In the ancient kingdoms of the world it was common for a ruler to arrive in a city with shouts of proclamation, celebratory music, and much fanfare. Everyday activities would cease. As the destination city prepared, the people would line the streets. They would put their best foot forward. Their king was coming!
From our perspective, isn’t it somewhat odd that the preparations for the true and rightful King of the universe played out much differently? It was an obscure voice in the wilderness that announced Christ’s coming. John the Baptist, clothed not in the finest of linens but in camel’s hair, was the one sent to prepare the way before Christ the King.
Even from the moment of his birth announcement, John’s entire life was purposed with pointing to someone else.
Can you imagine receiving Zechariah and Elizabeth’s newborn announcement in the mail? “We have given birth to a son! However, Mary’s son is coming. And our little John is not even worthy of stooping down and untying His sandals!”
John’s entire existence was bound up in his calling to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17). Sent to wayward Israel, John was a prophet proclaiming to all, “The messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming!” (Malachi 3:1).
Unlike announcements preceding the arrival of earthly kings—namely, a city putting her best foot forward—the King of kings was preceded by an obscure wilderness dweller, who was calling people to lay bare all of their brokenness and neediness in the act of baptism.
Jesus was not paraded through crowded city streets with celebratory music. He was proclaimed from the wilderness, where John the Baptist called all to “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus did not arrive to make empires kneel in the face of His military wrath; He came to invite sinners to kneel in light of His loving grace, by the power of His Holy Spirit.
John was the servant of a greater King. We, too, are called to point beyond ourselves to the hope that is in Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that anyone can endure the day of His second coming. Who can stand when He appears? Only those covered in His blood and dressed in His righteousness. This is the entire purpose of our Christian life: to turn our hearts in repentance and prepare the way for the King.
Written by Matt Capps