Summary: The way in which we prepare demonstrates the importance of the One who comes
While attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, D.L. Moody asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 o'clock one evening at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Mr. Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing.
Once a crowd had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby convention hall. Soon, spiritually hungry people filled the auditorium, and the great evangelist preached the gospel to them.
Then the convention delegates began to arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, 'How to reach the masses.'" Moody graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out and doing it.
1. Last week we learned the importance of being ready to greet Christ. God wants his people to be ready, so he sends a prophet named John to prepare them. John’s mission is to bring people to an awareness of sin and their need for a Savior, preparing them for the Messiah who is coming soon.
2. You can tell something about the caliber of an expected guest by the preparations made in anticipation of his arrival. OYBT Mt 3, as we meet God’s prophet John (aka Baptist) and learn something about his lifestyle, his mission and his testimony.
II. JOHN’S LIFESTYLE (1, 3-4)
1. Biographers describe their subjects’ appearance only if they have good reason. For instance, Mark and Matthew describe John but not Jesus. John’s location, clothing and diet depict a radical servant of God whose lifestyle challenges the religious order of his day.
A. John’s location implies the coming of a new exodus (in Jesus). The OT prophets predicted that said exodus would begin in the wilderness (Hos. 2:14-15, Is. 40:3).
i. Wilderness should not be translated desert. It may be a sandy or stony waste, or land simply undesirable for crops or animals.
ii. The wilderness of Judea gets little rainfall and its slopes are steep. Hence it is known as wilderness. Jewish people of John’s day acknowledge this as the appropriate place for renewal movements, prophets and Messiahs.
iii. We should not overlook that the wilderness is also the natural place for fugitives from a hostile society (e.g. Heb. 11:38; Rev. 12:6)
B. John’s clothing resemble the typical garb of the poor, befitting a wilderness prophet cut off from society’s amenities. More importantly, his garb evokes images of Elijah the prophet (2 Ki. 1:8).
C. Malachi promised Elijah’s return (4:5-6), and though Matthew does not view John literally as Elijah (17:3, Lk. 1:17), the tone of his gospel suggests he believes John fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah’s mission.
D. John’s diet demonstrates his commitment. Poor people in antiquity eat locusts, and honey (the sweetener in a Palestinian diet) is readily available to the poor. Nothing unusual here, necessarily.
i. Here’s the rub: locusts sweetened with honey constituted John’s entire diet. Matthew explains that John lives simply, with the barest forms of sustenance.