23 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.”
The previous verses show John the Baptist’s negative answers to theories about who he was. This verse shows his positive answer as to who he was.
23 He [John the Baptist] said,
John identified himself by quoting Isaiah 40:3. All four gospels attribute this quote to John. John’s citation implies that his audience knew Scripture and had hope for the coming of the Messiah.
John’s ministry was to proclaim the coming messianic kingdom. His baptism was to prepare them for that kingdom.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
John the Baptist chose the Jordanian wilderness for the area of his ministry. He wanted to separate himself and his message from the religious authorities in Jerusalem. In a different wilderness, the desert was a place where God had gathered His people from slavery in Egypt.
John implied here that he was nothing but a “voice” to speak for Someone else. John said in effect, “I am not the focus of my ministry.” His role was to prepare for the coming Messiah.
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
“Make straight the way” refers to preparation for the royal visit of a king. If a king were to come to a community, the inhabitants had to clear the roads of any obstacles. There were to be no rough roads for the royal chariot.
This statement means that the nation should prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The nation should remove any impediment that might undermine the Messiah’s coming to set up His kingdom. This was a declaration of national repentance. Everything that was not straight needed to be straightened out.
John went into the wilderness rather than the capitol city of Jerusalem to preach. The reason was that Israel as a nation was blind to truth. His call for the nation to be ready for the coming of the Messiah had to be made where people could be objective in their thinking.
as the prophet Isaiah said.”
The idea is as “Isaiah said” in 40:3.
Jesus is the Word but we are merely the voice.
Our role in life is to direct attention to Jesus, not to ourselves. It is easy to exaggerate our mission in ministry. John the Baptist did not inflate who he was or what God called him to do. We are merely a voice that speaks for Jesus (Lu 17:10). You can hear a voice but not see it. We must have a sense of our role before we can minister properly.
God has sent many people to the wilderness to prepare them for ministry. As the nation Israel was in a desert place, so many Christians are in a desert spiritually. We need to clear any obstacles that may hinder our ministry. Religious rivalry is a big problem even among evangelicals.