The Baptist came from the wilderness. He did not party. He came crying for righteousness and justice. He discomfited all kinds of religious establishments. If you were too cozy, to the point of sin, with the politically and intellectually powerful Greco-Romans, the Baptist called on you to repent. If you were the local ruler, allowed a pocket of home rule, the Baptist did not give a pass for injustice and sin. The ostensibly faithful, those that kept the law in theory, but not in fact, were called to a real baptism of repentance. He welcomed sinners: to be baptized and change. The Baptist trimmed not doctrines in order to be more palatable to the age. If that was your game, he had a message: be baptized, repent.
He was decapitated for refusing to keep sex out of politics.
Can any of us doubt, if we met the Baptist, he would have one message for us?
Repent. Be baptized.
The moment I picture the Baptist telling “them” what they need to hear, I have become the subject of his sermons. Each day I must return to my baptism, to the water of repentance and renewal. This is not to be baptized many times or mere pious memory of when I went down to the river to be dunked by Dad. Instead, this is a timeless return to what was true for all eternity in that act done in the name the Trinity. There are in some events in our lives a specifically divine element. God is always here and so every moment is recoverable to Him. God is fully sustaining each moment of creation or nothing would exist! Yet at certain times His Divinity is with us in this time in a special way. The moment remains fully human, but partakes of His presence in a way accessible to us.
God is always here, but we can be God-blind. Sometimes this is due to our sin, but often this is so we can go about the lesser goods of our life without being overwhelmed by the splendor and beauty of the glory of God! There are holy days, memorable moments, like our baptism that we can access forever even if we came, as most Christians do, to God as an infant. The grace is in God not even in a precious memory of the physical water.
I can recall my baptism at eight, but my memory is not what is vital. Instead, the grace is found in accessing what was deeper and divine. The Baptist is always baptizing once and for all.
We can stand outside the empty tomb, experience our baptism, and many other special moments of grace. We can even know, in this sense, the Second Coming. Christ was, is, and is to come. We can touch this reality and must. We repented and were baptized, are repenting and are baptized, and will forever be repentant and baptized. Our own baptism is sign of the greater sign that was the baptism of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Baptist.
We must make, I must make, room for the message of the Baptist and see where he was pointing: to Jesus, the God-man. He stood in the riven and baptized the Son of God so all of us also could come to be made clean in the waters of baptism. How much I need this!
And so whether we are powerful, well regarded, or an outcast, we are welcome to the water of grace for a first time that will be accessible for all time.