For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”
(Matthew 3:3 ESV)
As we learned in our introduction to Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience who would have been familiar with what we call the Old Testament. Matthew demonstrates how the events of Jesus’ life fulfill Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah. Today he applies a statement from the prophet Isaiah to John the Baptist [Isaiah 40:3-5].
Isaiah predicted that in the future (relative to Isaiah’s time) there would be one who would herald the coming of the Lord. The word “Lord” in Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament) is אֱלֹהִים (pronounced: ‘elohiym). This is the word Jews used for God. Matthew says that the voice is John the Baptist. The means he is also saying that “the Lord” is Jesus. Matthew is clearly equating Jesus with God here. This is more proof that early Christians believed that Jesus was God and that such a belief did not originate hundreds of years later as some mistakenly claim.
When kings went on a journey in ancient times they would send people ahead of them to make preparations and to herald their arrival. John the Baptist, who lived in the wilderness, performed a similar function. He came onto the scene to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival.
While the ancient forerunners of the king would prepare roads and accommodations, John prepared people’s hearts. As we read yesterday, John called people to repentance because the Messiah (who turned out to be Jesus) was arriving shortly. Jesus offers forgiveness of sins which is necessary for entering heaven.
But before one can experience forgiveness, one has to believe they need to be forgiven. They need to repent. They need to stop thinking they are good enough to enter heaven and instead believe that they are sinful and therefore ineligible for citizenship in heaven. Repentance is the preparation for receiving forgiveness.
The passage in Isaiah referenced by Matthew speaks of clearing a road of impediments that would prevent the king from arriving. In a similar, yet metaphorical way, each human being needs to clear their heart of anything that would impede them from accepting Jesus’ forgiveness.
Things like pride and materialism can, and will, prevent someone from receiving God’s forgiveness. Not because God won’t offer it. But because a person who is holding onto such things will not seek it. They are too tied to the things of this world and are therefore incapable of seeing the truth.
It is incumbent upon each person to make sure that doesn’t happen to himself/herself. We each need to prepare the way for Jesus to enter our lives. This entails recognizing that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. It also entails forsaking each and every world system (i.e. religion) that teaches that we don’t need such forgiveness. The only truth is the truth that Jesus Himself taught [John 14:6].
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