And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” vs. 5Mark 1:4-8
John’s ministry along the Jordan attracted large numbers of people, most of whom seemed to have had a strong awareness of their own sinfulness. There were ways within Judaism for them to deal with this issue–the law was quite precise in explaining how people could find atonement through the sacrificial system. But John offered another way, a baptism with water accompanied by the confession of their sins. It wasn’t complicated and didn’t require compliance with temple regulations. In fact, it was so popular that there are followers of John the Baptist, now known as Mandaeans, still practicing the religion that he founded. Groups of them can be found in many areas of the Middle East. Other followers of John became disciples of Jesus, because Jesus too made forgiveness a central feature of his ministry. We don’t really know if he actually baptized anyone but people were regularly comforted by his forgiving words. And in our time confession and forgiveness are a regular part of most Christian worship services. As hard as we may try to be good, all people wander from the Way of righteousness and regularly experience guilt and alienation. Even modern sophisticated folks need to hear words of forgiveness before restoration can occur–and it’s likely that this is how it will always be.
Thought for the Day: When do I most often need a word of forgiveness?