Unfulfilled Expectations For John

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

It has often been difficult for Christians to understand why the Lord allows them to wait for Him to fulfill certain promises. It was even harder for John the Baptist, given his expectations. John had a strong devotion to righteousness as a prophetic voice divinely called to preach repentance and judgment. God had also called him to herald the coming Messiah, who would render judgment. John expected this to happen immediately or at least soon after Messiah appeared.

The second part of John’s question, “Shall we look for someone else?” would indicate he was dealing with unfulfilled expectations regarding Messiah. Under the Spirit’s direction he had preached about Christ’s ministry of judgment (see Matt. 3:11–12). John knew his preaching was true and that Jesus was that One about whom he preached, yet He had not yet done the stringent things John proclaimed.

As John sat in prison he must have recalled the psalmist’s cry, “Surely there is a God who judges on earth!” (Ps. 58:11; cf. 9:3–4; 52:1–5; Rev. 6:10).

Believers today sometimes have high expectations about the soon return of Christ, but when that doesn’t happen, their hope and dedication often fades. They don’t stop believing in the second coming, but they don’t think about that hope nearly as much as before. But, as Jesus reassured John, they can know that God’s program remains on His schedule, as Peter assured his readers, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you” (2 Peter 3:9a; cf. vv. 3–8).

Ask Yourself

How have expectations affected your own outlook on God and the life of faith? Does this mean you should lower your expectations to make them less likely to go unmet? How do you make yourself less susceptible to being waylaid by disappointment?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008.