiming to the world that Jesus Christ was the Son of God! But he was beheaded merely for becoming involved in the sex scandal in King Herod's family. That affair was none of John's business. Attending the Son of God was his sole responsibility. But John deserted this divine mission and suffered a meaningless, even shameful death. This truth must be told, however painful.
Therefore. Jesus said of John,
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Matt. 11:12 NIVM
This means that because of the failure of the mission of John the Baptist, the kingdom heralded by Jesus Christ suffered and was left open for competition. When a champion of God fails in his mission, someone else must take up that mission and put forth great effort to accomplish it. Thus, men of forceful faith -- like Peter -- took John's position by the power of their own merit...
The New Future of Christianity
September 18, 1974
Sin is the failure to believe. It is sin to not believe in the person whom God has sent. It is sin not to believe his words. Therefore, you must accept the universal ideology of God. You must march forward with unswerving conviction and faith. When you try to go out with such faith, there will arise doubts in your minds that will counter the faith. This is because the forces of evil are at work in your mind. These forces of evil cause you to feel fear and anxiety. Therefore, you must not conduct a life of faith that gets engulfed by those forces of evil. You have to have the magnanimity that can digest and overcome those things. Because Jesus stood in that position, he did not even try to avoid the burden of the cross. How can anyone criticize Jesus? If someone genuinely believes in God, there is no way he can reproach Jesus.
When Will We Stand before God?
September 8, 1957