(This message may be used as an individual sermon or as part of the series.)


LIFE OF CHRIST #21 of 61 

      I read once that the Devil was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different prices. They were a fiendish lot. There was hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, pride–all at expensive prices. But over to the side of the yard on display was a tool more obviously worn than any of the other tools. It was also the most costly. The tool was labeled, DISCOURAGEMENT. 

   When questioned, the Devil said, “It’s more useful to me than any other tool. When I can’t bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me.” John Yates, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 110. 

Martin Luther once was so depressed over a prolonged period that one day his wife came downstairs wearing all black.

Martin Luther said, “Who died?”

She said, “God has.”

He said, “God hasn’t died.”

And she said, “Well, live like it and act like it.”

   — Robert Russell, “Releasing Resentment,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 136. 

There are going to be times when you and I feel depressed.

For some, depression is caused by a medical condition and needs to be treated. For most of us depression will be a result of any number of things that will cause us to feel down. And believe it or not, pastors, teachers, and missionaries are very susceptible to getting discouraged. 

We are continuing our series on the Life of Christ. Last time, we saw Jesus healing a centurion’s servant.  The centurion himself was a gentile who had greater faith than Jesus had seen in Israel.  Shortly after this event, Jesus healed a widow’s son outside the city of Nain. They were carrying the body out to be buried and Jesus brought the man back to life. 

This morning we want to meet a man who was touched by Jesus who was evidently suffering from depression.  This was a man who had stood firmly for the Lord Jesus and had pronounced that Jesus was coming.  Here was a man who was as bold and as non-institutional as they come. 

He called people to repent because the Messiah was coming. He also pointed out the Messiah when he came. Mark 6:1-8, John 1:29-30 

This morning I want us to look at the story of one discouraged preacher. Let’s look and see if there are any lessons for us when we get depressed or discouraged. 

THE PROBLEM – 18-20 – Depression and doubt had set in. 

As we said a couple of moments ago, Jesus had raised the son of the Widow of Nain from the dead. This led to great reports about the Lord Jesus. Luke 7:16-18 

Vs. 18 – John’s disciples reported to John the Baptist what was happening. Where was John the Baptist at this time? 

He was in prison! Luke 3:19-20 

John, the no-nonsense preacher of righteousness had taken a stand concerning Herod’s sin. Now he was paying by being in jail. 

Life isn’t always fair. You can be doing exactly what God wants you to do and still end up facing tough situations. 

Paul also ended up in jail and also had a thorn in flesh.

Jeremiah ended up being single all his life and doing time in jail.

Ezekiel’s wife died.

Hosea had an unfaithful wife.

James was martyred.

Peter did jail time as well and ended up being martyred. Romans 5:3-5 

So here is this bold, brazen preacher of righteousness sitting in a jail cell. He hears reports about Jesus. John, in his thinking, begins to doubt.  John was undoubtedly looking for Jesus to set up His kingdom. He was looking for Him to have a bold, brash, approach. He was probably expecting Jesus to take over! Remember what John had predicted? Matthew 3:11-12 

Jesus was probably taking a kinder, gentler approach.

So John shows signs of doubt.

Remember that there is a difference between doubt and unbelief.

It is possible for the greatest saints to have times of doubt and even wanting to give up. As Warren Wiersbe pointed out Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah wanted to quit at one point or another, and Paul certainly knew the meaning of the word “despair.” 

I’ve watched many a saint struggle with the possibility of death, and then die victoriously. Dr. Doris Freese was a professor of Christian Education at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She fought cancer and came back to live with her sister near Fonda New York. An additional room and bath were attached to the house, and Doris came to live.  I can remember that she struggled with facing the future, and yet in the end, quietly and confidently went home to be with Jesus! 

John simply wanted to know.  Are you really the Messiah, or should we look for another? I’m sure the months spent in a dark, damp jail cell were enough to get anyone discouraged.

I think John’s message was his way of saying, “If you’re the Messiah, get busy!”

“If you’re the Messiah get the Kingdom set up!

“If you’re the Messiah, get me out of this place!” 

You wouldn’t want anyone to judge your life’s work based on a bad moment or two when you lost it! So let’s not judge John based on a moment or two when he struggled. John was a great man of God! 

