The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’ (Luke 1:4b)
The inspired Gospel writers Matthew, Mark and Luke all quote the above verse from Isaiah as a specific prediction of the work of John the Baptist. His work is summarized by the phrase, Prepare the way of the LORD. John the Baptist (henceforth in this writing “John”) prepared the way of the LORD both through the baptism God commissioned him to do, and through his preaching that the people needed to prepare the way of the LORD through repentance. John’s preaching of Law created contrition, and his baptism brought forgiveness.
Approximately 25 years ago—while I was outside the parsonage where I lived as a pastor— I was boldly approached by two Jehovah’s Witnesses. Members of this sect do not believe in the Trinity nor do they believe in the full deity of Jesus. After some small talk I invited them into the parsonage and I had them read Matthew’s introduction of John. I then simply asked, “Whose way was John the Baptist preparing?” Without hesitation they correctly answered, “Jesus’ way.” Then I asked if they knew what book of the Old Testament Matthew quoted. They again correctly answered, “Isaiah.” I then had them look up and read Isaiah 40:3 [NKJV]: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. I asked them who the “LORD” was in this verse, and again they correctly stated, “Jesus, the long awaited Messiah.”
Being aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses will never identify Jesus as Jehovah, I asked them why LORD was in all capital letters in this prophecy. They sheepishly replied, “When Lord is in all capitals it means the Hebrew for Lord in that place is Jehovah.” They knew they had been caught in a trap. I told them I admired them for their Biblical knowledge, but then I asked them the question they were dreading: “If John was preparing the way for Jehovah, doesn’t this mean Jesus is Jehovah?” They talked to each other, seeking an explanation, then they walked to the door and told me they would have to get back to me on this; they never did. I prayed this encounter would cause them to reexamine the deity of Jesus.
Indeed John was preparing the way for Jesus, who, being one with the Father and the Spirit, is Jehovah. As a further description of John’s preparation for the coming Christ, Isaiah immediately explains that preparing the way of the Lord is further described as preparing in the desert a highway for our God. Clearly the way of the LORD is the highway for our God. Jesus is Jehovah, God who has come in the flesh. His road is a desert. Isaiah appropriately labels our fallen world as a desert, a barren wilderness; there is no spiritual life existing in it, and death and decay surround us. This is also true of individual hearts. Isaiah would explain, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way [53:6a]? The heart of every individual since the Fall of Adam is a spiritual wasteland.
Now comes John. His preaching does not transform the desert-like condition of this world. It does, however, powerfully prepare the hearts of people to realize their need for the desert-treading Savior and His forgiveness. Their repentance showed they had come to realize their spiritually lifeless wilderness.
Now comes the LORD Jesus, whose way John prepared. He walks the way of the desert not only to create the forgiveness that John and the Old Testament priests were distributing, but He comes as God to transform the desert of this fallen world. He comes to change a desert into a lush, spring-like garden. He comes to restore men’s hearts and ultimately the Garden of Eden, returning them to their intended pristine design. And to accomplish this transformation, the LORD Christ would have to bear in His body the barrenness of this satanic world, the selfish emptiness of men’s hearts and the lifelessness of death itself. Having borne this curse in His body on the tree, He reversed the dry desert of sin, death and Satan. We now live by faith in this wondrous restoration, and ultimately we will realize by sight that in the footsteps of the resurrected Christ, there must be a blooming, abundant life in the world to come.