Since the growth of the first human cities, John the Baptist would have been known as the crazy man who lives outside. Children certainly told scary stories about the man wearing camel hair and a leather belt – eating locust and honey. Adults allowed themselves a whisper of hope.
Religion was the core of their nation. Their ancestor, Abraham, was the first human in our written history to worship one god. This deity’s core attribute: being fundamentally separate from anything our physical universe understands or perceives (termed “holy”). He even named himself I_AM, and then made as his first law that his people do not use his name to praise themselves?!? The priests for this people would ritually physically wash themselves before entering the house where I_AM lived, because God’s law separated humans into “clean” and “dirty”. Yes; even today we struggle to understand which words are figurative, and which are literal.
In 29 AD, Tiberius Caesar was living on the island of Capri. As this governmental leader of Israel was assimilating a library of porn to be used as instruction guides with the children he collected there (which he named his “haunts of Venus”), God told John to start informing his people that the priest’s legal baptisms (used before entering God’s presence) are now available to all. That washing makes us clean, and that we are clean when we admit and turn away from our wrongs.
In 1947 a shepherd found a scroll like the one Jesus read to his home church in Nazareth. It was copied in the time leading up to John, and has virtually identical wording to the book of Isaiah in today’s Bibles. The Jews had hoped in the prophesy of this book as much as any other words for 700 years. This promise of a Jewish world-leader (the Christ) was said to be preceded by, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness saying, ‘Make ready the way of the owner. Make his paths straight. Every low place will be filled, and every high and exalted place will be made low. The crooked will become straight, and the rough ways smooth. All flesh will see God’s salvation.'”
John (the baptizer) came preaching, “Admit and turn from your wrongs, because the standard of eternity is here and now.” People flocked to him; confessing and turning away from their wrongs (and being washed). He assured everyone that The One was coming after him. John said he washed with water, but the Christ would wash with the holy spirit – and fire. He showed no respect for those who claimed ownership of the authority of God through their social power. He lashed out at the church’s leadership as poisonous snakes – concluding that, “Even now the ax lies at the root of the tree. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
When John was asked how people’s actions should change, he answered, “If you have two coats, give one to him who has none. If you have food, do likewise.” To profit oriented business people and governmental officers he instructed, “Take no more than what you’ve been assigned to collect. Don’t use force or power to make money, and don’t accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content with your income.”
One day, Jesus showed up to be washed. John protested saying that it was Jesus who should wash John. Jesus answered, “Let this happen, because this is the fitting way for us to complete all righteousness.”
John agreed and immediately as Jesus came up out of the water – John saw the sky open and the spirit of God came down on Jesus like a dove, and a voice stated, “You are my son; I love you. I am well pleased in you”.
Jesus was about 30 years old
In the voice of: A historian
Spoken To: All
Source Text: Matt 3:1-17, Mark 2:1-11, Luke 3:1-18,21-23, John 1:6-8,15, and A History of the Ancient World