In the midst of a desert wilderness, runs a river, the Jordan River. Knee deep, a man, wild and fiery, preaches and baptizes and promises.
A bit hungry still after his meal of locusts and honey, this preacher sees someone approach the riverside. With so many streaming out to hear his message, this is not unusual. But this someone is different.
His preaching, his baptizing are forgotten. John blinks his eyes and strains to see clearly. Just as he recognized Jesus thirty years before, he recognizes him now. Heart leaping for joy, John pushes through the water. Slowing his pace, the weightiness of the moment rests upon him. He is face to face with Jesus.
Joy unimaginable. For years John has been waiting, preparing, and preparing others.
As they step back from their embrace, Jesus quietly says to his misty-eyed cousin, “John, I want you to baptize me.”
John is not sure he’s heard correctly. “You want me to baptize you? Lord, I need to be baptized by you.”
Those waiting along the river bank watch and whisper and wonder what is going on. Jesus places his hands on John’s shoulders, looks deeply into his eyes. “John, this is what I want. This is what is right. All your life you have been preparing for this moment. Now is the time.”
Resistance fades and the cousins wade back into the water. The practice of these wilderness days has prepared John to do the unthinkable, to baptize the Messiah. As he has done with so many others, he places one hand on Jesus’ chest and one on his back, lowers him beneath the water, and raises him back up to glory.
Jesus invited John to partner with him. Although Jesus’ request baffled John, he accepted the invitation and received the honor of working with God.
Jesus invites us to partner with him too. Perhaps you are like John, and Jesus is waiting for you on the riverbank invitation in hand. Perhaps you, like John, are ready to embrace Jesus, and through misty eyes, consent to do the unthinkable, partner with him in sacred work. Is Jesus extending an invitation to you today?
Matthew 3; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 1:39-45; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:19-34