“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
God desired to prepare His people for the coming of their Messiah. He wanted His people to be spiritually ready to encounter Jesus Christ in the flesh. His silence was over, and the fullness of time had come! God’s plan was for John the Baptist to pave the way. In John the Baptist, we find a humble, obedient servant. Mark 1:8 reveals to us that John got it right as he humbly confessed that he was not even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. (Side note: How often do we respond to Christ with that much humility and reverence??) John realized his humble place. He embraced the humble calling upon his life. He followed God’s plans for his life, not accepting any glory for himself, but rather, pointing people to the One who was to come after him – Jesus Christ.
Take a look at John the Baptist’s ministry and impact upon God’s people:
“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” (Luke 3:7-18)
A few things stand out to me as I consider how John’s ministry prepared the way for Christ (I’ve put these things in bold in the passage above):
- “Crowds” = Crowds were coming to hear what John was preaching. People were listening to him because they were hungry for a real encounter with the King of Kings. They wanted to hear from God. They came in droves to be baptized. And when he baptized them, he spoke truth to them, and they listened earnestly.
- “You brood of vipers…” = John was brutally honest. He spoke the truth plainly because it was what the people needed to hear. John didn’t sugarcoat or soften the reality of their disobedience or rebellious hearts. Rather, he called them to repentance in light of the coming of Christ. God wanted to prepare their hearts for His Son.
- “What then shall we do?” = The crowds were hungry to follow God. They wanted to be right with Him. They desired to do what was necessary to know God. They weren’t merely listening to John’s words; rather they knew his words required action.
- “As the people were in expectation…” = This is the state God wanted them in – a state of expectancy. John the Baptist’s ministry served the purpose of pointing people to the One who would come after him. He urged people to look for Christ and expect the Messiah soon!
2,000 years ago, God wanted to prepare the hearts of His people to encounter Christ, and today, He desires to do the same…for you. He wants to prepare your heart to worship Him. The Lord desires for you to know Christ intimately, not just head knowledge, but genuine, personal heart knowledge that transforms your life. He doesn’t want you just to know that He is the savior of the world; He also wants you know and experience that He is YOUR savior. Just as God prepared hearts of His people 2,000 years ago, let us prepare our hearts TODAY to encounter Christ this Christmas season (and everyday!). Let us lay aside the busyness and to-do lists and shopping sprees and stress so that we can prepare our hearts for our ultimate purpose here on earth – WORSHIP. Let’s not allow this Christmas season to slip away in busyness without having hearts prepared to worship. Like the crowds in John’s time, let us wait in expectancy for Christ, and after hearing the truth, let us respond with obedience, worship, and humble service to the only One who is worthy – Jesus Christ!
What can you do TODAY to prepare your heart for worship during this Christmas season (and beyond)? Ponder that question, ask the Lord, and respond.