God’s assessment of people and situations often is diametrically opposed to ours. Of John, for example, it was said: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Luke 1:14-15).

Now, if you are John’s parents, maybe you’re thinking: “Prodigious child, learns to walk before 7 months, speaks six languages by grade 8, star of the football team, yearly gold medal in math and speech meets, consistent champion in the science fair, number 1 in his class in High School, class valedictorian in college, Harvard-educated brain surgeon, a successful practice, married to a beautiful woman, three children, all the while providing for you through your old age.”

Instead, what they got was more like: “Fiercely independent boy, keeps running away to the desert, anti-social, leaves home at an early age to live out in the wilderness, eccentric dresser, likes to eat insects with honey, comes out to the city to infuriate the reigning monarch, preaches about an utopian kingdom, calls religious people dangerous serpents, runs around with another dreamer called Jesus, ends up with his head on a silver platter because he had a run in with the wrong woman.”

What joy is there in any of this? How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and fail to discern danger in the form of a powerful woman? And “great in the sight. of the Lord?” No way!

But that’s only because we don’t get God. The joy was in the fact that 400 years of silence had been broken. God had spoken again and the message was about the fulfillment of the promise regarding the coming of the Messiah! This was joyful news indeed!

One of the marks of the Holy Spirit upon John’s ministry, by the way, is exactly that after perceiving danger, he did not back away from calling people to repentance, which was the mission he received from God (see Luke 1:16). Throughout the history of the Church people who spoke righteousness have often lost their lives. Or positions. Or power. Or prestige. Or money. But when they are filled with the Spirit, they are as unmoved as John was. John was a preacher of righteousness and repentance, something not too many people are willing to sign up for. John didn’t. He was chosen.

And for the record, John was great “in the sight of God.” That was the only examiner he needed to please. Yes, he lost his life at the hand of a cowardly man and in a violent way, but God didn’t just say, “Great job, John.” He said, “You are great.” Hearing that makes it all worth losing one’s head any day.

May God grant us all the ability to see things from His perspective and to live in light of that insight. Zechariah and Elizabeth did. So did John.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA