Prepare the way of the lord: Example of John the baptist – meditation for the third Sunday in advent
To ‘prepare the way’ means to create a favourable environment or to make it easy for one to come and operate. The Collect for the day indicates two areas for the preparation of the Way of the Lord:
• Turning people’s disobedient hearts to the law of love, as ministers and stewards of God’s truth.
• Courage to speak the truth even to the point of suffering.
We are clearly told that John was sent to ‘prepare the way’ for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in his first advent (Mark 1:2-3). As we prepare for the second advent of the Lord, we have a lot to learn from John the Baptist, particularly as it is obviously much more difficult for millions of ministers to herald the second coming of the Lord, which was done by John the Baptist alone in his first coming. John’s role is described in Luke 3:3-6 as follows:
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”
There were, as there are, the highways to be straightened, the valleys to be raised up, the mountains and the hills to be brought low, the rough grounds to be made level and the rugged places to be turned to plains.
John taught and acted in ways which made the Jewish leaders conceive of him as certain OT eschatological figures like Elijah (Mal. 3:1; 4:5; cf. Zech. 13:4) and the Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18). But John was not carried away by their suggestive titles. He was sure of his ministry and claimed/asserted what he was – No more, No less (John 1:19-28 – The Gospel for the day)
John the Baptist was a fearless servant of God, who stood out as God’s representative and oracle. He refused to follow the multitude in doing evil, which had also become normal. He stood out a different person, and rather became a catalyst for transformation. He confronted the king and challenged the people, calling them, in their diverse professions, to repentance. John the Baptist was one of the few people in the Bible that the Lord testified to. The Lord said four things about him, namely:
• He was a man with a stand/firmness – Not “A reed swayed by the wind (Mat. 11:7)
• He was a man of self-denial – Not “A man dressed in fine clothes” (Mat. 11:8)
• He was a prophet (Mat. 11:9a) – He spoke God’s Word, not men’s.
• He was more than a prophet – the forerunner of Christ (Mat. 11:9b-14).
Many ministers and Christians today are most unlike John the Baptist. They are very unstable, materialistic and anything but prophetic and Godly. Many, today, move around aimlessly, trying to enjoy life. Only few people think of God, fear Him and do their best to observe His ordinances, so that they may receive His guidance and truth. God is calling us to prepare for the coming of the Lord by our repentance and being instrumental in making others to repent and turn to Him. We need to be like John the Baptist to achieve this.
Can we dare to be a John the Baptist in this our generation?
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.