Alexander MacLaren – “John’s gloomy prison thoughts may teach us how much our faith may be affected by externals and by changing tempers of mind, and how lenient, therefore, should be our judgments of many whose trust may falter when a strain comes.” Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Volume 9, p. 156 (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Erdman’s, 1944)

THE PROBLEM – 18-20 – Depression and doubt had set in.

THE PROOF – 21-23 – Look at the truth! 

I had a friend named Chuck Renken.  Whenever I have visited with Chuck I felt like his life is centered around an early elementary school experience most of us had.  It was called “show and tell”. He’d show you a picture, or an artifact or a book and tell you about it. He never seemed to stop! 

In this passage, Jesus plays “show and tell” with John’s disciples. 

Vs. 20 – They give Jesus John’s message. 

Vs. 21 – Jesus shows them what He has been doing.

             It was show and tell time!

Jesus cast out demons, healed people and made the blind to see!  John wanted to know “Jesus, are you the Messiah?” Jesus answered by giving the John’s disciples a report to send back to their leader. 

Vs. 22 – Jesus gives John’s disciples the message.

             “You tell John what’s happening.”            

And what was happening, was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.” Isaiah 61:1-2, Isaiah 29:18-19, Isaiah 35:18-19 

Jesus says “John, this is what is happening in fulfillment of prophecy about me. This is the truth! Then He adds in verse 23, And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 

John was in danger of being offended or trapped because of Jesus.  He doubted because of what Jesus was not doing, instead of trusting in what He was doing! 

The blessed man is the believer who doesn’t get trapped by what God is not doing in their lives.

It is very easy to doubt when God is not doing what we think God should be doing. 

In a gentle way, Jesus was saying, “Trust me!”

May we take this to heart! Meditate upon the positive things that God is doing in your life, the lives of your friends and in your church and community. When discouraged, remember what God has done, and what He has promised to do. His promises have never failed.  Concentrate on the truth! Psalm 27:13, Psalm 143:5, Psalm 119:15-16 

THE PROBLEM – 18-20 – Depression and doubt had set in.

THE PROOF – 21-23 – Look at the truth!

THE PRAISE – 24-30 – God is keeping score! 

Jesus had a message for John – “Hang in there!”

Jesus also had a message for those who were in his audience – “John is a great man!” 

God is keeping track of all we say and do.

God will reward Christians according to their works. 2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 4:5 

Vs. 24 – Jesus asks, “When you went out to see John, did you go to see someone who was so wishy washy that he was like a reed being blown by the wind?” 

The answer, of course, was “No”! Part of the appeal of John the Baptist was that he was so firm, so bold, and so sure about what he was saying! 

Vs. 25 – Jesus then asks if they went out to see a man who was well to do! Again the answer was “no!” Well to do people were in king’s courts. 

They went to the wilderness to see a man who was concerned about eternal things, and not comfortable things. I wonder how much more would be accomplished by Christians today if they were more concerned about getting out God’s Word than being comfortable! Matthew 6:24, 33 

Verse 26 – The true prophets of God were great men. They went to the wilderness to hear a great man of God!

But Jesus says that John was more than a prophet!

John was a great man because He was the last Old Testament prophet.

John was a great man because He was closest to Jesus and knew Jesus personally. He was even related.

John was a great man because He was prophesied about in the Scriptures. 

Vs. 27 is a quote of Malachi 3:1 

Isaiah 40:3 called John, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 

Vs. 28 – What a compliment Jesus pays here. There was none greater born to women than John the Baptist. 

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says that the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John. 

Warren Wiersbe – How is the least person in the Kingdom greater? In position, not in character or ministry.  John was the herald of the King, announcing the kingdom: believers today are children of the kingdom and the friends of the King.

 Vss. 29-30 – John was sitting in jail. Why?

John’s ministry had an impact on the common men and sinners. They heard John and repented!

The Pharisees and scribes were too good for John’s Baptism and rejected his message. If they had followed John’s teaching, they would not have stood for John being in prison. 

God is never fooled. He knows who serves Him and who doesn’t.

God will give praise to those who deserve it.

And note that Jesus waited for John’s disciples to leave.

Then wasn’t the time to praise John. He would receive his reward later.

Now is not necessarily the time for us to receive praise, but if we are faithful, it will come later. 

THE PROBLEM – Depression and Doubt had set in.

THE PROOF – Look at the truth.

THE PRAISE – God is keeping score.