Mark 1:1-3; Matthew 3:2-3; Luke 3:3-6 – John the Immerser Preparing the Way for the Lord

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POSTED 04 NOVEMBER, 2017

“The beginning of the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY [Malachi 3:1]; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, “MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT” [Isaiah 40:3]’” (Mark 1:1-3).

“‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’ [Isaiah 40:3] (Matthew 3:2-3).

“And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, “MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD’ [Isaiah 40:3-5] (Luke 3:3-6).

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

Early in the Synoptic Gospels (which for the Gospel of Mark includes its first statements), readers encounter the figure of John the Immerser or Baptist, who is portrayed as a prophet, after figures in the Tanach such as Elijah. That John the Immerser/Baptist, who dipped people in water as a sign of a new personal status for them and/or a new phase of history emerging, was to announce the imminent arrival of the Messiah, is something which proponents of either a high or low Christology should agree upon. The fact that Tanach prophecy is something directly quoted in Mark 1:1-3; Matthew 3:2-3; Luke 3:3-6—Isaiah 40:3-5 specifically—should grab our attention in determining whether anything significant is being communicated about the nature of the Messiah.

Translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text, Isaiah 40:3-5 reads,

“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”

The fullest quotation of Isaiah 40:3-5, in the three Synoptics, appears in the reference from Luke 3:3-6, and it is easy to deduce that Luke’s Gospel has employed the Greek Septuagint. As Isaiah 40:3-5 is translated from the LXX,

“A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare of the way of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and all the crooked ways shall become straight, and the rough place shall become plains. Then the glory of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God, because the Lord has spoken’” (NETS).

Isaiah 40:3 makes light of preparations being made for derekh YHWH or tēn hodon Kuriou. There is little doubting the fact that “a way for Yahweh” (New Jerusalem Bible) or “the way of HASHEM” (ATS) is being applied to the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah on the scene of history. There is no attempt by any of the Synoptics to modify Isaiah 40:3 along the lines of “Make ready the way of the Lord’s Messiah,” in which case a supernatural agent sent from Heaven, which could be a created being, would be enacting the expectations foretold by Isaiah 40:3-5. Instead, the LORD or YHWH of Isaiah 40:3 is directly invoked, intending to be read as John the Immerser/Baptist preparing the way for the arrival of YHWH/Adonai/HaShem. Such is an assertion of a high Christology of Yeshua the Messiah being God, integrated into the Divine Identity. As Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski concur in their book Putting Jesus in His Place,

“…Isaiah states repeatedly that God is coming to redeem, restore, and rule over his people (Isa. 40:9-11; 43:10-13; 59:15-20). Perhaps the most famous such statement in Isaiah is the following….{quotes Isaiah 40:3, NKJV}….The Synoptic Gospels quote this passage and apply it to John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord Jesus (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6). The New Testament teaching that Jesus is God…has significant precedent in Isaiah.”[1]


NOTES

[1] Bowman and Komoszewski, pp 137-138.