Tag Archives: John the Baptist

Make Straight the Path

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.

Preparing the Way

How will you celebrate Advent 2016?  What will you intentionally do differently to usher in the most phenomenal event to enter into the history of mankind—the incarnation of God?   Advent should be more than participating in special Bible studies or in the lighting of Advent candles.  I’m afraid to say that I was guilty of both.  While thinking I was really doing something “spiritual” to usher in the true meaning of Christmas, I had allowed this sacred season to become “ritualistic routine”.  Advent, celebration of Christ’s explosion into human history, should be a time of excitement and spiritual awakening.  Just as Simeon and Anna faithfully awaited the long prophesized Messiah (Luke 2:34-38), we too should be faithful and watchful as we hopefully prepare the way for the arrival of our Lord and Savior during this season of advent.

In our text, the first word for “prepare” (kataskeuazo) is a Greek word that means to construct or create as well as to furnish or equip. It often has the sense of making a building, vessel, or object ready for use in the preparation of household goods, containers, and other kinds of commonplace items.  Mark uses the second Greek word for “prepare” (hetoimazo) which means to make the necessary preparations for an event that will happen later.   Throughout the Gospels, it describes the imminence of a great wedding or banquet feast, or even what will happen at the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 22:4,25;34,41).  Matthew, Mark, and Luke commonly used that word to describe Jesus’ and the Disciples’ preparations for the Passover and the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16 Luke 22:7-13).  So Mark by using the two difference aspects of the word “prepare”, calls his audience to:   1) make themselves ready vessels or homes to receive Jesus and 2) participate in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.[1]

Living between Jesus’ First and Second Advent is a place of tension for believers.  Although we know that Jesus’ first advent has occurred, how can we “prepare the way” to celebrate Advent with renewed focus and excitement? For this year and beyond, even until Christ’s second return?

Joyful Anticipation.  Anticipation is the act of looking forward or visualization of a future state.  We need to rekindle this emotion that generates joy and pleasure as we remember what Christ’s presence has meant to us in the past as well as allow our imagination to create new scenarios of possibilities as we think about “what is to come”.  Sadly, we have diminished those moments of richness and fullness that only come with anticipation.  What will Christ’s presence in your life mean in the upcoming year?

Attentive Waiting.  This is not mankind’s strongest attribute as attested by our impatience with people, places and things.  Frustration and tempers must be guarded as people wait in grocery lines.  We feel we are exempt from waiting too long for anything.  We even complain that time moves too slowly.  Our busyness and overscheduled calendars have pushed us into believing that waiting is an indication of either a problem with “the system” or flaw in others.  Our obsession with self and the need for instant gratification has stolen from people the virtue of being “long-suffering and forbearing” with one another (Col. 3:12-13).  We have become blinded to the fact that some things are worth waiting for—Jesus is worth waiting for.

Faithful Preparation.  How do we faithfully prepare for Christ’s return?  First, we must make ourselves “ready vessels” to receive the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.  This requires period of solitude in which we can be alone with God, meditating on His Word, and praying with “listening ears”.  These periods of preparation may result in confession of sins or exposure of behaviors and thought patterns that are hindering our spiritual growth.  Secondly, we must make ourselves “living sacrifices” to God—in humble submission to what is His “good, acceptable, and perfect” will for our life, including service to others.  Finally, we must faithfully prepare by aligning our thinking with “things above” (Col. 3:2).  It is our future hope of glory that will motivate us to be conformed to the image of Christ.  We should remember to focus on things of eternal value versus those things that are “temporary and fading” away (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Advent, the coming of Jesus Christ, brings something the world alone can never provide—unconditional love to those who trust in Jesus as their Savior, unwavering faith that trusts in the sufficiency of God to meet every human need, and unquenchable hope that guarantees an inheritance in eternity future.  Love, faith, and hope—these are key benefits that come with the advent of Christ.  Joy and peace then follow as we abide faithfully in His presence.  All this and more is ours as we prepare the way for Christ.

Prayer of Advent

Eternal God, we are seeking signs of your presence in our lives. Open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts to receive some word of hope as we anticipate the coming of the One whom you are sending.

[1]  Awaiting the Already, Magrey R. deVega