Preparation for Jesus
January 4 2001 by

Preparation for Jesus | Thursday, Jan. 4, 2001

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2001

Preparation for Jesus

By William (Mac) McElrath

During the holidays just past, did you hear stirring melodies from Handel's Messiah? How fitting that this great portrayal in music of the life and ministry of Jesus begins with prophetic verses from Isaiah 40. In Luke 3, the account of John's preparation for Jesus also begins with verses quoted from Isaiah 40.

Fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 3:1-2, 4-6) Some of the world's great religions had their beginnings so far back in the mists of time that no one really knows when and where they got their start. Followers of such religions may believe that historical specifics aren't very important in matters of belief.

Not so the Christian faith. At a precise point in time, at a specific place on planet earth, the word of God came to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.

Furthermore, this time-and-place event had been predicted long before in the words of God's prophet: John the Baptist was "a voice crying in the wilderness."

According to human kinship, John was a relative of Jesus. According to divine purpose, John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus.

Call for repentance (Luke 3:3, 7-9) John's message echoed like thunder in the desert: "Repent! Turn from your evil ways! So you are descendants of Father Abraham? So what? God can take these desert stones and raise up new descendants of Abraham. Show the fruits of repentance, the proofs of a changed life, or you will be cut off, root and branch!"

Religious leaders of John's time made much of outward observances. John the Baptist said that an inward turning is much more important. Such a turning involves change and reassessment of priorities. Repentance means turning from sin; faith means turning to God. No wonder "repentance and faith" have been linked in gospel proclamation for these 2,000 years!

Demand for ethical living (Luke 3:10-14) Some sermons stop short of practical application. John the Baptist didn't make that mistake.

Anyone who has a change of clothing or a bit of extra food might be tempted to keep it for his or her own future need, rather than giving it away (vv. 10-11). John said, "Stop doing that!"

Tax collectors (publicans) of John's time were notorious for collecting extra money and then pocketing it (vv. 12-13). John said, "Stop doing that!"

Through the centuries soldiers have often been tempted to gripe about their pay, and also to use their military might to gratify personal desires (v. 14). John said, "Stop doing that!"

Announcement of the Coming One (Luke 3:15-17)> John the Baptist was such a powerful preacher of repentance that some folks thought he must be the Christ, the Messiah God had promised to send. Quickly John told them he was not.

"Compared to the Coming One," John said, "I am no more than a servant who takes sandals off dusty feet."

Gottlob Bruckner was a stubborn Saxon who, by a strange turn of events, became a missionary of British Baptists in the early 1800s on the island of Java, heartland of today's Indonesia. Through four decades of heartbreaking toil, he suffered the loss of five of his eight children, opposition by colonial powers, and such lack of response to the gospel that the sending agency tried again and again to move him to a more fruitful field.

Through it all Bruckner kept on keeping on. Late in life he began to see the first flickers of light. A few dozen Javanese came to Christ as a result of his labors in putting the word of God into their own heart-language. Younger missionaries arrived from Holland to carry on his work; one of them produced a better Bible translation than Bruckner's pioneering attempt.

On Java today there are hundreds of thousands of Christians - more than in any other place on earth where Islam is the strong majority religion. These Indonesian believers have been standing firm in recent weeks in a fiery furnace of persecution. And all of this came to be because nearly 200 years ago a stubborn Saxon was sent to prepare the way.

Bruckner the Baptist was like John the Baptist many centuries before: Both of them prepared the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

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