We (generally speaking) all know the story of Jesus. To some of us, it is as familiar as our favorite chair or sofa. One thing I’ve notices in my life, however, is that I tend to take little bits and snippets of things Jesus says or does and I construct this kind of nebulous, indistinct picture of Christ. I often forget the lifetimes of preparation that God used to prepare the world for Jesus and that
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6, NIV).
Over the next several weeks I want to look at the life of Jesus in context leading up to Christ, His coming, the coming Kingdom and the triumphal reign of Jesus Christ.
The Law, The Prophets, and the Psalms are jam-packed with these things called “Messianic Prophecies.” These are things that God spoke at various times and places to His people promising this ruler, who would reign over all things. He would deliver Israel, right all the wrongs, restore the Creation to perfection, and would fully wipe away their sin. Through all the rebellion, the exiles, the ups and downs of Israel’s history, God always stood firm on His stance on sin and that it must be dealt with, but there was always this idea of a “remnant” that God would restore at just the right time—that He would dwell with them (Emmanuel) and would restore the relationship that had been splintered apart by sin.
Isaiah chapter forty speaks of what I guess you can call a “forerunner” to this “Messiah.” This is written over seven hundred years before it came to pass mind you,
“ A voice of one calling: ’In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD: make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Is. 40:3-5, NIV).
So who is this person who will come to “prepare the way” and announce the arrival of God Among Us?
Get in your time machine and go forward seven hundred and some years to an old man named Zechariah who is a priest. It’s his turn in the rotation to go into the temple and burn incense. He goes in, and God sends an angel, telling Him he was going to have a son and he was to name him John.
“He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17, NIV).
So this guy, who we come to know as John the Baptist, grows up and begins to preach about the coming Kingdom of God and the arrival of the Messiah. He says,
“This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me” (John 1:15, NIV).
That led a bunch of the high-up religious folk to ask him, “Who are you?” And he constantly said, I am not the Messiah, but rather I come to prepare the way. “One day, He saw Jesus and said this: Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
John the Baptist was an incredible person. He was sent to preach repentance and get people’s attention so that when Jesus came, their hearts would be ready. He was also a kind of weird fellow who lived in the wilderness, had shaggy hair, wore ragged animal skins and ate locusts and wild honey. John the Baptist was send ahead of Jesus, and if he hadn’t been, I’m not sure what would have happened. However, I do know that God has this EPIC plan that He’s been working out since before time began to wind. He saw that we would need a Savior, and He spent history preparing the world, using foreign kingdoms and kings to create a “at just the right time” moment that only God can craft. At that time, God launched His offensive against sin and death, and He used John the Baptist to get things started.
I want to challenge you this week to re-examine the story of God. Get back to the basics. Meditate with a thankful heart that we are no longer under law but under grace. It’s all part of the plan. Ask God to show you where you fit in to his story. Take it all in and “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Just something to think about. – Scott