"John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."
- Mark 1:4-5
The Israelites were quite familiar with the concept of baptism. When a Gentile person wanted to convert to Judaism, they went through a process of being taught by a scribe, circumcised (if a male), then baptized. They were immersed into the waters as a symbol that they were renouncing their former way of life and embracing the Lord and his way of life. It was a baptism of conversion.
In this passage, we read of another baptism - the baptism of repentance. The people came to John in droves to be baptized. They were coming from Judea and all of Jerusalem which means that many of them were likely to be Jewish. What John was doing in this baptism was revolutionary for the nation of Israel. They were confessing their sins, turning from them, then undergoing a baptism as a washing away of their sins.
So why did they come and what was the point of John's baptism? God was preparing his people for a new kingdom and a new king. John's baptism was to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Lord. In Luke 7:29-30, we read that those who had received John's baptism received Jesus; those religious leaders who rejected John's baptism also rejected Jesus.
There was power in John's baptism, even if it was not the final baptism. And it was a miracle how the people responded to John! God had started a revolution through John, a heart revolution instead of a worldly revolution. There was great power in the confession of sins, repentance, and baptism. There is still great power in the confession of sins. What stays in the dark remains unhealed, while what is brought into the light can be healed. First, we must confess our sins to the Lord. Sometimes, we really need to confess our sins to another person as well.
Confession is the start; repentance is where the rubber meets the road. In repentance, we turn away from our sin and purpose to go in another direction. This is a turning from sin to God, from flesh to Spirit. The Lord still wants to work his revolution in you - the revolution of your heart. May we embrace the gift of confession, repentance, and baptism into a new life today! Reflection:
Will you allow God to work in new and wonderful ways this year? Will 2021 be your year of God's revolution?