Summary: John the Baptist prepared the way for us to know and trust in Christ.
John prepares the way
Are you ready to meet Jesus? How do you help others to prepare to meet Him? If you had been sent as the front man for Jesus to come into town, what would you do to make sure that hearts were ready to receive Him and His message?
For 400 years God had been silent. No prophet had brought a message from God in that time. Anticipation and desire for a word from the Lord were high. Life was hard. People had to struggle all the days of their lives living in poverty, serving a cruel taskmaster who didn’t care about their everyday needs.
During this 400 year period the Jewish people had divided into camps. There were the religious fundamentalists who believed that their way was the only way. They preached a religion of intolerance and legalism. Anyone who did not do it their way was wrong and destined for hell’s fire. Then there were the spiritually hungry who desired to please God, but did not know how. And lastly there were those who did not care for God, and who lived only for life here and now.
In the midst of this very confusing and difficult time, God sent a bridge, a prophet who would once again speak for God and prepare the hearts of the people for the message of the Messiah. John the Baptist stands as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments.
His birth was miraculous. He lived as a young child dedicated to the Lord’s service as a Nazarite, one set apart as Holy unto the Lord. He grew into a man, whom Matthew identified as the promised forerunner of the Messiah. Using the words of Isaiah 40:3 he wrote:
“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”
The roads in the ancient world were full of ruts and rocks. When a king was about to approach the city, servants would be sent out to clear the pathway, to make a level road for the King to ride upon. John was that servant sent before the King of kings, and His message, his voice was the way the road was cleared for Christ to be received.
The prophets had said that before the Messiah could come, Elijah would come first to prepare the way. Jesus had said that John was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Elijah is described in 2 Kings 1:8 as:
“A man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.”
John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord. His message is one that we should study and understand so that our hearts are prepared to meet Jesus, and so that those we seek to help also understand.
Turn with me to Matthew 3:1-2
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’
"4 And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ’We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
1. The pathway of repentance
There was no room for confusion about John the Baptist’s message. It was bold, loud, clear and simple. He cried out these words over and over again to the people:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”