22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
JOHN 1: 22-23
22 εἶπαν οὖν αὐτῷ· Τίς εἶ; ἵνα ἀπόκρισιν δῶμεν τοῖς πέμψασιν ἡμᾶς· τί λέγεις περὶ σεαυτοῦ; 23 ἔφη· Ἐγὼ φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ· Εὐθύνατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, καθὼς εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας ὁ προφήτης.
JOHN 1: 22-23
The Baptist stood at the crossing roads of the Old to the New; he was the witness of what was to come. The temple was being abused by self-righteous leaders whose only concern was power and prestige. We see the different sects coming about led by the Pharisees, whose role was maintaining the past and accumulating wealth and position was their concern. Followed by the Sadducees, who were considered rationalists and cold-hearted, portrayed by their intellect. Sadduceeism is a reaction against Phariseeism in every age. Rationalism is a dry, critical, antagonistic spirit that protests against all that cannot be proved-their religion of the intellect. Then there are the Essenes, who bore neither formalism nor scepticism. Mystics who went out into the wilderness to find God in contemplation. Their creed “God must be felt,” their religion one of feeling and the Herodians, whose concern was more based within a political framework which turned aside from religious questions to those concerned man’s social and political existence.
John did not belong to any of these sects, and his position was geared towards the New Covenant anchored in Jesus Christ. How could he belong to those whose life was droned away in litanies and genuflections with his impatience of all that was unreal and his iron earnestness?
Nor does he associate himself with Sadducee negations, satisfied with their cold intellectualism and protests against superstition? Nor could he waste his life away with the Essenes. As for the Herodians—indeed, for one whose life was so real, a patriot’s life offered what was wanted. Nevertheless, John yearned not for civil liberty but a kingdom of God, and he loved humanity more than men and could find no career in mere politics. It is only in consideration of such circumstances that John’s peculiar life becomes intelligible.
He was called in preparation for the one who would reveal the New Beginning. He had thirty years’ preparation dedicated to one year’s work.
In his book, Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator: St. John, vol. 1, writes,
“In the wilderness, he measured society’s worth with conventionality and parties. No one sees how the battle goes while he is in it; no one ever understood the world except by getting out of it; The Spirit of God passed into life and action in Him and made Him intensely real. Only real men can deal with real questions, and the fundamental questions of today are not the frivolous ones discussed in religious journals, but what is God and where. What is human life? Whither are we tending? “
John role was to the way for Christ, and he calls himself a voice: an articulate expression. Four centuries had passed, and no one could speak the word “Repent” if the kingdom of God was to come. Regenerated society comes not from regenerated institutions, but regenerated hearts produce both. Nevertheless, none till John had found the tongue to express this. He spoke out what the world wanted. Distinguish between eloquence and fluency. Fluency John had not: short, sharp, and decisive words were his. No ornament or trick of oratory there. Let us not covet fluency but eloquence, the gift of speaking the right thing in the right way at the right time.
John makes it clear who he is and directly refers to what the questioner asked. He answered in a manner that was without contention.
23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”.
Hence, this is precisely what Isaiah’s prophecized, and when John accentuated it, he knew that the Divine visitation was near. As Isaiah made known for what was to come, John’s reply did the same. He made it clear that he was ‘making way for the Lord.” He was to confront all those, especially the pit of vipers whose selfish contention of being the rule and basis of spiritual righteousness was embedded within their reasoning, was to be torn down and rebuilt in three days.
Was Christ a surprise to the world? It was an expectation, not according to what they had presumed. As Isaiah revealed, God prepares the world for this by the ministry of the Baptist. The world has now become accustomed to the story of redemption. However, these Jewish leaders wondered if their roles would cease to exist or if the new King would remove them all. There is definite apprehension, as with redemption comes judgement. How much they lacked in knowledge of the sole purpose of the coming King.
The Baptist was the messenger, and his role was fixed. He did not hold any authority or elective position in the scheme of things. What exactly were the Jews hoping to uncover. Were they hoping to verify the prophecy by confronting the messenger? Ironically, it is the very message of The Baptist that reveals the Truth.
As Christians today, whether we preach, evangelize, teach or our simple life’s, we are a mirror to personify the glory of God. Our life is grounded in scripture, and when we read scripture, God speaks and it is that essence of his word we are called to follow. His word reveals the boundaries we live by. Not to restrict us but to free us with the conscious knowledge that we are safe. We cannot redefine those boundaries to fit our needs or desires. Simple decisions to set aside always leads to a further demarcation of His boundaries, which ultimately leaves alone without any safeguards.
We hear but never listen, we read but never understand, and we act without accountability. As The Baptist was the voice calling in the desert, that echo continues to ring clear today. The role of John The Baptist continues to scream loud and clear today. His role continues to remind us that we are to take heed and repent and change our lives. It is a slow process, and the Holy Spirit is there to carry you through. That is the nature of our faith, to realize we are and have never been able to do what is right in the eyes of God and put our faith and trust in God Himself.
God gives us a New Beginning and washes away our sins by paying the ultimate price for our sins. He then sends the Holy Spirit to embrace His divine love and become enriched and be able to express that divine love ourselves. God dwells in us. How can we fail?
The first step is to heed that cry in the desert and turn to our Lord.