What did it mean for this prophet (John The Baptist) to 'clear the way' for the coming of Jesus? What was he actually telling the people they needed to do to get ready for the coming of The Messiah?
He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
John was teaching the people to repent. Once they heard him they confessed. When they confessed they would be baptized.
Repentance = turning away from one direction and turning to the correct direction. Specifically, folks had to turn from their sin. Not just admit that they had sinned but turn from it. It is not just words spoken it is words translated into actions. John wanted the people to clear the way for God by turning from their own ways.
For John to know they had repented, the people had to acknowledge they had done so. This acknowledgement is called confession. Just as in a courtroom, it is letting others know the truth about yourself and your situation.
The combination of repentance and confession implies a certain attitude: remorse. Not just 'I did it' but 'I did it, am sorry for it, and don't want to do it again'. Not just 'you caught me red-handed' but 'I want to be changed so I don't do this again'.
It is clear that John's message was heard by the great numbers that must have come to hear him and respond. He was an effective witness. He called for them to repent and many did. He knew this by their confession. Finally, he baptized people once they had confessed. Today, we baptize people once they have confessed as well. Baptism is to be immersed in water. At that time, it was a baptism of repentance...it showed physically what a person had done emotionally and spiritually.
Repentance, Confession, Baptism. This man in the wilderness was asking people to get ready. It is good advice today as well...