To understand Jesus statement, the Book of Malachi must be consulted. Jesus’ statement paraphrases the text from Malachi 3:1.
Here is the full text of Mal. 3:1:
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.Does this statement by the Supreme Being mean there is only one messenger of His covenant?
Certainly not. Moses in fact, was a messenger of the covenant. David was a messenger. Isaac was a messenger. Abraham was a messenger. Jeremiah was. Malachi is being a messenger as well, as he puts forth these verses. These messengers all came for those who sought out the Supreme Being during that time. In other words, for those who desire to return to God, the Supreme Being sends His messenger.
And what is the covenant? Some ecclesiastical teachers and their sectarian institutions say that the covenant was some kind of pact between Abraham and God pertaining to the coming of Jesus - that God was beholden to Abraham to deliver Jesus to save the Jews.
This is a preposterous conclusion - one drawn from political means by those wanting to attract followers.
Rather, the covenant is part of the relationship of loving service between the Supreme Being and those who are devoted to Him. The Supreme Being promises us that if we take a few steps toward Him - He will take many more towards us. God promises that if we rely upon Him and take shelter of Him, we will have nothing to fear. He promises us that we can depend upon Him for protection. If we re-develop our loving service relationship with Him, he will bring us back home to Him. This is His promise. This is His covenant to every living being who wants to return to His loving embrace.
This is confirmed by the Supreme Being in the Book of Malachi:
“But for you who revere My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Mal. 4:2)This is a clear statement. The Supreme Being was disappointed in many of the peoples of Israel who disobeyed (and offended) His previous messengers such as Moses and Abraham. They taught that anyone who reveres the Supreme Being's Holy Names, and learns to love the Supreme Being will be saved. They didn't have to wait in some kind of 'waiting room' (purgatory) for the coming of Jesus, nor do people today have to wait for a so-called second coming. A person can worship the Supreme Being and glorify His Holy Names done right now - and His covenant will be there - as these activities will bring us closer to Him.
The Scriptures as a whole clarify that in every age the Supreme Being sends His representatives to teach by example and words the true path of returning to Him. These messengers each carry with them the covenant of the relationship of loving service to the Supreme Being.
Those who interpret Jesus' above statement to mean that John prepared the way for Jesus simply do not understand the real covenant being discussed. So they distort the teachings of Jesus to suit their ecclesiastical positions within the hierarchy of their church and those whom they fool. They teach a false “surrender” to Jesus, and that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross will magically save people: They teach being saved through proclamation: that all they need to do is say, "I surrender to Jesus" and they are saved. This is hucksterism. This is cheating.
There is no magic path back to the Supreme Being by way of taking advantage of Jesus' suffering. Jesus himself spent years teaching to people. Why did he spend all that time teaching if we could simply be saved by his body's death on the cross?
Those teachings are what can save us - just as his teachings were able to save those students and disciples that followed him.
Note that in Mal 3:1 above, God says clearly that “the messenger of the covenant… will come.” From this we can see that the Supreme Being is saying that He sends His messengers to “prepare the way before Me.” From this we can understand that God utilizes His messengers to prepare us, by showing us how to re-develop our relationship with Him.
The words “the way” signify a path or road. “Before Me” indicate the path or road leading to the Supreme Being. Thus we can know the Supreme Being has set up a system where we can return to HIm - by following the teachings of His messengers.
These points are confirmed by God clearly in Mal. 2:7:
“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty.”How much clearer could this be? This statement clarifies that the Supreme Being indeed has had many messengers - priests. This is why "a priest" is mentioned. As Jesus also taught his disciples and then asked them to teach others, anyone who sincerely receives and applies the knowledge from God’s representative and messenger may pass on that message to others with devotion, thus becoming one of God's messengers.
The operators of God's statement are sincerity and application, meaning the message must be humbly received and applied it to ones life without tainting it with our own interpretations.
From Jesus’ paraphrasing of the Mal. 3:1, we can see that Jesus is referring to the same “way” that God was referring to, but this “way” is “before you” rather than “before Me” as is stated in Mal. 3:1. This confirms the meaning of the Supreme Being's statement that the “way” is the path back to our relationship with the Supreme Being.
What about the "reed swayed by the wind"? What does this mean?
Jesus is speaking of those teachers who bend their teachings to please others - in order to gain followers. This is a disease among those who seek to be honored and respected - and those who gain their positions among ecclesiastical institutions through appointment. These are not God's representatives. They are elected by people and thus represent only those who elect them.
John the Baptist was not such a person. He was God's representative, and didn't care if his teachings offended those around him or those institutions which sought to persecute him and eventually put him in jail and then murdered his body.
They did not go all the way out to the desert to see someone who was finely dressed, or someone who says a lot of mumbo jumbo. They went to the desert to hear from God's messenger: Someone who delivers the message of the Supreme Being: God’s covenant: The Supreme Being's promise to each of us that if we come to know Him and love Him with all our heart and soul and all of our being, we will return to Him, and He will give us full protection.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)