God revealed to John the Baptist who Jesus was, and he proclaimed it (John 1:29-34). When crowds responded to his message that they must turn their lives around in preparation for the Lord’s coming, he told them to produce fruit worthy of a changed life (Luke 3:8). Just to be baptised publicly wasn’t good enough for him; their response had to be genuine and demonstrated by their actions. Always uncompromising, John was put in prison for challenging Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife (Luke 3:19-20), but when he’d been there awhile, he had a wobble. He sent two of his followers to ask Jesus: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus’ message back to John ended with the words: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me”. Don’t be offended if I don’t set you free from your prison; don’t be offended if I don’t always change your circumstances – hang in there. (Obviously those are my words, not the Lord’s, but I think that’s the essence of what He was saying.) When John’s followers leave, Jesus tells the crowd that John will ultimately have a place in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 11:1-15).
It reminds me of the couple who walked on the road to Emmaus. Jesus came alongside them, but they didn’t recognise Him. This was no surprise because a few days before, He’d been crucified. They say: “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who does not know what just happened there? … Jesus of Nazareth … we were hoping that He would free Israel”. They were hoping, but now Jesus has died. It feels like their whole foundation – everything they believed in – is crumbling, but Jesus doesn’t leave them in that state. Straightaway He explains, through the Scriptures (our Old Testament), how the Christ must suffer before entering His glory. When they reach their destination, they invite Jesus in. When He breaks bread and passes it to them, then they realise who He is (Luke 24:13-35).
Are you encouraged by all this? John the Baptist’s earthly circumstances were less than ideal, and he got to heaven; Jesus was crucified, and He came out of the tomb; the couple on the road had lost hope, and their Hope talked to them and broke bread with them. Whatever we’re going through now, it’s temporary. One day, we’ll come out the other side. Why don’t we celebrate that this Easter?