Read: Matthew 3:1-3, Isaiah 40:3-5, 61:1-4, 9:1-2
If you remember from Jesus’s birth account, John the Baptist was Jesus’s cousin, filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and set apart for the Lord. God called John the Baptist to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, a voice crying out “in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3-5).
When a king traveled through the wilderness or desert, workmen preceded him to clear the debris and smooth out the roads to make his trip easier. In the same way, God called John the Baptist to pave the road and clear the debris, to prepare the way for the Messiah, this new King who would bring salvation.
According to Isaiah 61:1-11 and Luke 4:17-20, Jesus has come to free us from captivity, to give sight to our blindness, and to bring good news to people like us who do not deserve it. Instead of ashes on our head, God bestows a beautiful identity in Christ. Instead of a faint spirit, we are given a garment of praise. In Jesus, we are clothed with garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness... not of our own making, but His very righteousness!
But how would John prepare the way for this type of salvation? What does it look like for John to clear the debris and prepare the way for King Jesus?
John’s road-paving message was one of repentance. “Repentance” is a word that has been hijacked by old-timey, fire-and-brimstone preachers, where it seems like every time you hear it, you have to be yelling it! REPENT! Some of us may think of repentance as a bad word or associate it with self-righteousnessness or judgment because of the way we have heard it used.
Simply put, repentance is the changing of your mind or the turning away from one thing to something else. Or in this metaphor, repentance is the clearing of the debris that keeps us from fully trusting the Lord! I like to think of repentance as losing the taste for muddy, polluted water, because we have tasted living water. We set aside all the things we have trusted in before because we have experienced Jesus’ all-satisfying salvation!
Repentance is not a one-time event, but a continual preparing of our hearts for the Lord. We are invited to continually clear out the debris that hinders His kingship in our lives. Let’s make repentance a normal practice as we “pave the road” for Jesus to be Lord of our life. And ultimately, lets “pave the road” of our hearts because this King is coming again!
1. If repentance is a functional “paving of the road” for Jesus to be Lord in your life, where do you need to repent? What is the "debris" in your life?
2. What is the lord of your life right now? A hint: reflect on the things you fall asleep thinking about, you wake up thinking about, and the things that cause you anxiety. Tell the Lord that you want Him and not those things to control you.
3. Read Isaiah 61:1-11. What part of the salvation seen is this passage do you struggle to believe is true? Why?