As I recall my first—and only—mountain biking experience, a vivid picture is engraved in my mind. A group of high school students mounted our bikes and the guide provided a few safety tips to prepare us for the experience ahead. While I could appreciate his efforts, no safety tip could have prepared us for the foundation we were about to tread. Rocks and loose gravel disguised in a bed of covered leaves, pockets full of mud, and unexpected tree stumps protruding from the ground caused me to quickly realize I much prefer paved trails as opposed to rugged terrain that could potentially send me flying over the side of a mountain. As we completed the trail, some with bruised and bloodied knees, I questioned the logic of this whole experience knowing a little pavement would have made for a much smoother, more enjoyable ride. I remembered this lesson when I purchased a bike not long ago. Excited to ride on the surrounding trails, I quickly made note of only the ones described as paved! Based on my previous experience, I learned it was important to ride on a foundation I could trust.
In ancient times, the idea of paving the way was a common one. A king’s delegates would go before him to prepare the people of the land to welcome the king. Sometimes this required the forerunners to quite literally clear the roads on which the king would travel to ensure a smooth journey. Throughout the gospels, John the Baptist is described as a forerunner, the one who would, “…make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:17).” But John didn’t start by pouring concrete and creating smooth trails. He started by preaching a baptism of repentance. At this point, Jesus’ earthly ministry had not yet begun, but soon enough people would see and hear of his miraculous power and would ultimately know this King was not coming to rule and reign a nation, but to rule and reign in the hearts of repentant sinners. Jesus came not to rescue the people from the brutality of the Roman government but to rescue them from a much deeper issue—the cruelty and depravity of the human heart. John knew if the people were going to welcome the Messiah, they first had to acknowledge their sin and turn from their ways. John baptized those whose conduct was reflective of a transformed heart and a changed mind (Luke 1:7-8). This outward act was an external sign of an inward change, a heart acknowledging the need for forgiveness.
A week from today, churches across the country will fill their seats and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Some will, for the first time, hear of Christ—the Messiah—the One who came to deliver them from their sins and rule and reign in their hearts. They will hear of a King who came to die and be raised to life. The question is, will they be ready? Will they be ready to receive the ministry of Christ Jesus in their lives? To know the freedom of the cross, the eternal hope, the abundant grace, and the overwhelming joy of belonging to the King. And how have our lives prepared others to welcome Christ into theirs? Have they seen a genuine repentance? Have they seen a transformed heart? Is the ministry of Christ evident in our own lives?
Jesus laid for us a firm foundation, a foundation that can be trusted, one on which we can set our hope. His death on the cross paved the way, bridging the gap between the perfect King and sinful humanity. May our relationship with Christ reflect His greatness and prepare the way for others who are still searching and waiting to receive the King.