08 Nov JOHN THE BAPTIST – PREPARING THE WAY OF THE LORD
In chapter one of John’s Gospel, we are introduced to John the Baptist. He writes, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that Light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the Light; he came only as a witness to the Light.” (vs 6-7)
But the account of John the Baptist is most clearly detailed in the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 1, the angel Gabriel appears to the priest Zechariah and promises that his barren wife Elizabeth will bear a son who is to be named John. Gabriel tells him, “And [John] will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (vs 17)
John, the cousin of Jesus, was born to prepare the way of the Lord – the coming of the Messiah – to proclaim to the people the plan that had been declared since the beginning through the prophets. Amos 3:7 says, “The Lord God does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.”
Luke records the song of praise that his father, Zechariah, sings over him after John is born:
“And you, child, will be called
a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the dawn from on high will visit us
to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
God’s plan had always been to raise up a mighty Deliverer, a descendant of David, to rescue His people from their enemies and to turn their hearts back to Him. But the first part of His plan was to deal with the enemy of sin. This was how John would prepare the way.
Luke continues to tell us that John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
John, this mighty prophet of God, did not come with much fanfare or pageantry. The Gospels never mention any miracles that he performed and describe him as a loner who lived in the desert, dressed in camel hair, eating locust and honey. He likely seemed more like the village crazy than an anointed man of the Lord Most High. In Matthew 11, Jesus says that John came “neither eating or drinking” (vs 18), meaning that he did not frequently socialize with the rest of society. He did not seek out the masses, yet the masses sought him. People from throughout Jerusalem and Judea went out to see him. (Matthew 3:5, John 1:28 & 3:23). He was amazingly influential as hundreds upon hundreds of people were baptized by him. His influence was phenomenal; yet there was nothing about him that would warrant the kind of popularity that John gained throughout the Jordanian countryside.
Nothing except the message he proclaimed.
John’s message was simple. Return to God in repentance so that you may receive the forgiveness of sins. In order to testify about the Light of the world, John had to call people to recognize that they were living in the darkness of sin. This is how he “made ready a people prepared for the Lord,” by shining a light on their darkness so that they would recognize the Light when He appeared.
And when one day, Jesus Himself approached John by the Jordan River, John declared without hesitation, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel…And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)
John’s sole purpose in life was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah as he bore witness to the Light.
Jesus says that His followers are the “light of the world.” We too are called to testify and bear witness to the Light. Like John, our stories of grace, forgiveness, provision, and love that we have received from God just might be the method the Lord uses to prepare another heart to receive Him.
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
So now, go out and testify, proclaim, and bear witness to the Light that has come and shattered your darkness!