“And 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, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)
John’s mother, Elizabeth, certainly “got it” when it came to God’s plan for salvation and what the Messiah was all about. Zechariah, her husband, shows that he also understood exactly how God saves His people and what it means to be a hero of the faith. He proclaimed that John, his son, would prepare the way for the Lord by telling the world of God’s forgiveness of sins through His great mercy. As John prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, he was preparing the people around him for the Way – Jesus Christ, the only Way to the Father.
John the Baptist’s ministry is summed up nicely in the Gospel of John: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (1:7-9). John could certainly have made a big deal out of himself, but he faithfully and humbly used all his resources to point everyone he met to the coming Messiah. In a time when the Jews were looking for a political leader who would lead them once again to military and economic dominance, John rightly testified to the people what the work of Jesus Christ would really be – to suffer and die on their behalf, as a Lamb with blemish, for the forgiveness of their sins.
There may be no better hero of the faith than John the Baptist, because he shows us exactly what Christians ought to be doing in order to have an effective ministry. John spends his days doing two things; preaching repentance and forgiveness, and baptizing all who come in faith. He humbles himself before God and loudly proclaims Jesus as the only source of life and salvation.
As Christians today find themselves in spiritual deserts with parched souls around them thirsting for Living Water, they too can take up John’s mantle and “make straight the way for the Lord.” We can prepare the hearts of our neighbors and communities to receive God’s Word by what we say and do. We can correct in love and gentleness, calling our nation and our world to repentance and holding out to them the free forgiveness of sins won by God’s Son. We can testify concerning the Light of the World and act as a lampstand to hold that Light up for all to see. That is still what we are called to do as God’s heroes of the faith.
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34)
Prayer: Lord, help me to faithfully prepare the hearts of those around me, so that You may enter into their lives with life and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.