A Coming King. Powerful and victorious. Expectations of freedom from the cruelty of the Roman empire dominated the belief system of the Jewish culture. They had heard the prophecies of the King who would come and establish His kingdom that would endure forever.
The King came, but not in pomp and circumstance. Instead, He rode a donkey, a donkey He didn’t even own. He did not come with a great entourage. Fisherman flanked him. No soldiers. No army. No battle. He did not set up His throne, He remained silent before Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus was nothing what was expected. The only thing that even came close were His miracles. These were evidence that He had come from God. They knelt and praised their humble king riding on a donkey expecting the terror of Rome in Jerusalem to be brought down. But when He was accused of the crime of blasphemy and their own leaders turned against Him, confusion set in. They loved Him for the love He had given, but could the Messiah, the Coming King of Israel that would deliver them from all their enemies be arrested by their own leaders? It just didn’t seem right. This is where John the Baptism comes in.
He was the strange little prophet that hung out in the desert preacher Hell, fire, and brimstone calling people to repent of their sin. He wore a camel-hair and ate locusts. He was clear. He was not the Messiah, but there was one coming who sandals he was unfit to tie. Crowds came out to the desert to hear him, to be baptized. When Jesus brought him up to the Pharisees to discredit, they refused because all the people of Jerusalem considered John a prophet from God. His influence on the entire city was clear. And what did John do with this influence? When Jesus walked near, John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God” then testified, “He is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).
Someone had to point Jesus out because no one was going to recognize Him based on their understanding of prophecy. John was the one foretold of by Isaiah as the voice in the desert preparing the way for the Messiah. This word ‘prepare’ comes from an idiom meaning the men who travelled ahead of a king and smoothed out the roads so that when His royal carriage came through, it could enter easily. John the Baptism came to repair the spiritual road for the King of Kings to come to His own. As the people waited in great expectation, John came to prepare them to accept Jesus, who did not look nor act anything like the great King they expected.
The word advent means “a coming into view or arrival.” Just as they waited with expectation for a king, so do we. Their understanding of prophecy had blinded them to the person Jesus was going to be. John had to prepare the way. We are living in a new advent. We are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. This time the King will not come and live among men as before. Men will not have a chance to gather information about this King as He walks and talks with them. They will need to already know Him before He appears to be accepted by Him. The church sits in the place of John the Baptist, called to prepare the way for the Coming King.
Construction workers repairing inaccurate and wicked images of the King. The road for the King to travel into the unbelieving heart is under construction. We must put on our hardhat, climb into the cab of our machinery and start undoing the damage done, making smooth the road, producing clarity for who Jesus is, clearing the broken pavement of inaccurate depictions of the Son of God.
The influence of John the Baptist did not come from His words alone. It was His words and His lifestyle that brought people out into the desert to listen to a sermon. We don’t understand this. Churches are trying to move to areas more densely populated to reach more people. And people do not want to drive too far to go to church. But John’s reputation, influence, and power caused people to walk out of the city into the desert to hear a sermon, to be baptized in repentance. The city was saturated with religious leaders, but no one was flocking to hear them. They did not have long lines of people wanting to be baptized being moved to total life-change. John walked the walk, but they only talked the talk. They were hypocrites, insincere, self-promoting, and greedy. John was the real deal. John was making smooth the roads they had destroyed.
We can’t prepare the way for Jesus to return if we are not authentic in our Christian walk. Saying one thing while doing another has created deep potholes throughout history. Hypocrisy closes down the roads. No thru traffic. Authentic Christianity smooths everything, opens roads for people to see their King. Authentic Christianity pushes smooth the rubble. The King has come into the world once and they did not recognize Him. We are the body of Christ called to reflect the image of Christ, but will the world recognize Him from our life. If we accept what the King rejects, we paint a distorted picture. When we do accept what He has rejected, we must repent, make reparations, make restitution to His image. Authentic Christianity is not found within a perfect person. If so, it would be non-existent, a fairy tale like the Easter Bunny. Though perfection is far from us, authenticity never relents in pursuit of perfection. When we fail, we make it right.
We are the body of Christ, but today, we have the mission of John the Baptist. We can’t simply shout from the rooftops, we must live a lifestyle that gives our shouting credibility to those who don’t believe. If there has ever been a time of roads closed in need of repair, it is now. Let’s push away the rubble with authenticity and the testimony that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the World.
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever. ”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.
With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?
As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
A person too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
to set up an idol that will not topple.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, if I am honest with myself and with you, I have created rubble in people’s life. My behavior has been hypocritical at times without repentance and without restitution. I have closed roads preventing the arrival of the King into their life. But I take heart in knowing that the greatest person to tear up spiritual roads might have been Saul. You came to him, changed him, and he spent the rest of his life opening roads for Jesus. You have come to me. You have changed me. I need more change. Sanctify me through and through each moment in my thoughts and my actions. Use me to prepare the way for You to come to people who desperately need a King. -Amen.