Many know about the life of Jesus Christ here on earth but few have taken time to study the preparations that took place before His coming. The first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ here on earth was not a last-minute preparation; it was planned before the creations. All the preparations done on earth for His coming is nothing compared to the preparations God made for His Son. The earth’s hopeful glimmer of His coming on earth is seen in the opening of the book of Genesis, when God speaks to the snake.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
Already God was revealing his plan to defeat Satan and offer salvation to the world through sending His son Jesus Christ here on earth. Throughout the Old Testament, God raised prophets who spoke about the coming of the Messiah. The animal sacrifices were a foreshadow of God’s redemption plan. God’s plan all along was to send his Son, Jesus-a perfect human being- to be the final and ultimate sacrifice.
Malachi closes with the following statement which was a prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. Malachi 4:5-6 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Malachi was speaking these words at skeptical times. He had a joyous burden and his heartbeat was that the Israelites would be stimulated towards loving and drawing closer to the Lord. The prophetic voices of the Old Testament became silent after the death of Malachi. The children of Israel found themselves growing bitter, discouraged and doubtful by the unfulfilled promises of God. It was at this time that four hundred years of God’s silence followed. To the Jews, the heavens seemed closed. Isolation and confusion grew among them. They had given up hope of ever realizing the coming of the Messiah.
The Old Testament closes with the Lord’s people under the Persian rule. Persia was the great world power that ruled over after their return from exile. There was very little interest in the Messiah and his coming. Religious, Synagogues and political parties were very few. The nation was in love with idolatry; they worshiped idols and the gods of the heathen.
During the years between the testaments, God had set the stage for the final era of salvation, an era of Good news for Jews and Gentiles alike. God’s plan for the Messiah was very much alive even with the silence. God had used the years of silence to prepare the perfect time and place for Jesus Christ’s arrival. It is clear that God brought about the perfect political and religious setting for the work of His Son.
The New Testament opens with the same people being greatly multiplied. Everything is completely different. Rome is now the world power and once again a king is on the throne. The king is not from the house of David but a descendant of Esau. The nation has great interest in the Messiah and they are looking for Him. There is a number of opposing political parties; the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essens and Zealots of which James and John were members. Opening the book of Matthew, there are Synagogues in almost every Jewish town and they are out to destroy every hint of idolatry
Luke 1:16- 17 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Luke commences his gospel precisely where Malachi left. He reveals a continuity of action from the closing of Malachi to the opening of the story about John the Baptist. The last words of the Old Testament speak of the coming of one who would prepare the way and that is exactly what Luke describes. His first chapter starts with an angelic announcement to Zechariah. His wife Elizabeth had no children and both of them were very old. Both would have a son who will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and will prepare the way of the Lord.
The wilderness experience
John the Baptist was not left out in this preparation story. His mission was clearly stipulated by both Prophet Malachi and Dr. Luke but the wilderness experience would be the path to follow. Luke 1:80 says, “John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.”
God drew John into the desert where He could speak to him. It is clear that his private world was under construction before he could begin his public ministry. The wilderness is characterized by hotness, dryness, loneliness, pain, isolation and suffering. John found himself in this environment and through it he learnt dependence on God. He had the privilege of hearing God more clearly and understanding the times and seasons. By the end of this experience, he was ready to introduce his generation to the Messiah.
During the silent years, Israelites had not seen a prophet. When John the Baptist came into the scene, the people were excited because the eagerly awaited age of the Messiah had come. John the Baptist spoke with boldness emphasizing that people must turn from their sins to God so that they would avoid punishment and experience God’s mercy and approval.
God breaks the silence
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
The time of our Lord’s Jesus birth was God’s appointed hour, the moment which God had been long preparing. Rome had power and a highway system linking all its provinces; these would be used to spread the message of the Lord. The Greeks imposed their culture and language on the world. As a result, the New Testament, which was written in Greek, could be read by the educated in all parts of the Mediterranean world. Law, order and stability were established providing peace for the early missionaries as they spread the gospel.
Luke 2: 6-7 while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The greatest event in history had just taken place. The world was set to receive the Messiah. Jesus Christ’s birth marked the end of the 400 years of silence. God paid dearly with the life of His Son. He came as a human being who lived on earth so that we could understand the love of God. He came as the final and ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross.
Jesus Christ starts His ministry at the age of 30 years. Apart from when he was 12 years, the bible is silent about the rest of his years. We are all left wondering about all of those years between the time Jesus was found in the Temple, and the beginnings of his public ministry.
Gordon MacDonald in his book, ‘Ordering Your Private World’ says, “There are thirty years of virtual silence before Jesus went public with His mission. Only when we are permitted audience with Christ in eternity will we fully understand the importance of those three decades. At best we can now conclude that they were a significant time of preparation. It is impressive to realize that there were thirty years of relative obscurity and privacy in preparation for three years of important activity. Just before Jesus assumed public ministry, He spent forty days in the wilderness communing with the Father.”
Little is said about what Jesus did from birth to the age of thirty but we do know that he lived and grew as a normal man, facing lives challenges and struggles. (Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.) It is undoubtedly clear that the silent 18 years of Christ’s early life served as a training ground for His forthcoming Ministry. He gained a solid understanding of the Judean people and culture. He developed harmoniously in his physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of life.