A Crisis of Faith: Observed in Matthew 11

The Context

In Matthew chapter ten, we observe that Jesus took four actions:

1.  He sets out the mission for the disciples to execute without his presence. The mission is to infiltrate Israel with His message of the Kingdom of Heaven

2. He instructs them in detail as to how to conduct this mission

3. He modeled the mission for approximately a year as they traveled with Him  

4. He sends them out, and He moves forward, engaging in His mission in chapter eleven

The Crisis of Faith Revealed

Almost immediately, Matthew records a scenario that provides Jesus the opportunity to teach about an important historical point of transition. Disciples of John the Baptist appeared on the scene with a critical question. This question also reveals an important lesson that comforts our existential existence.

John the Baptist is experiencing a crisis of faith. Consider Matthew 4: 13-17 following his baptizing of Jesus. In laying out the law of God, Moses noted the necessity of two or three witnesses to authenticate a claim. John had experienced three witnesses to the identity of Jesus as the Messiah.

The first was his witness coupled with Jesus’ confirmation. John had declared to the people, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus confirmed his proclamation by asking to be baptized and answered John’s objection by saying, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

When the baptism was completed, two more witnesses were added. The first was the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him. The second was the Father’s voice from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

But, having experienced violence at the hands of Israel and the State by imprisoning him for preaching, John has a crisis of faith. Think about it! You know the prophecy of your own life and that of the life of Jesus. You know your parents were well beyond their childbearing years. You know about the virgin birth of Jesus. And yet, you are in prison for your part in this grand event of God. Such human confusion often leads to a crisis of faith. 

Think of the missionary who has given up his engineering career and his role in a well-establish family in his hometown to follow God’s directive to live on a mission station to handle all the technical support for that station. He raises his support and arrives on the field, and six months later, the mission is forced to close the station under government duress. Do you think he may experience a crisis of faith?

The Crisis of Faith Addressed

Here is Jesus’ timeless answer. Consider the evidence: three witnesses plus a transcript after a transcript of evidence you have seen and heard. Be blessed by not doubting (v 6). Otherwise, review God’s work (witnesses and operations), be encouraged, and press onward.

The Crisis of Faith Utilized

Jesus captures the moment to teach those who heard (7-19).

He employs the teaching methodology of setting forth questions (7-9)

He examines the situation for the teaching moment. This leads to his identifying John Baptist (10-11). In this case, he points out that John is greater on the scale of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and the prophets. Yet, the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he (11b). The full implication of this statement is for another blog. What is important here is that amid a crisis of faith, we should be aware that God is at work developing his servant. What we think is logical is not occurring. What we desire is not coming to pass. Yet, God has not abandoned us but has incorporated us into his larger plan and calls us to walk by faith and trust Him.

The Crisis of Faith: Application or the Takeaway 16-20

First, when John had his crisis of faith, he did not abandon his faith; he sought answers from God. We are finite people. We can only see the here and now, not the tomorrows. We tend to make ourselves, our importance, our desires, and sometimes our place in history so important that when things don’t go our way, we doubt God and His promises. Think about it. He was very aware of being the forerunner of the Messiah. Now he is in prison suffering violence and about to have his head cut off to satisfy a bitter woman and avarice king. But note that he exercises faith and seeks an answer from God. The answer implied was that he should be recognizing that he was the pinnacle of Old Testament prophets who got to see Jesus firsthand. And, he is told, you get to be the first to suffer the violence against the Kingdom of Heaven.

The second takeaway or application was for the crowd who overheard. It is simply this. You have the witness of John, and you have the multiple witnesses of my works. Wisdom would say, “This is the Messiah! It is best to trust Him” (16-20). 

The Rest of the Story

Things did not work out all that well for John. He became the victim of powerful, sensual, wicked people. However, he faced his demise with his faith in tac. He completed his life assignment in a manner that glorified God. A crisis of faith resolved by the reaffirmation of faith does not always have a fairytale ending. Just ask the wife of whom I am thinking right now. She experienced a crisis of faith in her marriage. She reaffirmed her faith and lived it out as she should in her marriage, but her husband spiraled into self-destruction. She was left with a quiver full to raise. Yet, she persevered, and her living-gospel challenged those around her.

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