I overheard Jesus talking with our mother, “Do you know where Elizabeth’s son John is these days? I am sensing the Spirit of the Lord directing Me to visit John.”
Mother quickly responded. “I believe I heard he was down by the Jordan River. Some are saying he is preaching about repentance there and baptizing people.”
We all kind of laughed. Almost in unison we asked, “Jesus, why are you looking for him, aren’t we crazy enough for you?”
As usual, Jesus just looked at us and rolled His eyes as if to say, “One day you will understand.” We had heard stories about this wayward cousin and the crazy things he had been doing. Rumors travel pretty fast in these parts. One of the stories we heard was that John was living off the land and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. We were told that his clothing consisted of nothing but a garment made of camel’s hair and a belt wrapped around his waist. Now that was a fashion statement.
What in the world was he doing roaming around in the wilderness anyway? Some said that John was like Elijah and that he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!”
What did all this mean? Why did our brother feel the need to go see this crazy relative? If it was me, I wouldn’t want to be associated with Crazy John, as we called him.
I spent a few minutes with mom and asked her what she knew about Jesus’ plans. “James, if I knew what your brother was going to do, I would gladly tell you. All I know is what He has said to all of us. All He will tell me is that He has to be about His Father’s business.” That didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. We all felt like we were groping in the dark trying to find answers.
As I pondered this whole situation with Jesus going to Crazy John, it got me thinking. What must his parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah, be thinking now? Did they raise a lunatic? Was he possessed? What’s this bit about making the paths straight? Make ready the way of the Lord? What is he talking about? Who is he talking about?
We got word that John had been attracting a crowd. From the way people were describing things, it was a freak show, if you ask me. I didn’t want anyone to know that we were in any way related. We tried to talk Jesus out of going to where John was, but He would have nothing to do with our petitions. All He would say was that the Spirit was leading Him to John and that our Crazy Cousin had a blessing for Him. There He goes again, talking in riddles.
I started to believe that I should follow Jesus just to make sure He was safe, but I didn’t want Him to know I was following. I told Joses and Simon what I was going to do but made them swear that they wouldn’t tell anyone else, especially our mother. She would start to worry even more. First Jesus leaves, then me. I didn’t think she could handle both of us leaving. I was determined to figure out what all this stuff was about that Jesus had to do. Why did I feel like I was sneaking around?
Jesus took off the next morning at the crack of dawn. After asking a lot of people, we had found out that “Crazy John” was baptizing people in the Jordan. Baptizing? Baptizing? Why in the world was he doing that? I had to see it with my own eyes. What do they say, “Seeing is believing?” Well, I had to see for myself.
Apparently “Crazy John” had been “baptizing” at the Jordan for a while. By this time, he was making quite a stir in Jerusalem, and literally hundreds of people were going out to him. I even heard about people from Judea and the whole district around the Jordan heading out there.
As I got closer to see what was happening, I overheard someone saying that they had confessed their sins to John as he was baptizing them. He said to them, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals.”
Then John said something about how this One will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire.
First Jesus with His riddles, now “Crazy John.” What does all this mean? How can water cleanse you from sins? What is this Holy Spirit thing? And fire?
As I was peering through the crowd, I heard a commotion and saw John in a verbal scuffle with some of the big shots from Jerusalem. It looked like some Pharisees and Sadducees. Boy, did they look angry! John looked at them with the most intense look I had ever seen. I heard John call them a “brood of vipers.” What was that all about? Then Crazy John started talking about taking an axe and cutting the root of the trees. There he goes again, talking in riddles.
The reaction from the crowd was dismay. They were all talking among themselves. “Who is this guy John to talk to the temple officials like that?” Not that they disagreed with him, they were just shocked that he would do it in the first place.
All this time, I had to be careful that big brother didn’t see me. I didn’t want Him to think I was being too nosy, but I had to see what was going on. My curiosity had gotten the best of me, I admit it.
Just then, I saw Jesus heading down this small hill toward the riverbank. John looked up and his whole demeanor changed. Just moments before he was challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees, and now my big brother was approaching him. Jesus is going to Crazy John to be baptized? What in the world is going on?
Jesus went right to him, and they embraced for a moment. It had been some time since they had seen each other. I think it was the last time we were in Jerusalem for Passover. They talked for a brief moment, but I wasn’t quite close enough to hear what they were saying. I’ll fix that, I’ll move a little closer through the crowd so I can hear.
Then I heard John say to Jesus several times, “I am not worthy, I am not worthy. I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”
Jesus said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
What does Crazy John know about Jesus that we don’t know? What’s this thing about not being worthy? I don’t get it, He’s just my brother.
Another riddle, but then something happened. I will never forget it as long as I live. John took Jesus farther out into the water, it was about waist deep. He put one hand on the back of Jesus‘ head and the other hand on His arm. Jesus went backwards into the water for a brief moment. Jesus came up out of the water, and everything around us changed. The sky looked as if it had opened up. It was almost as if the dazzling light from the sun was focused directly on my brother. Then the most beautiful dove flew down, right to Jesus and landed right on Him. It was like the Spirit of God Himself was there in our midst. Then, I heard this voice. It was incredible. It came out of nowhere, yet it was all around us. I had never heard anything like this before. All it said was, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Then there was a hush, everything went silent. I looked all around and saw nothing.
What was happening? What is going on? This is Jesus, my brother. And Crazy John. This is all so confusing to me. What am I going to do? How can I explain this to my brothers? How can I explain it to our mother? What does all this mean? My head was spinning. I just wanted to run as far away from this as fast as I could. I wanted to run to Jesus and ask Him what it was all about, but I couldn’t let Him know I was there. None of this is making sense. Just get me out of here.
With that, I took off running through the crowd as fast as I could to get out of there. I had to get home. I had to figure out all this stuff.