As I read through Matthew Ch. 3, a few points stand out, and a few questions arise:
First, I notice that decades have passed since the events of Matthew 2, and I always wonder: What was Jesus’ childhood like? The only real hint we’re given is in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”, and through an event when he was 12 and sitting and discussing things with religious teachers in the temple (also in Luke 2).
In Matthew, however, we pick up the story when He’s an adult. John the Baptist (remember Luke 1–John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, who was himself miraculous when born to Zachariah and Elizabeth) is baptizing people encouraging them to ‘repent’ because ‘The kingdom of heaven’ is near. In this way, he was fulfilling prophecy found in Isaiah in which one would come encouraging the people to “Prepare the way for the Lord”.
Matthew records it like this:
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Matthew 3:1-6)
Repentance is a HUGE part of ‘preparing the way’ for the Lord.
In fact, I’d even say that IF we are unwilling to ‘repent’, we are not actually interested in the Lord at all.
Repentance is, in essence, to turn around and go the Lord’s way. It involves conviction of my own sin, and my willingness to turn to Him and follow a new direction. Repentance is part of ‘preparing the way of the Lord’ in my heart.
Like a gardener ‘prepares the soil’ before planting, repentance is like ‘preparing the soil of my heart’ for the Lord to plant Himself and begin producing a new life of faith.
John knew the time he was coming to. He knew it was time for Jesus to step forth…so he began to do what God prepared him to do: to be ‘the Voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord!’. John called the people to repent and ‘prepare their hearts for what (or more accurately WHO) was coming.
His call drew many who were hungry and thirsty for the Lord, many who knew they were ‘on the outs’ with God and wanted to get back. It also drew Pharisees and Sadducees…but that’s another lesson.
In the meantime, what can WE do?
We can ‘prepare the way for the Lord’ by repenting of our own sin, and preparing our hearts for whatever He wants to do within us.