And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Rev. Layne Kilbreath
Faith Christian Fellowship (Walnut Creek)
At the invitation of a locust-eating-camel-skin-wearing-desert-dweller, “the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem streams out for baptism in the Jordan River, the same river where John humbly baptized God the Son whose sandals he was unworthy to untie. This baptism was for the churchgoers of the day, for repentance and the forgiveness of sin. It was a cry to change their hearts and minds and change their way of living.
Luke expands this story (3:1-22), emphasizing both God’s beaming approval of his Son and John’s particular in-your-face brand of challenge only a locust-eater could bring, a rant for a true repentance evidenced in everyday life. After baptism, the crowds ask: “What should we do?” John replies: “Anyone with two shirts, share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” In short, live as obediently as Jesus and turn around when you don’t!
Mark emphasizes the simple life-giving news on how to turn around and obediently follow Jesus. John says, “I baptize you with water, but he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Here, before the Spirit drenches those disciples at Pentecost and flows freely in the world, we’re reminded that we can never repent, turn around to live God’s way, and bear God’s fruit in our everyday lives without God’s help. God alone helps us share clothes, food, and forgiveness.
In this lent season, hear Jesus’ invitation of love through John’s challenging rant. Hear the Spirit’s invitation to rest in God’s love. Remember that God saved those who streamed into the desert from slavery before he gave them the laws they now broke. Remember the good news: Just like the churchgoers of that day, we’re invited out of slavery to walk in Jesus’ straight way, a particular path he’s already carved into the road for each of us.
Jesus, I accept your heartfelt invitation. Thank you for inviting me to walk with you.