In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
In four sentences or six verses, Matthew conveys a lot to his readers about just who John the Baptist is, and the significance of his arrival would mean to the people. Harking back to the prophets of old, John quotes Isaiah 40 and even lives it out as he returns from the wilderness. Even what he wore mattered, more than its unattractive look, the prophet Elijah came to mind. This prophet’s significance to the people of Israel, introduced in I Kings as he performed miracles and called again for the people to return to the Lord. That history mattered. For John to draw upon it and speak of a chance, even if they didn’t listen before to these prophets, they could now. He called them to prepare the way, to confess and recommit their lives through baptism. Many listened and the way was prepared as he pointed to Jesus the Christ to arrive next.
In this season of Advent, how do we hear such words of preparation? Are we judging the messenger and therefore, stopping our ears? While what John wore, was for him a sign of repentance and utilitarian, are we also willing to give up comfort or ornamental parts of our lives to re-focus on Christ? Are we allowing our preparation to truly sink in and permeate our hearts?
Gracious Lord, we seek your will and your eyes to truly see one another’s hearts. To hear the words of the prophets of old and present, as wisdom to be your disciples and live fully repentant lives. May we draw closer to you in this season by quieting distractions and truly listening. Speak to us again, O Lord.