Who is John the Baptist?

Frontline Devotion for December 17, 2017 (Season of 'Advent')

By: Don Kress

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John 1:6-8, 19-23

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light...Now this was John's testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Messiah." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

Revised from December 10, 2005

In today's text we read about the record of John the Baptist, and an impressive record it is. Other Gospels give us a more graphic picture of this man, but John forgoes all of those descriptions and gets right into John's work. John the Baptist's message against sin had appealed to people and they flocked to him, eager to be baptized. No doubt the religious authorities of the day found John's popularity a bit unsettling. So, they sent a contingent to confront him, asking "Who are you?"

Their question didn't really refer to his identity, but rather to his status and qualifications as a religious leader. "Are you the Messiah? No? Then perhaps you're Elijah? No? Well then, are you that prophet?" (A reference to Deuteronomy 18:15, in which Moses said, "The Lord your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you...like unto me...") John gives them another resounding "No!" Some of us might have given up by this point, but they persist. After all, they can't go back with a report of only who he isn't! This is John's opportunity to make something of himself, to tell all those gathered how important he is. I suspect that some of us would take full advantage of such an opportunity! But instead, John gives them a very humble answer: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness." It's interesting that John describes himself as a voice. A voice is all that John wants to be. He knows he has a great and grand message to give! The Baptist understands that Christ is the Word, but he is merely a voice.

But John does have an important message: "Make straight the way of the Lord." He is quoting the prophet Isaiah (40:3). In ancient times it was the practice to prepare roads for the victorious arrival of a conquering king and his procession by clearing them of obstacles and removing the unevenness of the surface. John the Baptist is saying, "Get ready for the coming of the Lord. Get the crooked and uneven things out of your lives. Remove the obstacles. Get your lives straight!"

There is one week remaining in Advent. How will you and I use it to "make straight the way of the Lord"? The conquering King is coming. He arrives in eight days. What are we doing to remove the obstacles and unevenness from our lives? Will our hearts be ready to receive Him? It's never too late to get straight with the Lord. Use the coming week to prepare the way for the Christ Child!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Advent is passing too quickly - it's nearly over! You will soon reach down and relate Yourself to us. Help me to be ready to reach up and relate myself to You. Help me use the next week to get prepared. Amen.