“And you my little son, will be called the Prophet of the Most High because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
Today we will start our series on Lent. We pray it is a blessing to you. We will begin this series with a blog about John the Baptist.
The first chapter of Luke begins with the circumstances relating to the birth of John the Baptist. Zechariah’s words to his newborn son, John, aptly sum up this baby’s entire life journey. John would become a prophet unlike any other of his time. Not only that, but he would prepare the people of Israel for their Messiah, Jesus.
Fast forward 30 years later….
Who was in charge of the religious system when John became an adult?
The religious leaders during John’s adulthood were the Pharisees, they were ‘God’s representatives’. The Mosaic priesthood, where the pharisees derived from, was established by God for the purpose of keeping the people in right relationship with Him. Mosaic Law was the manual of how to operate in the Kingdom of God so the Israelites would have their needs, wants, and desires met by Him.
What was going on in this religious system?
Basically nothing to do with God. Jesus had a confrontation with the Pharisees about this subject in Matthew 23. Embroiled with corrupt political leaders, the Pharisees focused on their own desires and flagrantly neglected their duty to meet the needs of the people. Allegiance to the Most High God shifted entirely over to Caesar. The Pharisees covertly disregarded the Mosaic Code of Ethics. In public, they were pretentious. Drunk with self righteousness and power, they hammered the people with laws that were impossible to keep. Jesus verbalized a list of damnable sins the Pharisees were guilty of in Matthew 23. But, the first and foremost complaint Jesus accused the Pharisees of was that they refused to enter the Kingdom of God themselves and slammed the door on the faces of people who tried.
How did John rebel against the corrupt religious system of the day?
Here lies the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1). Uncorrupted by the religious system, John lived in the wilderness of Judea, accepting no bribes and refusing to swindle the people out of their money. He was ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’.
What is the message John the Baptist preached?
John did not harp on endless rules and regulations that made one ‘holier than thou’ as the Pharisees taught. John preached Matthew 3:2, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” In other words, the Messiah is near and we need to be ready.
How did John prepare the way of the Lord?
John destroyed the sacred cows that permeated the thinking of the Jews. The Jews depended on their heritage for salvation (sons of Abraham). John preached that salvation came from repentance.
John gave people the opportunity to be baptized. Baptism was a physical sign to God and the public of the repentance and the forgiveness of sins. John was a seer and operated in the discernment of spirits. He had the ability to tell whether or not repentance was genuine. The people recognized he operated in this gift. This is why John turned away the Pharisees from baptism (Matthew 3). This is how he knew that Herod took his brother’s wife (Matthew 14). This is how he knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1).
Not only did John help the people repent of their sins, he gave them information of how to avoid falling back into its destructive cycle. In Luke 3, he told the people to share clothes and food with the poor. He told the tax collectors to be honest and only collect the amount the government exacted. He told soldiers not to extort their money, make false accusations, or be greedy. John was in the business of getting people clean and keeping them clean for God.
John was a role model for the people
The priests and Levites asked John if he was the Messiah. You don’t see John getting a ‘big head’ and using his spiritual gifts to manipulate or dominate people by fear like the Pharisees. You don’t see John trying to usurp Jesus’ authority. No! He adamantly denied being the Messiah and clarified the difference between himself and Jesus. John baptized with water (Ephesians 5:16, washing through knowledge of the Word). The Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit (power) and fire (passion and deliverance).
In fact, when John discerned that Jesus was the Messiah he was waiting for, he publically announced to the crowd, ‘Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world’. John identified Jesus as superior to himself and asked Jesus to baptize him. But, John submitted to Jesus' request to baptist Him instead. Through John's submission, cooperation, and obedience, God the Father filled Jesus with His Holy Spirit in preparation for ministry.
John’s voice in the wilderness superseded the voices of corrupt Pharisees. John’s voice was validated by the very voice of God, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was the answer to their salvation, the Messiah they had been waiting for.
We, the Church, must be like John and prepare the way of the Lord
Without a John the Baptist, without preparing hearts for the Messiah, Jesus could not have completed His mission. There was a predecessor to prepare the way for the First Coming of the Messiah. There must be a predecessor for the Second Coming of the Messiah as well. We, the Church, have been given the honor of that role. It is our responsibility wash others with the water of the Word, to help lead others to repentance, to help others avoid the pitfalls of repetitious sin, to allow God to use us for His purposes, to obey God and allow Him to validate our voice with His, and most importantly to teach how to operate in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and He is the answer to our salvation.
Father, there is always a remnant of people who are willing to obey you. I marvel at how You admire humility and elevate the lowliest of hearts to do the mightiest of deeds. Through John, You drove back the darkness of corruption, power, and greed and progressively restored light and godliness back to Israel. John restored hope to his generation by preparing them for the Messiah. Help me to be like John. Help me to stay humble before you so that You may use me to do the mightiest of deeds for Your Glory. Help me to lead souls into the Kingdom of God and prepare them for the second coming of the Messiah. In Jesus name, Amen.