The Life and Ministry of Jesus is placed in a very specific historical context. Luke, with the meticulous eye of a physician and careful recording of a historian, writes:
“The word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. This was during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor, when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee, and his brother Philip ruled over Iturea and Traconitis. Lysanias ruled over Abilene.”
Annas, Caiaphas, Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias. That’s seven distinct historical figures, political and religious leaders, that Luke mentions are in power when John the Baptist begins his ministry and shortly after, Jesus begins His as well. We’re told that Jesus is around thirty at this time.
If this were a scene from Law and Order, Cold Case, CSI or NCIS, the defense would be presenting a very strong case for the reliability of the Story of Jesus. Eyewitness testimony. Meticulous detail. Historical record.
Our confidence should be strengthened that the story we have been given, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is reliable and true. Our faith has a firm footing, an unshakeable foundation.
Concerning John the Baptist, Isaiah wrote:
“Listen! Someone is shouting. “Clear a path in the wilderness, for the Lord your God is coming. Fill the valleys and flatten the mountains. Straighten the curves and smooth the rough places. The glory of the Lord will appear for all to see. God has spoken. It will surely come to pass.”
And Malachi wrote:
“See, I will send My messenger to prepare the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will come to His temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is surely coming, says the Lord of Hosts.”
I love the picture Isaiah paints of the role of John the Baptist. “Clear a path, fill the valleys, flatten the mountains, straighten the curves, smooth the rough places.” Do all that you can to remove any obstacles that stand in the way of people seeing Jesus for who He is and being able to place their faith in Him. I’ve always known that John was sent to “prepare the way,” but reading Isaiah’s words in the full context gives me a much stronger picture of what preparing the way actually looks like. John was sent to clear the path, removing any obstacles he could.
Luke’s writing as a first-rate historian helps to remove obstacles. By giving “an orderly account” Luke strengthens the argument that the Gospel is historical fact.
Many Christians, by the way they live or the words they speak, create obstacles for the Gospel rather than removing them. Am I creating obstacles or removing them?
In what ways is God asking me to “clear a path, fill the valleys, flatten the mountains, straighten the curves and smooth the rough places” to prepare the way for the Gospel in people’s lives? Through my life, my testimony and my words, how can I prepare the way for the Gospel?
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