Jesus is Baptized
Before you begin, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Take a few moments to come to quiet, asking the Lord to help you attend to him in your prayer.
You are in your small village near Jerusalem when you hear that a man whom some are calling a prophet is preaching and baptizing people in the Jordan river. You join others in your family who are setting out to hear him teach. On the walk to the river, you start to wonder about the rumors. A prophet? You wonder. There has not been a prophet in Israel for hundreds of years! As you continue to walk towards the river, what are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you hear others saying?
As you approach the river, you see a crowd gathered along the bank. You hear a loud voice bellowing above the crowd. As you get closer, you begin to make out the words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
What images come to mind as you hear this?
You find a place to sit on the slope where you have a good view. The prophet, “John” someone tells you, is standing in the river, the water halfway up his legs. He is a strange looking man, wearing camel hair clothes and a leather belt. His hair and beard are thick, black, and wild. His eyes are intense and focused on the people who are lined up, waiting to enter the water. You notice several others who are soaking wet, sitting on the shore, listening with rapt attention.
Where are your eyes drawn? What do you notice about the landscape or the people around you?
Then the prophet steps toward a group of priests standing near the shoreline.
“You brood of vipers!” he yells. “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
These words unsettle you. You have never heard anyone preach like this before. You look around and notice people with tears in their eyes. As you see more and more people getting in line to be baptized, what stirs within you?
Turning away from the priests, the prophet faces the crowd and says, “I baptize with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire...”
You wonder who this “powerful one” could possibly be? You hear others in the crowd murmuring to one another, repeating these bewildering words in fierce whispers.
Then you notice a slight commotion near the back of the crowd. People are shifting to make way for someone. A man you don’t recognize walks down to the river's edge and enters the water. The prophet looks directly at the man with an expression of stunned recognition. Then the prophet says something you cannot hear. As the two men speak quietly to one another in the water, you strain to hear their words.
“I need to be baptized by you,” John says, “and do you come to me?”
The conversation continues for a few moments. Then you hear the stranger say, “Let’s do so now, to fulfill all righteousness.” There is a long pause. Finally John lowers his head and baptizes the stranger.
As soon as the man comes up out of the water, a shaft of light pours down from the heavens, brightly illuminating his head and the surface of the water. Then a bird, a dove, descends and suddenly lands on the man’s head. Then, from nowhere and everywhere – a Voice.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
What do you notice about the stranger as you hear these words? What emotions do these words stir within you? How do the people around you respond? How does the prophet respond?
As the scene fades, remain with Jesus and talk to him about this experience. What questions arise for you? What feelings are surfacing that you want to explore with Jesus?
Photo: Cassidy Heavenor
Music: A Day to Remember by Benjamin Tissot on bensound.com