I have appreciated considering the opinions of Bible scholars as I read through my Apologetics Study Bible this year. (Holman Bible Publishers; 2017) It often amazes me at the issues they address, indicating the lengths some people go to try and disprove the Bible.
Evidently there is a discussion about what kind of roof tiles that were on the house the paralytic’s friends dug through to get him to Jesus. Yeah, roofing.
And, is it the Sermon on the Mount, or the Sermon on a Flat Area on the Mountain? There is actually a debate about it. Why?
Skeptics use these kinds of things to suggest because the Gospel writers differ on certain details, the Bible must be full of errors, and therefore untrustworthy. I usually just shake my head and move on, but thankful that should someone use arguments like these, I’ll be prepared to point them back to what is really important.
But sometimes the comments in the Apologetics Study Bible are just plain wrong (in my opinion). One such opinion jumped out at me today, and I’d like us to consider 7:18-30. The apologist would have you take for granted that what you read here is the fact that John the Baptist is “expressing doubt” that Jesus is the Messiah because he sent two of his own disciples to ask Jesus point blank if they should be looking for someone else, or was Jesus the real deal?
First of all, all we know is WHAT John did. Scripture does not tell us WHY. So I read what the apologist said as his opinion. You can read my comments as mine – because that is all they are.
Based on John’s life, not just his imprisonment, here’s why I believe we are seeing something other than the prophet’s doubt:
- John recognized Jesus before either of them were even born. (Luke 1:44)
- John grew up spiritually strong. (1:80). He dedicated his whole life to preparing the way for the Messiah. (Luke 3:4-6)
- John had no hesitation in identifying Jesus as the One he’d been telling them about. (John 1:14-15, 29-35)
- From that moment on, John’s ministry was all about retreating into the shadows. “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
- Now Jesus’ ministry is in full swing. Some of John’s disciples began following Jesus. But obviously not all of them had made the switch. John was in prison, and maybe he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get out of there alive. Maybe he wanted his remaining disciples to accept Jesus before he died. They needed to believe Jesus was the One to follow. So just maybe John sent them to Jesus because of their doubt, not his.
- Here is my final observation on the subject, and maybe the most telling. Jesus proceeds to talk to the crowd about John. Read it for yourself in Luke 7:24-28. Is there a hint that Jesus thought John was doubting? “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…”
My point is this: we’ve all made assumptions based on a verse or two. Let me challenge us to let Scripture speak for itself as we consider it all. Think about what you are reading, don’t just assume you know what it means by looking at the face value. Question, then dig deeper into God’s Word to find the answers. Use your ability to reason, and ask God to direct your thoughts.
Sometimes it’s hard to get the voice of our third grade Sunday School teacher, or our youth pastor, or some renowned evangelist or popular author out of our heads. My prayer is that, as we read Scripture we won’t be able to get the voice of God out of our heads, that another verse or passage or story from the Bible will come to mind to help us consider what God is saying to us today. Let’s not just read the Bible verse by verse, but lesson by lesson, truth by truth.
And may God grow us, bless us, and find us faithful to the Truth of His Word.