You can visualise the scene outlined in Matthew 3 and Mark 1 as John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, preaches in the wilderness of Judea and cries,
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2)
Imagine it: a man ‘clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist’, whose food was ‘locusts and wild honey’ and who fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3,
“Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
John’s voice echoed in the wilderness, calling the people to ready themselves through repentance for the coming of Jesus. The Greek verb translated ‘repent’ indicates a change of attitude and outlook which results in sorrow for sins. Many people were baptised by John and confessed their sins. John challenged the people to prepare the way – to ‘clear away the obstacles’ in their lives and to reverse their thinking so that it changed their lives (see Matt. 3:8).
Although John baptised people ‘with water for repentance’, he recognised his own unworthiness in contrast to Jesus whom he said,
“is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matt. 3:11)
and who would baptise people with the Holy Spirit and fire. We read in Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11 that John the Baptist baptised the Lord Jesus Christ. John was bemused as to why Jesus came to him to be baptised, saying,
“I need to be baptized by You.” (Matt. 3:14)
Jesus’ baptism was unique as he had no sins to repent of and it identified with John’s work and with the sinner for whom he would die. It also foreshadowed Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Jesus’ baptism was significant as it served as an example for us to follow. We rejoice with all those who are eternally saved through faith at salvation, but it doesn’t end there! Jesus said in John 14:15,
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Is God calling you to be baptised? If you love Him, just do it!
Nathan Udoh, The Church of God in Manchester