In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
When little John was born, Scripture says that “his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” (Luke 1:67,76). This had been prophesied many times before. Isaiah had said, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). Much later, the prophet Malachi would say: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1)
John the Baptist was a “preparer.” This is a word I really like. It describes somebody who is setting up something for someone else. It is a word that should describe all of us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t like the idea of being “preparers” because “preparers” are never in the spotlight. And we all want to be recognized, right? We think: “Why do so much work if nobody knows that I am the one who did it?” But consider what would have happened if John the Baptist felt like this and said he didn’t want to do the job of the “preparer” because nobody would give him any importance. (That he became famous is another matter!)
Jesus would have come on the scene, and HE would have had to do John the Baptist’s job before starting his own job. But thanks to John preparing the hearts of the people, Jesus could get right into his message of salvation. We need to become “preparers” even if nobody ever notices it. Because the “preparers” are indispensable to God’s work on this earth. Besides, there is greater honor that awaits those who don’t get recognition on earth. Jesus says this repeatedly.
So let us all become preparers. John prepared a way for the coming of the Lord. Let us prepare a way for the return of the Lord. In many ways, our job is more vital than his was. When Jesus came two thousand years ago, he came as the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). When he returns, it will be to judge. “He will sit on his glorious throne, and all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).
Let us try to ensure that as many of us as possible are counted among the sheep. It’s a huge responsibility, but I think we are up to it. Yes?
May the Spirit be with you.