Summary: John the Baptist in a monologue tells the story of Jesus' baptism.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 8min
Scripture: Matthew 3: 13-17
John the Baptist
So, I’m standing up to my waist in the Jordan, I’ve just baptized a whole bunch of people that day. Sinners all of them. They knew more than I did what it was they needed to be cleansed of. And there isn’t enough water in this world to wash it all away. Only God can do it. They knew who they were in the eyes of God. They knew they needed repentance. That was why they came to me. At least that’s what they said, and if they were lying to me, then they must have been lying to God as well, and I’m not going to stand in the dock for them if that’s the case.
No sir, people who came to be baptized by John ben Zechariah were in for a real and sincere dousing of the waters of repentance. There wasn’t a person alive who didn’t need it.
Or so I thought. And then one day something happened. It was hot, and I had just finished preaching and baptizing people in the Jordan. It had been a good day. I had lost count of how many had come. The last sinner just pulling herself out of the river, water pouring off her hair and garments, a smile of joy on her face. I liked that. It made me understand what I was doing in this world.
I was not a fellow who was easy to get close to. I was never like other people. My mother told me that she had known since before I was born that I was destined to be something special for God. When I walked out of the house to make my way in the world, I knew it was not going to be easy. I would probably never marry. I wouldn’t have a lot of close friends.
All I knew was that God was my life. My passion. My reason for being. I saw the world as being very hypocritical. I saw rich people feasting and poor people starving. I saw laborers getting gouged and manipulated by their employers. I saw business owners getting ripped off by their laborers. I saw the Pharisees as a bunch of snakes, twisting themselves around the politicians and contorting the laws of God to serve their own ends and keep them in power.
Everybody is a sinner. God knows that. So do you.
But God wanted everybody to stop sinning. And the only way to do that was to change them. You can’t change somebody by just standing by and hoping that they will. Sometimes you have to yell in their faces and hold up a terrible mirror for them to see themselves. That always worked for me.
And when you stop sinning, you are a new person. It sounds very simple, doesn’t it? You should try it. So that was the job God gave me. Preach repentance. And then baptize the sinners. In the Jordan river.
Why baptism? What’s that all about? Just look at this stuff! Where else would you go? This stuff is life. No water, no life. Before the world was formed, what was there on the surface of the earth? Water. Before you were born, what were you swimming around in? a kind of water. And when you were born, what came out with you? A lot of stuff. OK. But water. What grows plants? What do fish swim in? What forms the clouds and the rain? I think you get the point.
So I walk these people down to the river, and I immerse them in this water. And, like the first time they came out of their mothers’ wombs, they come out of the river. Only the difference is this - the first time you are born you don’t have a choice. When you are grown up, you come out of the water because you want a new life. You don’t just want to be born. You want to be born again.
All these people come to the river, because they want a new life. and they bring their children, because they want the blessing for them, too, and because they are going to be better parents for their kids.
But you know, while all that was going on, that day at the river, I knew that there was something else about to happen. I could feel it in my bones. I could hear it from my God. Another was coming, one who was closer to God than I would ever be. One who would make this baptism seem like nothing. One who could really change people’s lives. One who would bless people not only with water but with the Holy spirit. With fire from heaven.
And that was the day it happened. I saw him, coming down out of the crowd, walking towards me. I knew who he was. It was my cousin Jesus. That much I knew. But until that moment I hadn’t put it all together.
Do you ever have mystical experiences? I’ve had lots of them. I had one. Right then and there. He came into the river and asked me to baptize him.
“Are you crazy? I know who you are! You’re the one who should be baptizing me! You are no sinner! You are nothing like the rest of these people! Put me under the water.
Then Jesus looked me in the eye and said. “Let it be so now. For it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” I knew what he meant. This was not between him and me. This was between us and God. And right now we needed to step aside and let God work.
And so I did it. I put Jesus under the water. And then when he came up the most remarkable thing happened. A good thing. Not scary. But wonderful. Comforting. Reassuring.
The heavens opened up. Like the clouds parted. And this dove comes down. This sacred messenger. I know the dove was the sign of the Holy Spirit. It came down and rested on his shoulder. And stayed there. And then the same heavens that had sent the dove spoke. And the voice said this: “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Sometimes the Spirit speaks to you. Gives you a sacred name. Grants you a special blessing. That’s what happened that day.
I don’t care what religion you belong to. When the Spirit calls you, in your dreams or out loud in front of people, in prayers or through angels or sacred messengers. When the Spirit calls you, it is your naming. It is the beginning of your new life. The spirit gives you what you must do with your life.
I wonder, in your time, do you still baptize people? Is that what this is for? Are people named and blessed? Are they called by God? And when they are, do you stand up and cheer? You should, you know! Cheer because this is a very sacred thing that is going on - right there in that water.
You should cheer because the Holy spirit is here. She is hovering around this room. She is resting on you now. You should cheer because Jesus was baptized. Because he found the blessing and power of the spirit to begin his ministry.
And you should pray - that the Spirit would touch people here today and give them the wisdom to walk the faithful path, and that means you. Peace.
(c) Copyright Jim Hatherly.
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