Prepare the Way!

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”

as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
[John 1:19-28]


Léonard Gaultier, John the Baptist Testifies for Christ, c. 1576/1580, engraving, Rosenwald Collection.

It’s nearly time. One would imagine I’d become more serene as He gets closer. Instead, every mundane thing jars my senses, like saw on stone. Prepare the way! It’s all in motion now, inexorable as the stars rising, spinning on their wheel. God’s star is just under the horizon, almost ready to be revealed.

Prepare the way! The scribes recognize Isaiah in my words. They talk and talk about what he might have meant – the coming Messiah, the end of the Babylonian captivity, or some other event in his day. Have I got news for them! This isn’t academic.

This saw on stone drove me near-witless for twenty years. I wandered the desert alone, barely able to put two thoughts together, because this one kept crowding all others out: Prepare the way! God bade me hold my peace when I could hear even the rocks shouting for joy.  Now, here at Bethany, it’s my turn – and twenty years of words are flooding out, inexorable as the stars, spinning.

Others feel His impending presence too. They crowd me at the river bank, facing toward Jerusalem, pleading for more than I can give. Should they rejoice? Be afraid? Rise up against their oppressor? I can’t tell them much more than what I have already: Prepare your hearts.

The star is nearing. Heaven and Earth are about to touch.


“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Performed by the New Broadway Cast (2011)

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