“For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3)
When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness and baptizing in the River Jordan, he fulfilled the prophecy of the forerunner of the Messiah as it is recorded in Isaiah 40. His duty was to lay the ground work for the coming Messiah by preparing the way.
But what exactly does that mean?
We know from Jesus’ own words that preaching does not prepare the heart to understand. God prepares the heart and then the message can be received and understood by the mind.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)
So exactly how was John to prepare the way?
Luke’s detailed description of the time of the coming of John is very telling on this matter.
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituræa and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:1-2)
The once great nation of Israel no longer truly has a king of her own. Rome bore rule over the entire region and even local officials reported to the Emperor rather than to God as the Lord designed. The nation was now divided into four regions and helpless to reunite itself. And not only was the civil arena in shambles, so was the religious framework. There were two high priests serving at the same time. Explain it however you will, the religious leaders had perverted God’s design. The Lord designed for only one high priest to be in office because it pointed to the coming Great High Priest!
There was nothing in the civil nor religious structure that pointed to the true nature of the coming Messiah. The religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees had so polluted the minds of the people that many of them did not recognize Jesus for Who He was.
So what does John do? He turns the religious world upside down by preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He teaches that everyone should repent of their sins and false practices and turn back to the word of God.
“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6)
John prepared the way for the Lord, not by changing the hearts of men for that lies only in the power of God. John prepared the way by showing clearly what the Old Testament taught about the coming Messiah. He pointed back to the word of God so that ALL flesh could see by the evidence in Jesus that He truly is the Messiah!