There is a story of a family separated by the Holocaust; As they were being torn apart, the mother took each child’s face in her tender hands and as tears streamed down their cheeks she told them; “Don’t lose hope! Stay alive! And when you are someday freed or escape, go to the old bridge outside of town every day at sunset. I will meet you there soon!”
So some of the children escaped the concentration camps, some were helped to freedom, and some were eventually freed by liberating troops. One by one, they made the long trek back to their village, and each day at sunset they would wait for their mother’s return.
Days turned into week, and weeks into months. The promise of hope was fading… and then one day in the distance, they saw a hobbled figure, struggling with each step. Their mother had returned at long last. The joy was unimaginable. The mother had been delayed, but her return was promised. The time intensified the longing, and each report of a villager killed in the camps made their need more apparent.
Scripture begins to tell of the story of a coming savior from the very first book. The prophets of the Old Testament point to the hope of Messiah, who would come to deliver His people. Yet, years turned into decades, and hundres of years pass until we reach the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist.
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
(Luke 7:18-20 ESV)
From long years of darkness, waiting for the King, John asks with hope… is it you, Jesus? Are you the one?
And Jesus responds:
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
(Luke 7:22-23 ESV)
There’s no mistaking the language here, and John the Baptist would have never missed it. Jesus is quoting the prophet Isaiah (Chapters 35, and 61).
The long night was over; The Messiah had come!
And yet, there is a striking omission from Jesus response to John the Baptist from the book of Isaiah;
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
(Isaiah 61:1 ESV)
Yes, the Messiah was here to deliver His people from their sins. The dark night was over as joy broke into the world and God dwelt among us. Yet…. John would not be freed from his prison, and would ultimately be executed. John’s heart must have broken as he saw King Herod’s plan carried out to kill all the young children in the area after Christ’s birth! How he must have longed for the day when Messiah would make all things new!
And this is the very world we find ourselves in; We live in a world with the great Joy of the God who became flesh to deliver us from our sin, yet will die in a world in which evil men still carry out injustice. Where a man would take the lives of 20 helpless children. And we cry out to God, “How long?” How long until the promise is fulfilled… Jesus is returning to gather together His own to a place He has prepared for them.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
(John 14:1-3 ESV)
So, let not your hearts be troubled. We share the hope of the Old Testament Prophets as they waited for Messiah, and we now wait in great anticipation for His return to make all things new. We join the chorus of saints throughout the ages as we cry out “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!”
Yes, even in our dark age, where evil men carry out horrific acts of violence against children, as King Herod did during John the Baptists day… Our joy remains. Though we remain imprisoned in this world, our joy remains. For our joy rests not in our circumstance, but in the knowledge that He will fulfill his promise to return as faithfully as the promise was fulfilled of His coming.
I don’t know what you are facing this holiday; death of loved ones, imprisonment, or hopelessness, but know this; Messiah has come, God is with us, and He has come to set the captive free from their greatest imprisonment, the imprisonment of sin and death.
This season, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, hear the words of Jesus as He speaks to His children:
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
(John 15:11 ESV)
May you know the peace of Christ and His resurrection this Season!