John the Baptist, what a character! The Apostle John tells us about him in the very first chapter of his gospel. In fact, Apostle John holds Baptizer John in such high esteem that the only work he gives higher billing is work God Himself had done!
“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.”–John 1:7(NIV)
Many dismissed John as a lunatic. Cited as evidence was the camel hair clothing, living in the desert on a steady diet of locusts and honey, dunking people in water, and all that shouting about repentance and the Messiah coming. Once the religious leaders realized this guy was getting a bit of a following, his status changed from lunatic, to dangerous lunatic who must be stopped. Despite what many thought about John, he was fulfilling one of the most important callings in all of human history! His arrival should not have been a surprise. Several hundred years prior, the prophet Isaiah delivered many messages from God to His people. Much of it was bad news. But some of it was very good news. Of that good news was the promise that the Messiah was coming and that a special man would be appointed to announce, “Now is the time! He is coming! Let’s make a way for Him!” Somewhere in the mix, according to Isaiah, would be a desert, a highway, and the opportunity for all people to believe and be saved. It went like this:
“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).” Our guest of honor, was the one. Let’s see how he fulfilled this all important mission.
Preparing the Way of the Lord: Repentance
John was part of a construction crew building a multi-lane roadway for the Lord. But John was not using conventional tools or equipment. John was just preaching out there. You see, John understood that the way of the Lord was not to be built in the dusty wilderness around the Jordan River, but in the desert within the hearts of people. This is why John was emphasizing repentance so much. The whole baptizing-in-the-Jordan-thing was to symbolize that hearts were giving up their worldly desires and turning toward the coming Messiah. This is what repentance is. John was kind of doing things backwards, but still accomplishing his mission. Jesus would proclaim “I am The Way, the Truth, The Life, no one gets to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” John was preparing the way of the Lord, by preparing broken hearts for The Way, the Lord, Jesus. Hearts that are mired in the noise, distractions, and sins of the world are not capable of receiving the Messiah. John needed to change that. Repentance sweeps the heart clean and clears its vision so that the Messiah can be seen. John’s construction work was being done in the hearts of the people where he knew it was needed, not on the banks of the Jordan.
So the message for us today is pretty clear – repentance is key. We must adopt a continual, consistent attitude of repentance in our heart, turning away from sin and turning toward our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This the way to The Way. This is the only way to The Only Way.
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God: Witness
Now back to John. Would anyone have bothered to make a trek into the desert if John had not provided a compelling reason to do so? Ah, but once the word started getting out that this desert screamer had something to say, they beat a path to him! A straight highway in the desert I might say. God has used human messengers throughout history to bring His story to the people of the world. Isaiah was a witness. He told the people that one day a desert witness would make a way for the Lord. John our beloved Baptist was the witness to whom Isaiah referred. The Apostle John was a witness to Jesus, for whom the Baptizer John made a straight highway. Apostle John put his witness in the gospel that bears his name, through which we learn more about Baptizer John and the Messiah Jesus. I’d say Apostle John extended the highway Baptizer John started. Others followed with their own witness; Paul, James, Timothy, Titus and the straight highway extended further still.
So the message for us today is clear once again – our witness is the means through which the highway extension project continues. Without it, the lost people of our time will not be compelled to repent and discover the Messiah for themselves. Apostle John told us that Baptizer John came as a witness to testify concerning Jesus, that through him all might believe. Baptizer John couldn’t be here with us today. He has passed the banner, through generations of repentant witnesses, to us. So, we must engage our repentant hearts and be bold proclaimers ourselves. That’s the truth.
He came as a witness to prepare the way of the Lord for you, to make straight a highway to God for you, that through him you might believe. Through your repentant heart you can know The Way and believe. Through your testimony others can know The Way, and believe.
That’s the YouTruth. So That Through Him You Might Believe
Copyright 2009, 2011 Dan Buckhout