In those days, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” ’ Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins…‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Matthew 3:1-6, 11-12 NRSV
Can you imagine living on a diet of locusts and wild honey and wearing camel hair clothing? John the Baptist was a most unusual prophet in this way. John was able to attract hundreds of people, however, to hear his message of repentance. People were moved by his words because he spoke the truth, challenging them to turn from their sins and baptizing them in the Jordan River as a symbol of their repentance.
John attracted the people, but his message was to point beyond himself to Jesus, whose sandals he felt unworthy to tie. John’s message was: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He was proclaiming the coming of Jesus, God’s Son, sent to earth. Jesus, our Savior, died on the cross so we could have forgiveness of our sins and our hearts transformed.
Can we, like John, point others to our Lord’s love and sacrifice? Can others see that we are more loving and forgiving because we reflect God’s work in our lives? May we, remembering our baptism, have the power to go forth to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior from sin.
Deaconess Jean Wildgrube, Rexford, NY