John the Baptist was the forerunner of the promised Messiah, a prophet sent by God to prepare the hearts of people:
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)
John’s message was that the glory of God would be revealed, but first there must be a leveling so that only God’s truth will prevail:
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
The Apostle Paul puts the ministry of John the Baptist in context:
“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, `I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, `What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’
“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.” (Acts 13:14b-26)
Today, we still need John the Baptist’s ministry. We still need his message. His message was not just for the descendants of Abraham. His message is for all who fear God. Yet, his message alone is not enough. Salvation is only completed in the person and ministry of Jesus the Christ.
How do we receive Jesus and His ministry? We must repent. There must be a leveling. We are not all important. We are not the center. Our center is Jesus. He is the one who bore our sins upon the cross and paid the ultimate punishment for our disobedience against God. We must die to ourselves and be raised up in Christ as a new creation. We experience this death through repentance – the message and ministry of John. We are raised up through forgiveness, deliverance and healing – the message and ministry of Jesus.