Several years ago I married two chefs from a local restaurant. For the rehearsal dinner, they prepared and served all the food in one delicious “small plate” after another. It was absolutely the BEST rehearsal dinner I have ever attended.
The preparation work to pull this off was impressive. Food was sourced, prepped, chopped, roasted, sauced, and ready. Place settings, chairs, napkins, and centerpieces were thoughtfully procured. Servers were recruited, wine was poured, and the show began. This seamless presentation was an indication of enormous prep work that took weeks to accomplish. All these years later, they run their restaurant with the same excellence of precision.
Nothing in our lives goes well without adequate prep work. Think of how your day is going; how much preparation went into it? We have all experienced what happens when we don’t prepare well. You wouldn’t take a trip, serve a meal, give a presentation at work, or sit down to take a test without adequate preparation. Otherwise, disaster happens.
In our scripture today, we see the work of a prophet who is attempting to prepare the people for what was to come. God sent John the Baptist to prepare the nation for the arrival of their long-awaited Messiah. They were about to see the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a savior right before their eyes. It would change everything they knew about God, the Law, and how to live.
Were they ready?
Luke 7:24:35 Common English Bible
24 After John’s messengers were gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind?25 What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who dress in fashionable clothes and live in luxury are in royal palaces.26 What did you go out to see? A prophet?
We can tell by Jesus’ questions that the people were very confused about what was happening. “What did you go out to see?” Jesus asks. John had garnered a reputation for being a bit wild, with his locust-and-honey eating, his camel’s hair clothing, and his forceful message of repentance. He was tasked with preparing the people for the judgment that was coming. The Messiah had arrived, and everyone would need to make a choice to follow him or die by the old ways. Failure to prepare properly would result in disaster.
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 He is the one of whom it’s written: Look, I’m sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you. 28 I tell you that no greater human being has ever been born than John. Yet whoever is least in God’s kingdom is greater than he.”
Jesus himself said a prophetic word here, which should have alerted the hearers to the imminent reversal of the status quo. The least will become the greatest, he warned, signaling a difference in how greatness is defined in the eyes of God compared to how humans define it.
We see this sentiment echoed in Luke 22 when the disciples argued about who among they would become the greatest:
Luke 22 (Common English Bible)
25 But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles rule over their subjects, and those in authority over them are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. 27 So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
So John the Baptist was sent as the one to prepare the people for the Great Reversal of everything they think they know about God. Get ready, he said, because your world is about to be completely turned upside down.
Did the people get it? Did they change their ways? Sadly, only a few did. Those who were John’s disciples and had been baptized by him understood what was about to happen as Jesus began his own ministry after his baptism. But most of Israel failed to heed John’s warnings, and they rejected his prophecies about the Messiah:
Luke 7 (Common English Bible)
29 Everyone who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged God’s justice because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and legal experts rejected God’s will for themselves because they hadn’t been baptized by John.
And their failure to prepare for the inevitable led to their downfall.
Where is God preparing you for something that is about to happen? Has he sent a prophetic word to you through someone? Are you are trying to ignore what they are saying? Does the daunting task of needing to change your ways stop you from listening?
God speaks to us every day. We are invited to get ready for what he is calling us to do, or fail to prepare at our peril.
Where is God calling you to change?