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Building Roads

During college I came home each summer to find work. One year I was hired by the city public works department. One job involved repairing roads. The crew left early in the morning and looked for streets needing patch-work. We were especially busy before the Independence Day celebration, knowing the parade-route needed perfect conditions.

John the Baptist was a road builder for Jesus. He went before Him, preparing the roadway for His message.

road

Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection (cc)

Who are you?

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” (John 1:19)
An official delegation from the Temple asks John to reveal his identity. He was a puzzle. He did not conform. The officials wanted to know more about him. His unusual success required explanation.

Messianic expectations

He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” (John 1:20)
John understood there were Messianic speculations in the air, but he denies being him. The Baptist continually claims a subordinate position.

Bearing witness

“Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” (John 1:21-22)
John’s answers are short and direct. Did he dislike talking about himself? He came to bear witness about another.

The voice

John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ ” (John 1:23)
Clearing the way refers to preparing a road for the king through open and uneven territory. The highway needed to be smooth. John is a “roadbuilder” for One greater than he, someone coming to bring a fuller revelation.

John is a voice while Jesus is the Word. John’s function was to point people to Jesus.”

In need of cleansing

Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” (John 1:24-25)
Baptism was a ceremonial removal of worldly pollutants. In John’s case the practice was applied to Jews. Religious authorities were willing to accept that Gentiles were defiled and needed cleansing, but putting Jews in the same category was shameful. John preached repentance for Jews as well as Gentiles.

Not worthy

John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” (John 1:26-27)
John is clear that his baptism is not an end in itself. The purpose was pointing people to the Messiah. Of whom he was not worthy to remove His sandals.

Removing footwear was a slave’s responsibility, something disciples were not expected to perform. Disciples did numerous small services for their Rabbi in lieu of payment. A rabbinic saying declared, “Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his teacher except the loosing of his sandal-thong.” John selected the very task considered menial for disciples, and thought himself unworthy to perform it.

The place of John’s ministry

This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. (John 1:28)

The challenge

Humbly serve as a “roadbuilder” for Jesus. Make a way for Him to come into the lives of those around you by your life and witness. Everyone needs a clear roadway to Jesus.

In what ways are you building a roadway to Jesus? Share your comments below.

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