Paul Brightey (East Mains, East Kilbride)
Definition: someone in the forefront of a campaign, crusade, or movement.
“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” — “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
We will all be aware that the life of John the Baptist, centres on his role as the one who was foretold to be the “herald” of Jesus, the “torchbearer” – preparing the people to receive the Messiah.”
In Luke 1:76 the role of John is identified ….
“…thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways”
and in Luke 1:77
“To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.”
Mark’s uses of the words of Malachi & Isaiah to identify John the Baptist as the foretold messenger. Mark 1: 2 is taken from Malachai 3:1 and Mark 1: 3 is from Isaiah 40:3. Mark is reminding the reader of prophesy that will be already familiar to the people of that time.
Into an environment in ancient Palestine where the people of Israel were desperate for God to free them from Roman occupation, John comes, calling people to repentance and to a moral cleansing in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, who will be not merely a political saviour but the very Son of God.
Complimenting Mark, as we read in John’s gospel (John 1:23), John the Baptist announces that he is the forerunner of the Messiah, by saying, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the LORD’”.
Indeed, so does Jesus Himself in Matt. 11:10 –
This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.
John the Baptist fulfilled the Prophecy of the description of the Messenger, he Appeared in the Wilderness, he preached in the wilderness, and he Prepared the People by Preaching a Baptism of Repentance John’s message and baptism were preparation so that the people would be ready to meet and trust the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
This required repentance on their part, that is, by God’s grace and power to effect a complete change of mind and heart leading to a complete turnabout of life.
Just as John understood his role as the one who prepared the way for Jesus, we are inspired by his example. As lay preachers, each of us is a torchbearer for Jesus in this time – we have the task of taking the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus, to a country, a people, who have lost their way, who are enslaved, not by an occupying army, but by sin. The parallels are plain for all of us to see.
We serve the Lord. And we serve Him in Witness, as his Torchbearers.