I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.
–Luke 7:28

After Jesus dealt gently with John the Baptist when he expressed his doubt, He said a word to the multitudes. There was a crowd around Jesus, and they had heard Jesus’s interchange with John’s disciples. So after Jesus dismissed John’s disciples to go back to John, “He began to speak to the crowds about John” (Luke 7:24). He knew some people were going to think less of John after what they had heard, so Jesus wanted to correct their thinking. He told them, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (v. 28). He extoled John’s faith.

Notice that Jesus’s attitude toward John was not diminished by John’s momentary lapse of faith. Aren’t you glad God does not judge you or me by one episode in our lives? Just look at the way God dealt with those who had their own stumbles and falls. I think about King David, a man guilty of adultery and murder, yet God called him “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Or think about Abraham. Abraham had one screw-up after another in his life, yet the Bible calls him “the friend of God” (James 2:23). God doesn’t judge us by one episode in our lives; He looks at the long view. So when Jesus looked at John’s life, He said, “This momentary lapse of faith, that’s not who John is. My favorable impression of him remains firm.”

Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t have such kind words for the Pharisees. “The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (Luke 7:30). You may wonder, “Why was Jesus so hard on the Pharisees? They didn’t accept him as Messiah. But John also questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah. What’s the difference?” It was the difference between doubt and unbelief. John had doubt. The Pharisees were plagued with unbelief.

To understand the difference between doubt and unbelief, Jesus tells a brief parable: “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep’” (vv. 31-32). One commentator calls this the parable of the bratty kids. Jesus was saying, “You Pharisees are just like those children. You don’t like to do anything. You won’t receive anybody. John the Baptist came and said, ‘Repent!’ And you said, ‘We don’t want to listen to that. That message is too hard.’ Then I came and preached a message of grace. You said, ‘We don’t like that either. That’s too easy.’ The fact is, you are looking for a reason not to believe.”

There is a difference between a doubter and an unbeliever. A doubter looks for a reason to believe. An unbeliever looks for any reason not to believe. God accepts doubters, but He rejects unbelievers.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “For Those Who Doubt” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.