The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 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.’”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 1:1-8 (ESV)
There is a great deal of symbolism related to our Lord’s life. For example, Jesus goes down into Egypt as an infant and the words of Hosea 11:1 are applied to Him: “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” But back in Hosea 11:1 we have a fuller sentence: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” How do these passages fit together? Well, Matthew 2:15 is making an identification between Israel and Jesus. We could say that Jesus is the faithful Israel who will do what Israel according to the flesh was called but failed to do. E.g., Israel was called to be light for the world. Jesus came and was the Light of the world.”
These sorts of connections are very common in the gospels. So, when we read that “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness” we might reasonably ask “Why in the wilderness?” Well, for one thing, this is what Isaiah prophesied. But that just pushes the question back to the Old Testament. We can still reasonably ask: “What in the wilderness?”
R. T. France writes:
The wilderness was a place of hope, of new beginnings. It was in the wilderness that Yahweh had met with Israel and made them into His people when they came out of Egypt. That had been the honeymoon period, before the relationship had become strained. ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to Yahweh, the first fruits of His harvest (Jeremiah 2:2-3).’ In the wilderness Israel experienced privation and danger, and learned through this testing period to trust in the provision and protection of their God; this the message of Moses’ great exhortation to Israel in the early chapters of Deuteronomy, summed up in Deuteronomy 8. So as the prophets looked back to the comparative purity of Israel’s wilderness beginnings, the hope grew that in the wilderness God’s people would again find their true destiny. ‘Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. … And there she shall answer as in the days of her you, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.’ (Hosea 2:14-15) The voice in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3-5) which introduces Isaiah’s great vision of restoration, is followed by the recurrent theme of a new Exodus, a new beginning in a wilderness transformed by the renewing power of Israel’s God.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 83
Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.