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If a royal visit is to take place, all necessary preparations have to be made. Not to prepare adequately would be to dishonour the visitor. The same was true in the ancient world. Indeed, for the arrival of some great dignitary a road might even have to be constructed. What if the Coming One is God himself? We turn now to consider Luke 3:1-6 Preparing the way
1. Located in history
For some 30 years the Messiah has been developing and maturing in private. Our only glimpse is his visit to the temple at age 12 (2:41-52). No longer will that be the case. With the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist, the arrival of the Messiah becomes public. Events are firmly located in history (v1-2), probably around AD 25-26. All the significant secular and religious leaders are listed. The events of the ministries of John and Jesus take place on the stage of world history – this is not hearsay, much less myth or legend. Note:
(i). Luke is a fine historian. Where his information can be tested, he always passes the test – note ‘carefully investigated’ (1:3). The proven reliability of Acts gives us confidence in his Gospel record. Christians need have no fear when historical evidence regarding the Bible is investigated. We are dealing with real events, God’s work in history.
(ii). God is a sovereign God. He has prepared for this moment from eternity. His plan has unfolded through the centuries, including the fate of nations and the lives of individuals. All is now ready, and the actions of the people listed here are under his direction – they do ‘what your power and will decided beforehand should happen’ (Acts 4:28)
2. Preaching a baptism
In this prepared setting, the Lord moves – ‘the word of the Lord came to John’ (v2). This is John’s call to be a prophet of the Lord. The voice of prophecy, silent for 400 years is again heard from Zechariah, Simeon, Anna and especially John – the Messiah is about to be revealed. These are the ‘last days’ (Hebrews 1:2), the definitive time of salvation.
The word is central to John’s ministry – baptism follows from it. It is a word that demands a response. His baptism (v3) is a radical message, calling Jews as well as Gentiles, shocking Jews who may well have thought they did not need this. All need the Messiah’s work. The core issue is repentance, sorrow for sins as an offence against God, leading to forgiveness. Baptism is the outward sign of an inner change effected by God’s grace.
3. Calling in the desert
John, as the last of the OT prophets, announces the fulfilment of prophecy in his ministry. He quotes in v4 from Isaiah 40:3-5. John is ‘the voice’, 700 years after Isaiah wrote. Isaiah’s call to prepare for the Lord to deliver his people from exile foreshadows the Messiah’s coming to deliver from sin (v6). All obstacles will be removed, as roads are prepared for an important visitor (v5). Note ‘all mankind’ (v6) – there is a universality in the Good News. The work of the Messiah is for sinners of all kinds – words full of hope for needy sinners.