John the Baptist had a unique role in the economy of God. Luke records that John was sent to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 NASB).
God knew they needed this—that somehow this prophet was vital to help people get ready for the coming of Christ.
Christ’s physical life among them would be the greatest season of God’s manifest presence in human history.
John’s empowering for his task was to be “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (v. 15). The gifting he needed for this important work was the filling of the Holy Spirit.
John could not do this. Neither could anyone else. It was only done by God in him and through him.
John’s work was to come in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (v. 17).
Elijah was a great prophet who called rebellious people to repentance.
He showed them their need for God.
Like Elijah, John was also tasked to do the following: “Turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God … ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children,’ and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous” (vv. 16-17).
And John fulfilled this task faithfully.
Fast forward thirty years from John’s birth. Prior to Jesus coming forward to begin His public ministry, the “word of God came to John…. And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” using as his text the prophecy of Isaiah to “make ready the way of the Lord” so the King of glory could come in (Luke 3:2-6).
He called sin sin and told them to repent because the Lamb of God was coming. He preached the gospel to the people with many words (v. 18).
So when Jesus came, the people were hungry for Him.
Although none of us would be so prideful as to think he is like this great, God-sent prophet, our calling today is much the same.
The desperate need of our day is the coming of the manifest presence of the Lord. We need Him to “rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1) to do a mighty work of revival in the church and spiritual awakening among the lost.
Should not our message and passion be the same? Should we not be making a highway ready for our God in the hearts and lives of people?
Should we not use the same methods and message, creating a thirst for God’s presence?
And then we must simply point people to Jesus and declare, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).