River's Edge

by Rick Osborne and Melanie Wooding, based on John 1:6-28

When Jesus had grown up, “a man came who was sent from God. His name was John” (John 1:6). John was the same age as Jesus, and he loved and served God his whole life. But John wasn’t an ordinary man. He didn’t act or dress like most templegoers. No trendy robes for him. He wore rough camel hair clothes, and he lived in the desert.

Few people would have wanted to call the wild lands along the Jordan River home, but John walked the rolling hills with ease. He didn’t even mind small lizards and scorpions scurrying beneath the stones near his feet. At night he listened to yipping foxes and calling night owls. In the stillness he thought about God. If John invited someone to dinner, they’d better be prepared to be a little bugged, because John dined on grasshoppers and wild honey.

The Messenger
Besides his unique lifestyle, what was so special about John? He could preach a sermon and attract a crowd. “All the people from the countryside of Judea went out to him. All the people from Jerusalem went too” (Mark 1:5).

What was John telling the curious listeners? He told them to let God know they were sorry for their sins. He told them to change their hearts and their ways! And to celebrate new life by being baptized. From the water’s edge he’d preach to the crowd. Then he would wade into the Jordan River. One by one the repentant watchers would slip down the dusty bank to be baptized. John helped people get clean inside and out. That’s why they called him John the Baptist.

This unusual man attracted a lot of attention. Leaders and teachers questioned him. Who was he and why was he doing this? John answered, “I’m the messenger who is calling out in the desert, ‘Make the way for the Lord straight’ ” (John 1:23).

John knew someone very special would come and change the world forever. He said: “After me, one will come who is more powerful than I am. I’m not good enough to bend down and untie his sandals. I baptize you with water. But he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7-8).

God's Holy Plan
One day John was baptizing people when he looked to the shore. Who was standing on the banks of the river? Jesus! When Jesus asked to be baptized, John felt unworthy. After all, here was the Son of God asking to be baptized by him! “But John tried to stop him. He told Jesus, ‘I need to be baptized by you. So why do you come to me?’ ” (Matthew 3:14).

Jesus understood John’s feelings of uncertainty and reassured him. “Let it be this way for now. It is right for us to do this. It carries out God’s holy plan” (Matthew 3:15).

Jesus waded into the Jordan and was baptized. This must have been the most exciting moment of John’s life! So often John had preached of Jesus’ coming, and now he stood beside the Savior. But wait, that’s not all!

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened. Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. A voice form heaven said, ‘This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him’ ” (Matthew 3:16-17). God was also pleased with John. He had introduced Jesus—God’s only Son—to the world.

This article originally appeared in the July 2002 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Osborne and Melanie Wooding. Illustration © Ed Olson.