Not only have I been struck again by John's humilty, and clear awareness of his own role in relation to Jesus - I have also grown through unpacking just what it was that John was called to do.When the Jewish people, especially those sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, ask John who he is, his answer is:
"The voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way for the Lord." (John 1:23)
Definitely a cryptic answer when viewed from a 21st century perspective - but no doubt many of those listening would recognise the quotation from Isaiah 40:3. John is stating that he is the forerunner to Christ, as prophesied long ago. John's job is to make straight the way for the Lord, to prepare the way for Jesus, to shout out in every way possible - "Get ready! Jesus is coming! Sort yourselves out!"
Getting ready is something we're used to in everyday life. Anyone else with young kids will confirm that getting ready to leave the house is a mammoth task in and of itself. Forget a spare nappy, or some snacks, or worst of all a stuffed elephant, and the day is pretty much a write off! While it takes soooo much time, it really is worth being ready!
The people of Israel were totally not ready for Jesus to come amongst them. John's role was to nudge, or rather, shove them into action. Luke fills in a few of the gaps about what John's 'get ready' role was to be (Luke 1:14-17).
- To turn people back to their God
- To turn the hearts of parents to their children
- To turn the disobedient to the righteous
- To give people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins
This grabs me most of all when I realise that John wasn't just an interesting, if not slight weird sideshow to the main event of Jesus. John, the prophetic preparation party for Jesus, was a significant part of the story, one foreseen by Isaiah a few hundred years earlier.
Jesus could surely have just rocked up and started moving and shaking (!), but instead he wanted his people to be ready, to be prepared, to be in the right frame of mind - and life - to get the message.
"Get ready" was a hugely important message for the people of Israel two thousand years ago. "Get ready" is a massively important message for me, for us, for followers of Jesus, and for the world in 2012 as well.
Am I ready?