“It was the best of times; it was the worst of time…”
And thus, begins A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In his novel, Dickens depicts the time before the French Revolution and how the aristocracy of their country oppressed the French peasants.
In so many ways, the time when Jesus came on the scene was the “best of times and the worst of times”. The Jewish people had been in some kind of oppression since the time of the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah. By the time of Jesus, it was the Romans.
With the Romans, the Jewish leaders were always concerned with keeping them from coming in and crushing them. So they were pretty nervous when John the Baptizer showed up on the scene. We read in John 1:19–34:
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
New International Version
In that time when people lived their lives but lived under the boot of the Romans, Jesus entered the scene. He came in “the best of times and the worst of times”.
And He still does. Is it an accident the Lord has us here at this point in time? Of course not. Our job is still to prepare a way for Him. Our role is still to roll out the red carpet for Him so others can walk to Him. Our mission is still to testify to what Jesus has done for us. And what He will do for others.
May you and I be ready to give an answer for our faith so others can experience the hope of Jesus in our current time.