PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD
“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.'” (Matthew 3:3 NKJV)
In ancient times it was customary for messengers, harbingers, or forerunners to be sent before the eastern kings to prepare the way for the chariots and armies of their monarchs, to proclaim their approach, to provide for them, to level the ways and to remove all impediments before them.
Similarly, when the Messiah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, was to come into the world to redeem the fallen men John the Baptist was sent ahead of Him as the messenger or the forerunner to prepare the way of the LORD and to make His paths straight.
Like John the Baptist, every born-again believer today is God-sent messenger or forerunner to prepare the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ into the world.
As a believer, it is your responsibility to announce or proclaim constantly the imminent return of Christ and look forward to the day with eagerness.
Apostle Paul admonishes us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:13-14 NKJV).
Apostle Peter also admonishes us to be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:12 NKJV).
Without any doubt, John the Baptist fulfilled his noble calling as the forerunner of Christ’s first coming into the world. He clearly, perfectly, and publicly revealed Jesus Christ to his generation as the Messiah that was to come into the world (John 1:29, 36).
The Scripture amply testifies to John’s fulfilling his ministry.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (NKJV).
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.
36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (NKJV).
The Lord Jesus publicly commended John the Baptist, saying, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist…” (Matt. 11:11 RSV).
The Lord also called John “the burning and shining lamp” in his generation, for he truly revealed Christ to the Jews (John 5:35).
Like John the Baptist, the believers today as the end-time forerunners of Christ are also expected to be the burning and shining lamps that will clearly reveal the Lord Jesus to the people and prepare the people for the Lord’s second return.
Therefore, it is wisdom for us to learn from John the Baptist who was the burning and shining lamp of his generation and thus fulfilled his divine mission as the fore-runner of the Lord’s first coming into the world (Rom. 15:4).
First, John the Baptist was completely devoted to his mission in the world.
Although John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, yet he refused to introduce himself as Elijah, for he knew that would draw much attention and affection towards him, thereby hindering or truncating his divine purpose to bear witness of Christ – to make the Messiah known to the world.
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,”‘ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (NKJV).
Although John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets under the Old Covenant, yet he would not even introduce himself as a prophet to the Jews lest the people should seek him rather than the Messiah that he was sent to reveal to them (Matt. 11:11).
When the Jews pressurized John to disclose his spiritual identity and mission, he simply responded, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD.” (John 1:23 NKJV).
What a humility and simplicity!
If not for his humility and simplicity John the Baptist would have succeeded only in projecting and proclaiming himself as the Elijah who was to come rather than Jesus the Messiah who was to come into the world.
Unfortunately today, John’s kind of humility and simplicity is very rare. Many ministers of God today would pay any price or do anything to be recognized and called by special designations or appellations.
Like John the Baptist, we must be careful not to bear or answer any title or name that would constitute a distraction to our divine mission in the world, or that which would draw or divert people’s attention and affection to us rather than to Christ.
We must constantly, consistently or continually remember that we are in the world, not to make ourselves known to people or to draw people’s attention and affection toward ourselves, but to make Christ known to people and to draw people’s attention and affection to Christ alone.
Second, John the Baptist was pleased to decrease so that Christ may increase.
There came a time when some of John’s disciples who were spiritually undiscerning called his attention to his fame and followers dwindling down as a result of his continuous public testimony or proclamation of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah and the Saviour of the world.
They sought to provoke John to envy or jealousy, saying, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified–behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3:26 NKJV).
However, John the Baptist was quick to rebuke and remind them, saying, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:28-30 NKJV).
What a contrast to the mindset of many servants of God today! John the Baptist joyfully accepted to decrease in fame and followers so that Christ may increase in fame and followers.
The joy and satisfaction of John the Baptist, unlike many pastors or evangelists today, was not in gathering or pulling a large crowd to himself, but in making Christ known to them.
Until you also esteem making Christ known to people by your preaching or teaching, speech, conduct, attitude, action or lifestyle as your greatest joy in life, you will not be an effective forerunner of Christ.
Lastly, the success of John the Baptist as the herald or forerunner of Christ’s first coming was also due to his kingdom’s mentality and lifestyle.
Undoubtedly, John the Baptist was totally unlike the religious and hypocritical scribes and Pharisees of his days, who did all their works only to be seen by men, and made their phylacteries broad and enlarged the borders of their garments, and loved the best places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by special appellations or titles (Matt. 3:4, 23:5-8).
While the religious leaders of his days were primarily concerned with people bringing good gifts to the altar and their compliance with religious rites and traditions of men, John the Baptist was apparently concerned with the people bearing fruits worthy of repentance.
John’s emphasis in his preaching was totally different from that of the Pharisees!
John’s emphasis was on repentance and faith in the Messiah, and on seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.
The Scripture testifies, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:1-2 NKJV).
Beloved, when the King of glory returns would He commend you as the burning and shining lamp in your family, home, office, school, community or city, who brightly reflected and manifested Him to those around you, just as John the Baptist did?
Let us arise today to prepare the way for our King’s second coming by teaching and preaching the gospel of Christ, demonstrating His love to others, walking in His footsteps, devoting our lives and resources to the expansion of His kingdom in the hearts of men, and proclaiming, praying and looking forward to Christ’s glorious second coming into the world.
John writes, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20 NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me to live in such a way that will perfectly and brightly reflect Christ to those around me. I draw divine grace to live daily as a forerunner of Christ, in Jesus’ name. Amen.