My mother’s favorite Biblical character is John the Baptist. She goes right back to her memories of childhood Sunday school when she hears the description in Mark 1:1-8 of John “clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” He is the ferocious prophet in the New Testament who looks and sounds like the vigorous, loud prophets we know from the Old Testament. He even quotes an O.T. prophet: Isaiah. The Gospel of Mark starts with John, because he is predicting the coming of Jesus, who we first meet in Mark as an adult. John is in the wilderness baptizing the people who came to hear him preach, and who want a new beginning of life. He cries “Repent!” In the original Greek the word is “Metanoia” meaning to turn around or to change your thinking, to have a change of heart. My nephew Jaime, when he was little, and unhappy about something, used to cry out: “Rewind! I want a rewind!” Even little ones know that they need a fresh start to erase a mistake. By washing people in the river Jordan, John was using a ritual to give people a fresh start–a new way of being that would prepare them for the new world that was coming with the arrival of the long hoped-for Messiah. John is the one who baptized Jesus, and when he came out of the water the Holy Spirit landed on him like a dove. And that was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Food for thought:
How do you get a fresh start?
If you walked miles into the wilderness, what would you be hoping to see?
Do you remember being baptized? What do you think when you see people being baptized in church?
How do you know when something important is happening to you?
John the Baptist, as described in the Gospels: Mark (last week) and in John (this week) is an important figure. When Mary left home after her encounter with the angel (the annunciation) and when she was carrying her child, she went to her relative Elizabeth–who was pregnant with John.