Prepare the Way
Historical setting A.D.28.
History – names, dates and places may interest you or remind you of boring school days and wondering what the relevance of it all is. Here we have Luke setting the time and place with great accuracy as a typical Greek historian. Luke lists all the power figures of the area, 2 Roman and 2 of Herod's family (Tetrarch means quarter ruler). The area we would know as Israel was divided into four administrative areas as mentioned by Luke. So why all this detail described by Luke?
Luke starts his Gospel in chapter 1 speaking of eyewitness accounts and of writing an orderly account. He is writing to ‘most excellent Theophilus', that he may have certainty concerning the things he has been taught. The term ‘most excellent' is used to communicate with two different judges in the book of Acts (see Acts 24 v 3 and 26 v 25) and the book of Acts is again written to Theophilus. It is believed that Theophilus was the judge who had been picked to preside over Paul's trial before Caesar's court in Rome. Therefore accuracy of the facts was important.
Scepticism is so rampant in this day and age, but certainty of the facts of God's Word is assured. Are you still uncertain and doubting as in James 1? Then ask the Lord, without doubting, for wisdom as mentioned in those verses.
The Word of God came to John in the wilderness; this description designates him as a prophet like the Old Testament prophets. This amazing event brings to an end the silence of the proclaimed word since the last prophet Malachi in about 460 B.C. (note I still use B.C. – Before Christ – and not the modern B.C.E. – Before Common Era which is used to get away from mentioning Christianity and Christ as Lord, A.D.)
Prophecy is fulfilled; Isaiah 40 v 3 – 5 describes the coming of God's salvation for all mankind not just Israel. The ministry of John and his baptism of repentance is speedily bringing in the long awaited Messiah.
God still speaks to people in the wilderness, in that quiet secluded place away from distraction where we can seek his presence. Sometimes we feel God is distant and we seem unable to hear, but God desires for us to seek his presence even closer.
John proclaimed a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. He preached the good news to the people, which is a change from the Old Testament prophets, with their message of judgement. John is the first preacher of the good news of the Kingdom of God. Part of his message; “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance”, shows there is always growth in the outworking of God's Kingdom.
Jesus came to John to be baptised, not for repentance and forgiveness of his sins because as the sinless Son of God he didn't need to. Jesus submits to John's baptism to identify with Israel's sin foreshadowing the judgement he will endure at the cross, the judgement for all flesh v 6.
Jesus affirmation comes from heaven when the Father opens heaven and declares “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus confirming John's words about Jesus baptising with “the Holy Spirit and fire” We likewise can be baptised in water and the Holy Spirit and be welcomed into the Kingdom of God through Jesus' sacrifice.