New Testament commentator Dale Bruner writes that, “There has never been a worshipper of Jesus who did not also doubt him.”
Even those who encountered Jesus in the flesh after his resurrection from the dead had their doubts about what they were experiencing. It’s only natural to have some doubts in life.
There is a different kind of doubt from what we might call “natural doubt” and that is “convenient doubt”. Convenient doubt is the sort of doubt that exists not because of a lack of evidence or cogent arguments, but because it would be decidedly inconvenient for us if something were true. Convenient doubt is when our brains take the data and experiences of life and interpret them in a way that allows us to carry on doing what we want to do.
For example, doubting climate change. It would be hard for us to lower our carbon footprint on the earth, so we may choose to doubt the evidence of human impacts on the environment. Or, how about this one: Doubting the information a doctor, dentist, or medical professional gives us. We may not want to believe something is actually a health risk because we don’t want to change our lifestyle and give up our ability to live as we please.
In the passage we studied on Sunday morning from Matthew 11, Jesus is addressing the topic of doubt. There are legitimate questions of Jesus. Jesus knows that what he is asserting about himself is truly remarkable. And every unbelieving person, every skeptic, has the right to good questions. Every person has the right to ask, “What is the case for Jesus? What is the evidence?” It is a good thing to pose questions to Jesus. And time and again Jesus deals empathetically with those who have questions of him.
There is no example of Jesus shutting people down for asking honest questions. In fact, that is one of the reasons Jesus preformed miracles. He didn’t go into those towns and just declare to the people, “Believe in me because I say so.” He overwhelmed them with evidence. He reasoned with them and he showed them signs and proof. Jesus has no problem with the skeptics’ need for evidence. He welcomes that.
But in this passage Jesus essentially says, “I showed you evidence, but you still didn’t believe.” Your unbelief swallowed up all the evidence and then said, “I am still hungry.” There is, at times, a presence of unbelief in the heart that refuses to believe. This is not about having more evidence in order to believe. This is about something else. This is about something in the human heart that doesn’t want to believe.
if Jesus is who he says he is, then when I come to him, I come to him and follow where he leads, not where I lead. If what Jesus says is true, then I lose my right to self-determination. I lose my ability to decide what is right and wrong. I lose my ability to choose whether or not to love people who are hard to love. I lose the ability to pick whom I will forgive and who I won’t. I lose the freedom to live my life with myself at the center.
That kind of surrender can be unquestionably inconvenient.
The central question we must answer is “Do we trust Jesus?” Do we believe that, regardless of how difficult it is, it is actually wiser to trust what Jesus has to say about life, about God, about sin, about purpose, about money, about possessions, about relationships; or is it wiser to trust my own take on those things? Is it shrewder to have Jesus as the Lord of my life or to live with myself as the lord of my life?
We must make our choice. Will we allow Jesus to lead us because we believe what he has to offer is better than what we can come up with on our own? Or will we use doubt as a self-defense mechanism to insulate ourselves from the costly, challenging life of Christian discipleship?