Your Doubt Does Not Belong To You

Text: Matthew 11:2-10

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There are many different times and scenarios in life when we have doubt.  Regardless of those different situations, though, doubt seems to work and act the same.  The reason why doubt typically comes about is because we get suspended between two or more opposing things and are unable to know which one is right. Indeed, when we are confronted with two or more opposing ideas or choices or claims, and we are unable to discern which one is correct well, doubt comes into our minds and bodies, often causing significant discomfort.  In other words, doubt looks like a person who finds himself between two doors but is paralyzed by uncertainty, not knowing which door to go through.  Indeed, doubt has a way of suspending us and making us feel vulnerable.  It can cause us to feel agitated and even lead to conflict. 

That is why we try to avoid doubt at all costs.  We try to avoid those opposing ideas, choices, and claims that would dangle us in doubt and discomfort.  In fact, more often than not, we can become downright mean in how we fight off these contrary ideas, choices, and claims, to eliminate doubt. 

Jesus pointed out this kind of doubt when He said that His generation was like a bunch of grumpy children sitting in the marketplaces dissatisfied with everything that was put before them.  This same kind of doubt occurred with John the Baptist too.  Instead of listening to John the Baptist, which would’ve placed the people between their sin and John’s message of repentance, they instead wrote Him off as crazy.

You see, behind this kind of doubt is the desire to avoid the issue.  Behind this kind of doubt is the desire to eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of hanging between two different teachings and realities of life.

And so, to avoid that uncomfortable feeling of doubt and to prevent the even more painful reality of being wrong, people will do everything possible to dodge opposing ideas and opposing facts.  We see this especially in the case of pagans avoiding the church at all costs.   

Now, there is second way that this doubt works itself out.  You see, there is another kind of doubt that sets in when you know that you have the truth, but you then begin to wonder if you are correct.  Take, for example, our Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 11.  In Matthew chapter 11, we hear doubt.  There were doubt and concern about whether or not Jesus was really Messiah that was promised from the Old Testament.  That is to say; what John the Baptist and especially his followers believed about the Messiah from the Old Testament did not seem to line up with what they saw with Jesus, which resulted in doubt.  They were suspended in between what they expected of the Messiah and what they saw in Jesus.   

Dear friends, keep in mind that this second kind of doubt just described is not where a person loves the darkness and is troubled by the light, but a doubt that comes about when darkness attacks the light.  This kind of doubt is what Christians experience when contrary things challenge what we believe, teach, and confess. 

We have seen this doubt before, too.  When the disciples first heard that Jesus had risen from the tomb, they thought that the news of Jesus’ resurrection was only chatter and nonsense.[1]  And who can forget Thomas!  Thomas would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection, even though all the other disciples tried to convince him.  And from our Gospel reading today, there was much confusion about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah or if they should expect another Messiah. 

 Dear friends, what is going on here is that doubt arises in us because Jesus is so entirely different from what we expect.  And Jesus’ message of the Gospel is frankly 180 degrees opposite of how we think.[2]  So, because Jesus’ ways are not our ways and our ways are not Jesus’ ways, we are often suspended between two different ways of thinking, thus creating that uncomfortable place of doubt. 

And as you know, experiencing doubt is an awful place to be.  This doubt can not only bring about anxiety and a sense of vulnerability, but this doubt can lead to unbelief.  And unbelief gives birth to a hardened rejection of the Lord.  

So what must be done about this doubt? 

Dear friends, we do not conquer doubt or try to alleviate doubt by trying to rationalize the doubt away.  Doubt is not overcome by us trying to have less doubt.  Our willpower is not able to fight off doubt, just like faith is not increased by us trying to have more faith.  And we do not eliminate doubt by eliminating the message of Jesus that causes us discomfort. Plugging our ears or putting our head in the sand like a hard-hearted pagan does nothing, except give birth to damning unbelief.  No, you need not do this!  

Thankfully, when doubt arises, there is another way. Yes, we can follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, as we heard in our Gospel reading from today.  

In our Gospel reading, John the Baptist went directly to Jesus with the doubting questions of His followers.  The doubt was not hushed or hidden, but brought before Jesus, just like Thomas’ doubt, and unbelief met the wound on Jesus’ side.   

What this means is this: if doubt plagues you, if you are suspended or paralyzed in doubt, learn to know that this doubt does not belong to you, but needs to be laid bare before the Lord. 

This may seem odd, but this is what the scriptures call for us to do as Christians.  The Psalms teach us not to hide our doubt or to rationalize it away or to stick our head in the sands of unbelief, but we are to pour out our complaints before the Lord and to tell the Lord of our troubles.[3] 

This means that we should not always speak as if we have everything figured out in pious-sounding language before the Lord, but instead, our doubts and struggles can be poured out before the Lord when our spirit faints within us, for the Lord knows our way.

And like John the Baptist and his followers, and even Thomas, the Lord answers our doubt.  The Lord answers our doubt the same way that He answered the doubt of John the Baptist’s followers, and that is the announcement of what has been done. 

It is that simple, the doubt went from John the Baptist and his followers to Jesus, and Jesus responded by saying,


“Go back and announce what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor!” 

Dear Baptized Saints, our doubt must be met by the proclamation of the Gospel – the Word.  You cannot reduce doubt by your willpower just as you cannot increase faith by religious zeal. But only the powerful Word of Christ is able to chase doubt away and give you faith.  Only the robust-potent-assuring-dynamite Gospel is able to take us from being suspended in doubt and plunge you and me into the certainty of our Baptisms.  Only the Word and the Sacrament are able to replace the uncertainty of the gut with a belly full of certainty – a belly with the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

And so, the Gospel reading from today is really about comfort, for it shows you how John the Baptist took doubt and brought before Jesus.  And it is how Jesus meets doubt with assuring Gospel! 

Baptized Saints, you do not need to keep doubt to yourself, but can boldly confess your doubt.  You can come into this sanctuary with your doubt so that the Lord can chase away your doubt and give you abiding-solid-reassuring-faith. 

Take comfort!  The Lord meets your doubt with the forgiveness of all of sins for Jesus’ sake, and transforms your mind from doubt to faith.  This transformation is a constant renewal of the mind that no longer hangs in the suspension of doubt, but clings ever more to the Word of God. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Luke 24:11.

[2] It has been said before that to understand the message of Jesus all you have to do is take what is common sense, reverse it entirely, and then you will most likely arrive at the teachings of Jesus.

[3] See Psalm 142:2-3. 

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