The first two parts of John's message are sin and the need for forgiveness, and the person of Jesus Christ. The third part is the work of Jesus Christ. The third and last part of John's message points to the work Jesus was coming to do, and that was to achieve our salvation. In Mark this is summarized by the contrast between John's preparatory work and the greater and more effective work to be done by Jesus. John says, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (v. 8).

The first part of John's message was sin and the need for forgiveness. The second part is the person of Jesus Christ. The first verse of the Gospel already has told us who he is. He is “the Son of God.” John tells what this means when he says, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (v. 7).

This is why John the Baptist is so important. John was what we would call a charismatic character. He was a prophet in the tradition of the great Jewish prophet Elijah, and he lived in the desert like a “holy man” or monastic, wearing rough clothing made of camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist. He ate the food of the desert, locusts and wild honey (v. 6). But John was not important because of his unusual appearance or charismatic personality. He was important for one thing only. He prepared the way for Jesus Christ.

Over the next few days everybody will be making final preparations for Christmas, and it is not exactly something we look forward to. At least I don't. I admire people who do it weeks or even months in advance, like people who have all their gifts purchased, wrapped, and even mailed by Thanksgiving. I do most of my shopping two weeks before Christmas. However, whether it is early or late, by the final night we will have made whatever preparation we are going to have made. After that it is too late. All we will be able to do is sit back in an exhausted state and “enjoy.”

And yet, having cleansed the temple, having driven the money changers out, having put them all outside of this great courtyard of the Gentiles where all of this trade was going on, faced down by the King of glory with all his authority as Jesus is standing there alone in the empty courtyard, what happens? All of the others are put out, but the blind come staggering in looking for Jesus, and the lame, and the people helping them to get them to Jesus, and also the children running around singing, “Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna to the King.” That’s a great, great illustration of what happens. When our Lord turns his back on one he turns it in order to open the door of the gospel to others.