At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for Him! The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.'”Luke 3:2-6
John the Baptist, or John the baptizer, is so called because of his principal role, that of baptizing. Baptism, or the application of water, was a rite well known to the Jews, and practiced when they admitted proselytes to their religion from paganism. Pagans or Gentiles were ceremonially unclean and had to be cleansed. The beginning of such a practice is hard to pin down. Some have tried to link it to the Mandaean ritual but unconvincingly. Others have argued it came from a baptism required for entry into the Qumran community but that too is conjecture. John’s work was to preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
What’s the meaning of baptism in that context? Repentence? Forgiveness?
Baptism is the sign of a fundamental life change; a complete reversal of direction. But John is applying Baptism to the Jews themselves. Now there is a switch. The call for them to be submerged completely under the water inferred radical like change and subjugating to a new order. More even than a circumcision of the heart. Humiliating for a Jew to undergo. To submit to this baptism inferred you agreed that you were indeed a sinner in need of a major heart change or more accurately a major change of mind set. This was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Repentance signified a change of mind and life direction. This was the prerequisite for baptism which the outward sign of the change needed to enable the recipient to receive forgiveness of sin.
How do you prepare the way for Messiah’s coming? What has to happen?
This equates with the concept of preparing the road over which a king would journey. In the ancient world the subjects prepared a smooth road for the king’s chariot to travel over. In this case this was a preparation for the spiritual King who was coming. It was clear to all that the voice in the wilderness would prepare the way for Messiah. In this preparation the subjects filled in the hollows and leveled the bumps and humps. They cleared the way for the coming of the King. In a similar way John was to prepare the way for the Messiah. In the mind of the Jews, these words were synonymous with the age to come; that is, the time of the coming of the Messiah. preparing the way for the Israelites, is in a spiritual sense true of the ministry of John. The Jews had the way prepared for them, for the reception of the Messiah when every humble soul had their expectation raised, their faith encouraged, and their heart filled with spiritual joy. Those who were proud and haughty were humbled.
Why the poetic language of valleys being filled and mountains leveled?
These were clearly the obstacles to the King’s journey. The troughs and humps etc. Of course these were the spiritual humps and hollows present in the lives of all Israel and us today. The Jews were living in a period of an absence of an appropriate, collective, spiritual response. Just as the herald went before the kings procession calling “make way for the king”, how much more so this Messianic king. Get your lives right in preparation for the Coming One.
John’s clothing of camel hair and the fact that he ate locusts was a call to austerity and a life of deprivation of the outer shell in order to get the inner life ready for the coming of Messiah. This coarse, rough clothing was common to the prophets. In such a garment we find Elijah clothed, 2 Kings 1:8. And as John had been called under the name of this prophet, Mal 4:5, whose spirit and qualifications he was to possess he took the same habit and lived in the same state of self-denial. His diet of locusts may either signify the insect called the locust, which still makes a part of the food in the land of Judea; or the top of a plant. Many eminent commentators are of the latter opinion; but the first is the most likely. It is most likely that the dried locusts, which are an article of food in many countries to the present day, were fried in the honey.
“Every mountain and hill” shall be brought low are those high things related to their own abilities, and the boast of their righteousness, their trust in themselves, their disdain and contempt of others, their loftiness and haughtiness. All these things would be brought down and made low in preparation for getting them ready spiritually for the coming of the Messiah.
“the crooked shall be made straight” refers to their crooked and deceitful ways and practices which need to be addressed so that they might walk in integrity and righteousness.
The future tenses can be taken as an imperative force. I.e. commands to see that such work is carried out in each individual.
How will all people see the salvation from God? What does that refer to?
“all flesh” is a quote directly from the Septuagint of Isa 40:5. The idea most likely refers to the fact that both the Jews and the Gentiles would be recipients of the salvation offered by the Messiah. It is for every group, not just the Jews. (see Psa 98:3; Isa 11:10, 49:6; 52:10; Luke 2:31, 2:32; Acts 13:47). But it is not likely to mean that every individual would receive salvation. That is universalism, which was not intended here. The way for everyone to receive this salvation through repentance which leads to baptism which results in salvation.
Every accomplishment begins with the decision to TRY! a journey of 1000 miles begins with ONE step!Rick Godwin
Forgiveness does not mean approval. You aren’t endorsing misbehaviour.Max Lucado
The Walls Of Self-Protection Must Be Torn Down If We Are To Ever Experience The Joy Of Being Protected.Robb Thompson
Before you tell me how you like to teach/preach, show me how you live/give.Cory Booker