Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3 and Luke 3:4 all recount the same event.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’” [NASB]
This verse is an inaccurate/incomplete quote from the prophet Isaiah. (40:3-5)
“A voice rings out:
‘Clear in the desert
A road for the Lord!
Level in the wilderness
A highway for our God!
Let every valley be raised,
Every hill and mount made low.
Let the rugged ground become level
And the ridges become a plain.
The presence of the Lord shall appear,
And all flesh, as one, shall behold –
For the Lord himself has spoken'” [Jewish Publication Society]
Without regard of the differences in text this message is always associated with John the Baptist. But John the Baptist DIDN’T preach this. And Isaiah didn’t talk about baptism. John the Baptist preached baptism for forgiveness of sins which isn’t mentioned at all in the previous quotes.
Now I read in my Jewish Bible a great commentary that said that throughout history this text from Isaiah has always been perceived by the Jews as a metaphor that God would clear away all obstacles to salvation.
My next question is; What is salvation?
Before salvation humanity was perceived to be separate from God. Humanity attempted to connect with God through laws,rituals,sacrifices,etc. After Christ, those previous attempts (and that’s all they were) become utterly worthless. We now need to look at what Jesus taught. He was THE WAY to a relationship with God. HE was the one who actually fulfilled The prophecy in Isaiah of paving the way to salvation/communion/oneness with God. (John 14:6) Jesus said to him,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
In his daily actions and teachings Jesus, the Christ called out to humanity and cleared ALL obstacles to God – and that happened more than 2,000 years ago. Humanity has had that direct line and communion with God ever since then.
More than ever before the good news for humanity is that WE ARE ALREADY SAVED. WE ARE CONNECTED TO GOD. WE WERE SAVED BEFORE WE WERE BORN (because every single person alive today was born after Jesus, the Christ.) WE WERE SAVED BEFORE WE EVEN WERE TAUGHT THAT WE WEREN’T. Anyone born from now on is ALREADY SAVED. Now that IS good news!!!
Now the reason I think this is affiliated with John the Baptist is because at that particular time he was on the public scene before Jesus. He was already preaching and baptizing etc. He was going against Jewish tradition so naturally he was seen by the masses as the one removing all obstacles to salvation/communion/oneness with God. Baptism was outside the institutional realm at that time. But like all things in modern Christian religion John’s message and practice of baptism has BECOME the institution and therefore becomes the obstacle to salvation.
The failure of ALL religion, Judaism and Christianity included, is that religion continually reinvents the wheel by making salvation/connectedness/oneness to God something to be attained. Religion teaches that each person must remove the obstacles of salvation through, practices, rituals, behaviors, regulations etc. But this is wrong and anti-christian. Why? Because Jesus already did the work.
What does this mean for us now? When we view and understand that EVERYONE, (yes every single person including Hitler, Saddam Hussain – insert name of most hideous evil person you know) is already saved, even if they persist in their religious beliefs, or do evil, or are just plain jerks – it changes how we interact with them. This realization allows us to act with mercy, forgiveness, grace, peace and love. It allows patience, long-suffering and endurance and all the other fruits of the spirit.
The way of Christ and the true nature of his salvation will never be taught in religious institutions/organizations. It may be alluded to – but to practice it would mean the end of the institution. The Way of Christ can only be practiced and taught (through our daily actions at home, work, play) outside the realm of religion. Because it is about life, living and being – not religion. Of course when people ask us what’s changed that’s when we can tell them the good news.