This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Matthew 3:3
Matthew testifies about John the Baptist, tying his (then) contemporary life to old testament prophecy. The Jewish leaders (and people) of John’s day were familiar with Isaiah and this prophecy: that a man, like the prophet Elijah, would come to Israel ahead of the arrival of the Messiah. They were well-aware that John had, in his eccentric ministry, drawn the attention, praise, and following of thousands of devout Jews. They were well-aware that acknowledging John as the one foretold to herald the Messiah would mean that the Messiah had arrived…and that they were rejecting him.
So, in his account of Jesus’ life, Matthew clearly establishes this link between (then) modern day John the Baptist and words of the revered prophet, Isaiah, from centuries earlier. He does it to leave no doubt about who Jesus is by establishing the proof about who John was. Why does it matter today?
Open your eyes, my friend. The powers-that-be in the world still deny who Jesus is. Jews still deny Jesus is the Messiah. Most of the world – 7 of the 8 billion humans alive here on the Third Rock – deny Jesus is the Messiah. Most people on this planet deny, reject, or ignore the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth the same as they did when John testified about Him.
Testify: that’s a word we like to use. If someone testifies in a trial, generally, their testimony is considered to be authoritative. Here, we have an account, from a first-hand friend of Jesus about a first-hand relation of Jesus, written in a time when there were still hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who knew or remembered one or the both of them (Jesus and John). Matthew testifies about John the Baptist, corroborating ancient prophecies about him. He did this because he (and John) both testify about Jesus being God Immanuel. That’s accurate testimony.
So what? Here, pay attention to what Isaiah said John would do: “make straight paths for him.” John would clear the road, so that Jesus could walk down the middle of it. That road was the path to peoples’ hearts. Hundreds of people had gone into the wilderness of Judea to hear the wild-man preacher talk about repenting from sin, and rebuke those who refused. John talked about the Messiah, and about who He would be, and about how He would attack sin where it lived; how He would harvest a crop of believers. It was John the Baptist’s job to prepare the people who followed him to get ready to follow one far greater. His whole, prophesied life was lived to testify about this.
For more reading: Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Luke 1:76, John 1:33, Matthew 3:4
Lord, bless the life of John the Baptist. Thank You for all he did in Your service.