How did God originally prepare the people of Jesus' day to receive his message? In Mark 1:1-8, Mark made it clear that God had a plan that had been prepared long before Jesus arrived. Mark quoted Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 to show that God's plan included a man who would speak from the wilderness a message that would ready the people for the entrance of Jesus and his good news. Apparently, these prophecies would have reminded the people of a king's messenger who went ahead of him to prepare roads for his arrival in another country (Hiebert 24-5). Everything was planned ahead of time just as God intended it to happen.
But who was this man whom Malachi and Isaiah prophesied would do this job? It was none other than John the Baptist. Just as had been planned, he prepared the people for Jesus' arrival by preaching in the wilderness. He told them that they could find forgiveness from God as they repented of their sins and were baptized. People from the surrounding area confessed their sins and were baptized despite the messenger's unorthodox looks. But even though he was so successful in reaching the hearts of the crowds, he was also a very humble preacher who considered himself unworthy to even untie the sandals of the coming Savior.
As I consider how successfully John the Baptist fulfilled God's plan, I can't help but see some applications for today. One of the first things I see is the need for repentance. Before people can understand the good news of Jesus, they need to understand their sinfulness from God's perspective and their need to turn from their sins. But how many people ever think of that? Unless someone is sent to tell them of their need, they will probably continue in the same direction not knowing their need for forgiveness or utter inability to find it except through Jesus. That's why God needs Christians to carry the message to other people. But who is worthy to carry this message to the world? Like John, none of us feels worthy of that calling. But God has still chosen to use unworthy people to present his message to others.
Are you willing to be God's messenger?