Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the Daily Challenges. Yesterday we read the story of how an elderly priest named Zechariah learned he’d be a father, and after doubting this news, found himself unable to speak until the child was born.  When the baby was finally born, he spoke some prophetic words about God’s plans for this child.

No, the child wasn’t Jesus.  It was John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin.  He was going to have a special role.

John would be a prophet who would prepare the way for Jesus. Years ago, the prophet Malachi had said in Malachi 4:5-6 that a preparatory figure would appear before the coming of the Lord, reminiscent of the old prophet Elijah. John was to give people the knowledge of salvation, a reminder that God was the only way they could be saved from sin ultimately, when they were more focused on salvation from their Roman oppressors in the immediate. John was to prepare them for Jesus by reminding them of what that salvation was all about—the remission of sins.

It’s easy to forget this.  We’d rather avoid believing anything is wrong with us.  It’s easier to think that something is wrong with others, or that our problems can be solved with hard work, more resources, innovation or some other human effort.  But John was there to remind everyone of the gloomy news that they were the problem.  GK Chesterton was once asked what the problem was with the world, and he answered, “I am”.  There is something wrong with us…and our world.  And we can’t solve it ourselves, all we can do is confess and repent, and seek forgiveness.

How would the forgiveness of sins be possible?  Through the mercy of God.  In Isaiah 60:1 God said, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Like the dawning of the sun, God was coming.  The coming of the Messiah would bring light to a dark world through the mercy of our loving God.

The final promise of peace mentioned at the end of verse 79 might have brought a sigh of relief to Jesus’ people, the Jews. Having suffered and struggled so much, the Jews longed for peace.

All this was coming, they had long believed, in a figure called the Messiah.  They’d had all kinds of signs through the years, with various prophets speaking God’s warnings and encouragement to hang in there.  A man like Zechariah knew all this, and had spent his life watching and waiting for this day.  Now, his own life was going to be a part of the final preparations, with his own son as the precursor to Jesus himself.  John was the one who would go before and warn people to repent, as their Lord was near.

John the Baptist had just arrived, and that meant the Messiah was coming next – John’s cousin Jesus.

Question: Who have you met who is like John the Baptist?  Who isn’t good news themselves, but reminds people that it’s coming?  Who has been the bearer of bad news?