as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way
a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him. –Mark 1:2-3
Recently, I went for a walk in my woods at Shamayim Hill, taking the trail that loops through the southern half of the property. One of the features of that route is the need to make a considerable detour around the eroded gorge of our occasional stream. Having passed through that hairpin segment, I came to about the spot where the path would join up if it could head straight to the south. There, I found a hefty tree, apparently still alive, collapsed across the trail. I’d seen this before. A tree, emerging from rocky soil, would outgrow its root support and keel over. Clambering over the tree, I made a mental note. I’d need to come back here with a wagon and a chain saw to clear the way for mowing next summer.
Paths, it seems, require constant upkeep in order not to be swallowed back by the surrounding forest. A person can still navigate a difficult, overgrown path, but the going isn’t easy.
At the outset of John’s gospel, we hear the voice of Mark, quoting the voice of Isaiah, who looked forward to the person of John the Baptist, who stood as a voice in the wilderness calling others to clear the way for Jesus. Is that complicated enough for you? One of the glories of the Bible is that we needn’t simply take one writer’s word. Instead, we have Mark, whose words are buttressed by the actions of John the Baptist, whose action was predicted by Isaiah. The way has been prepared.
That’s not to say that all of the trail-clearing has been done already. You and I meet people each day who have not yet encountered Christ. Whether it is the older man in the bookstore, the cashier at Taco Bell, or the kid selling candy, we should pray that all the unbelievers we meet will have a clear path over which Jesus can approach.
Let’s be clear. Jesus will climb over downed trees and wade chigger-infested weeds to reach the object of his desires, but I would prefer to stand as a trail clearer for the unbeliever than as one who drops debris in the way, making the journey more difficult.
John the Baptist did his best to “prepare the way for the Lord,” but now the duty has fallen to today’s Christian. Let it not be said of us that we’ve become an obstacle.