The Most Puzzling Question John the Baptist Ever Asked

The Most Puzzling Question John the Baptist Ever Asked March 12, 2019
Emily Morter

If you are familiar with the life of John the Baptist, he came to prepare the way for Jesus. Right after John the Baptist baptized Jesus, marking the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, here’s what John declared to the world:

“I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” John 1:34

After that moment, Jesus disappears into the wilderness for 40 days to be tested and tempted by the devil, and when Jesus shows back up he starts saying things and doing things that no one expected. He didn’t do what the chief priests in Jerusalem expected and they felt threatened by him. Jesus didn’t do what the Pharisees out in the villages expected and they decided Jesus had to go. But Jesus wasn’t just about upsetting the establishment. The common people, the crowds, in the end, had enough of Jesus as well.

Here’s a passage that always seems a bit confusing and shows just how unexpected and brand new Jesus’ movement was, even to John the Baptist:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11:2-3

What in the world is going on here? This is John the Baptist, what’s he doing questioning whether Jesus is truly the Messiah, the promised Savior? John’s asking because of all the little boxes people had created for God, whether it was the chief priests or the Pharisees or even the crowds, Jesus didn’t fit into any of them. He really did come to establish something brand new.

I tried to think of an illustration that would give an idea of how brand new Jesus was compared to the expectations surrounding the Messiah. It would be like if America a decade from now elected a president. This president would have certain expectations of what a president should do, regardless of which political party the president is in. So, how shocked and dismayed and upset would Americans be if a decade from now we elect a president, and a month in the president decides that they need to spend most of their time personally fixing the plumbing in the White House, because it’s so out of date, and once that’s over they decide it’s going to be their mission to personally update all of the plumbing in all of the federal buildings in Washington DC.

If that’s what the president did 12 hours a day when they were supposed to govern the most powerful nation on the planet, how would we react? The shock we would experience is similar to what the people of Israel felt with Jesus. He didn’t fit anyone’s expectations, even the crowds.

When Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, there were massive expectations that came along with that. The Messiah was the Anointed One, the Savior or Liberator. People had historical archetypes of that: Joshua who conquered the Promised Land or David who established the might of the Israelite nation. 

In the first century, the elephant in the room was Rome. The Israelites wanted one thing and one thing only: liberation from Rome. In their minds they didn’t need any type of spiritual salvation because they assumed that they had God locked into a covenant because they were born Jews. They thought they were good on all the spiritual stuff. They wanted a political and military ruler that would unite them and cast off the Roman oppression. But, instead of picking a fight with the Romans, Jesus picked a fight with the religious leaders of the day, most of whom were revered and highly respected.

Jesus came to establish something so brand new even John the Baptist was left scratching his head at one point.

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