John the Baptist holds a fascination for me (maybe since the day a few years ago in which, as a DRE new to my town, I agreed to dress up like him, hide behind a rock at a popular reservation space near our church, to jump out from behind said rock to proclaim repentance to our 5th and 6th grade class, to not wear my glasses because it would not be historically accurate, to then jump out at a group of unwitting walkers who, no doubt thought a lunatic was on the loose, and finally to skulk back again behind my rock...not one of my more dignified moments!)
John Dominic Crossan wrote one of my favorite theological sentences of John the Baptist, saying that he was sending out from the Jordan, "Ticking time bombs of apocalyptic expectation."
William Phillips Tilden takes a equally passionate (though more traditional) view in today's devotion for Lent"
"THE BAPTISM." (scripture readings)
"AND as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptise you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him.
But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee; and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Jesus being baptised, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.
And John bare record, saying, . . . he that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth -with the Holy Ghost.
Matt. iii. Mark i. Luke HI. John i.
THE BAPTISM (Tilden)
JOHN'S voice was sharp and clear, — Repent; re-turn; face the sunrise; open your eyes; leave off sinning; live in the light of God. Jesus hears the voice. It has been borne on the swift wings of a thousand tongues to Nazareth, sixty miles away. He hastens to the Jordan and steps forward and asks of John for baptism. How can John do it ? John's voice was not for him. But Jesus says persuasively, " Suffer it to be so now;" and they both go down into the water. As they came up Jesus prayed. Of that prayer in such an hour, from such a soul, at the opening of such a ministry, would we knew the words; but it was made to God, not for man. Heaven was opened, and the Dove of the Spirit rested on him, and a voice was heard, " Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased." John was a voice. Jesus was a life. John came to preach the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus came to build up that kingdom in the world. O Blessed Jesus! shall we ever know him ?"
Face the sunrise and live in the light! Blessings