John the Prophet—Preparing the Way for Jesus
God has always used special messengers to inform people of His will. Sometimes these messengers were angels, such as the angel who visited Mary to tell her of Jesus’ upcoming birth. Most of the time, however, God chose men called prophets to announce His message. These prophets delivered all kinds of messages to all kinds of people, but one message was more important than all the rest—the coming and purpose of Jesus, the Son of God. The Lord picked John, a relative of Jesus, to be the one who prepared the world for the Messiah.
The Jewish people had been living under the Law of Moses for nearly 1,500 years, and so introducing them to a new law and a new way was very important. Those who studied the Old Testament knew that a messenger would come before the Messiah (Jesus) to introduce Him. More than seven hundred years before John was born, Isaiah prophesied that the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” would be heard, and that voice would say: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (40:3,5). Do you remember the location from which John preached? It was in the “wilderness of Judea”—just like Isaiah predicted (Matthew 3:1)!
John’s purpose was to prepare the Jewish people for Christ’s arrival. He did this by preaching repentance, and by baptizing people; both of these were also important elements in Jesus’ ministry. Because of John’s work in the wilderness, it was less difficult for the people of Judea to follow Jesus. John had prepared them for His coming! After Jesus began His ministry, John told his disciples that his purpose had been served, and now Christ “must increase” but he “must decrease” (John 3:30). Several of the men who had followed John turned to Jesus (John 1:37).
John faded out of the picture, just as he predicted he would, and was eventually imprisoned and beheaded by his enemies (read Mark 6:14-29). We must never overlook John the baptizer, one of God’s greatest prophets and the forerunner of Christ.