After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
For Jews the answer is that Jesus is not the Messiah and that we should expect someone else. Orthodox Jews in particular still believe that the Messiah is yet to come.
For Muslims the answer is that Jesus was a great prophet, but that Mohammed is the last and greatest prophet and messenger of God. The words of the Qu’ran specifically deny Jesus is the Son of God, but they do believe that Jesus will come again to fight the ‘False Messiah’ and establish peace on earth.
So, what do you believe? Most people would agree that Jesus was a great moral teacher. However, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity “a man… who said the sort of things Jesus said would either be a lunatic..or…the Devil of Hell.”
Then, as now, people’s response to the question of who Jesus is varies, but biblically speaking there is no evidence that people regarded him as a great moral teacher. Their responses – hatred, terror, adoration - were far from mild approval. Here we see that even John the Baptist sent his disciples to check Jesus out.
Jesus responds, somewhat enigmatically “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor,” echoing some of the words from Isaiah 61. In Luke 4 Jesus tells those in the synagogue listening to him that this prophecy is fulfilled by him, causing outrage in his hometown of Nazareth.
We all have doubts at times. That’s what faith is about. The truth about Jesus cannot be proved through evidence in a scientific way: the writer of Hebrews tells us “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I used to agonise over this, wanting physical or intellectual evidence which would give me that assurance, but I have realised that it is I, like John the Baptist who have to make that approach in faith to God first. This Christmas let’s come afresh to Jesus, with our doubts, with our fears and let him reassure us as we walk humbly with him.