John 1: 29-34
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'
31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
I listen to NPR most days while I go about my daily routine. On NPR there is a challenge called "This I believe" where people submit what they believe and their words are read and posted on the "This I Believe" site. Some of the writing are quite moving and have made me stop and think about what I actually believe about many topics. While I don't think anyone has ever talked about baptism on NPR, the Bible does. The old testament is full of references to using water in rituals to symbolize cleansing. Certainly water does that better than anything. Not only does water clean, it refreshes. Jumping in the shower after you've been out in the hot Georgia sun will remind you of that.
John's baptism was just that, a ritual of cleansing by water to show putting away old life and beginning new or in their view, being cleansed from old ways and starting over. In 2 Kings 5:10-13, Naaman washes in the Jordan River to be rid of his leprosy. From a symbolic, spiritual view, this fits the baptism that John was offering. Also in Isaiah 1:16 there is the command to "wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My (God's) eyes."
I remind myself again that the people who were being baptized by John weren't Christians. The baptism of John was a Jewish baptism. Christ had not come yet! These were people that were following rituals they were accustomed to. The verses today hold deep meanings on so many levels and I'll be thinking on these today. In John's own words ...."the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." It always helps to have someone introduce you to new people doesn’t it? Those that introduce us are just as important as the words they use. The introductory words and the person delivering them sets the tone and opens the door to understanding the message to come.