As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’” (Mark 1:2-3)

This passage sums up the ministry of John the Baptist. John came as the forerunner of Christ to prepare His way before Him. John was also a voice crying to others, exhorting them to prepare the way of the Lord. Prophetic imagery describes how the landscape would be leveled, crooked paths straightened, and rough ways made smooth (Isa. 40:3-4; Lk. 3:4-6).

We might think that preparing the way meant that John would make it easier for Christ to arrive, just as we might clear a forest path to make it easier for those behind us. However, the opposite is true. It is not that the Lord would have trouble reaching the people; it is that they would have trouble receiving Him. Preparing the way of the Lord means that obstacles in people’s hearts had to be removed. The angel who announced John’s birth said he would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:17).

Thus we see that John prepared the way of the Lord by preparing those who would hear Him. He did this by preaching a message of repentance, insisting that tradition and popular opinion had no value before God, who sees the heart. The highest and lowest of society are leveled before Him, and rough places of pride and self-will must be removed.

This aspect of John’s ministry is an example for us. We too can prepare the way of the Lord in the lives of others by presenting God’s righteousness as well as the invitation to repent and be reconciled to Him through Christ. Then this summary of John’s life will also describe us: “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true” (Jn. 10:41).

Stephen Campbell