Preparing the Way
“A voice of one crying out:
Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness;
Make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
The uneven ground will become smooth, and the rough places, a plain.”
‒ Isaiah 40:3-4
John the Baptist is an unusual Bible character. At first, we might see him as a mystic and ascetic. He lived out in the desert, calling people to be baptized for their sins, and preaching about the coming Messiah. He was a simple man, surviving on very little. We read that he wore clothes made of camel hair. He had an unusual diet of locusts and wild honey. Surprisingly, according to the Torah, locusts are a kosher food. I have heard of many Christians, especially in the New Year, dedicating themselves to eating a Daniel-type diet. I’ve never heard of Christians eating a John the Baptist diet.
Comparing it to the music entertainment field, we might view John the Baptist as the opening act for Jesus. He was there to set the mood ‒ to get the crowd psyched for the coming of the Messiah. His mission was to prepare the hearts of people by preaching about repentance from sins. He baptized people to prepare them for the ultimate baptism by the Holy Spirit.
We might also consider John as somewhat of a prototype of Jesus. He was a cousin of Jesus, albeit slightly older. We don’t know for sure, but perhaps the two cousins played together as children. Perhaps they attended synagogue or studied the Torah together. Interestingly, John also had his own disciples, who most likely followed Jesus after John’s death. The most striking parallel of all is that John died a martyr’s death because of his faith and his unswervingly holding out the truth.
According to Jesus, John was a prophet ‒ and not just any prophet, but one in the style of Elijah. Elijah might be considered one of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. When Jesus was transfigured, it was Moses and Elijah who appeared with him, not Abraham, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any other prophets. In fact, John the Baptist is the prophet who fulfills the above passage from Isaiah. He is the voice crying out in the wilderness.
This Advent season, consider who might be John the Baptist in your life. Who is preparing you for the coming Messiah? Is your heart ready for him?
Suthee Thumasathit is a Thailand native who grew up in Iowa and now practices internal medicine for Texas Health Resources. He is a leader in NorthPark's Thai Fellowship and NorthPark Presbyterian ruling elder.