The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ Mark 1:3 (KJV)
My husband and I often argue over the accuracy and value of GPS systems. It seems as though sometimes it takes you the longest and most convoluted way. Such was the case this weekend as I attempted to attend a Christmas pagan at a church I was not familiar with. “Turn right, go left, make a U-turn at the corner” were the only instructions I received. Upon arriving, I found that there was a straight path that I could have taken—and it was printed on the back of my ticket. John the Baptist made paths straight in preparation for Jesus Christ’s first advent. Believers can do the same, as we acknowledge Jesus’ presence today while anticipating His imminent return in the future.
The Apostle Mark, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, cites two quotations from the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Malachi, to describe the preparation for the arrival of Messiah:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Is. 40:3)
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:1)
The words messenger and voice refer to John the Baptist, the prophet God sent to prepare the way for His Son (Matt. 3; Luke 311-18; John 1:19-34). In ancient times, before a king visited any part of his realm, a messenger was sent before him to prepare the way. Making His paths straight was a familiar term that often included both repairing the roads and preparing the people. By calling the nation to repentance, John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry.
God has since the creation of the world been in the process of establishing a pathway to Himself—a path which includes provision for redemption and restoration for His fallen creation—both mankind and the physical earth (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 8:21-23). All who acknowledge their sins and trust in Him will be saved. The basis of that hope is the sovereignty and majesty of God (Is. 40:10; Ps. 93:1-2).
Advent 2016 can be an enormous opportunity to make “paths straight” by heralding the “supernatural” nature of Christ’s entry into the history of mankind.
Jesus has come. During His first Advent, Jesus brought peace to all “who were once far off” (Ep. 2: 13) and estranged from God. God manifested Himself in Christ Jesus to save us from the sentence of death, created by our sinful state. We are now are reunited and reconciled to God—no longer destined to suffer God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18).
Jesus is still coming. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to reveal Himself (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the present manifestation of Christ in our lives. He teaches and directs us in all that we do. He empowers us (Eph. 2:19) to do the work of Christ in the church today.
Jesus will come. Much is written in the gospel accounts about Christ Second Advent (Matt. 24:44; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:28). Jesus’ return will be a time of judgment: to punish those who failed to accept the good news of the Gospel and to reward believers for their works of righteousness (Rev. 20:12). We don’t know when Christ will return but we can be assured, He will come.
Finally, believers can make “paths straight” for the way of our Lord by having the courage to walk in the light of the salvation in which Christ has set us free (Col. 2:6-7). No longer living for ourselves nor bound by sin, we can live out the purpose that God has established for our lives (1 Pet. 2:24). It is our identity with Christ—in His death, burial, and resurrection—that conforms us to His image and transform our lives so that we are effective witnesses and “path makers”.
Prayer: Let us rise and meet our Creator. Let us raise our hands and voices in acknowledgment that God’s Holy Spirit moves among us, calling us to new life in Christ. Let us raise our eyes, knowing that this new life of stewardship for all God’s creation is seen in the life of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.