It was dawn that morning in Betabara, where
John was baptizing. The sky was clear, with no trace of clouds, and
the desert wind was blowing intensely above our heads, agitating the
waters from the Jordan River. Although there was no sign of it, that
morning proved to be very significant. We would recall this a few years
Baptist: I am just one voice, a
voice that cries in the wilderness!.... Make way, clear the road for
the Lord is coming soon! He is coming, He will not delay! Be converted!
Cleanse yourselves, change your hearts of stone to hearts of flesh,
new hearts prepared to accept the Messiah of Israel!
On that day, Philip, Nathanael and Jesus decided, finally, to
get baptized. The three fell in line, jammed among the crowd of pilgrims,
and waded through the muddy waters of the river...
Baptist: Come on, you better decide
now. Do you want to be baptized or not?
Philip: Well, I...
Baptist: Do you want to promote
the Kingdom of God, so that justice will prevail on earth?
Philip: Of course, but the trouble
Baptist: What is the matter with
Philip: Nothing. Itís just that
I am not very fond of the water, you know... Itís been months since....wa..wait!
Baptist: May the God of Israel remove
the filth from your body and soul, that you may see with your own eyes
the great day of the Lord! And now, let me see; Who are you? What is
Nathanael: My name is Nathanael, from
Cana of Galilee.
Baptist: Do you want to be baptized?
Do you want to be clean for the coming of the Messiah?
Nathanael: Yes, John, I want to...
I also want to prepare the way for Him and... assist the Liberator of
Baptist: Well, you said yes. This
word will hang over your head. When the Messiah comes, follow Him.
Donít betray Him, as God will betray you for the words that you
have just uttered. Are you decided now?
Nathanael: Yes, prophet, I.... I am....
Baptist: Come closer, and be sorry
for your sins....
Baptist: Even if your sins are as
red as blood, they will be as white as snow; even if they are as dark
as charcoal, they will remain as clear as rain water....
The prophet submerged the hairless head of Nathanael in the river,
just as he did to our friend Philip and the others. Jesusí turn came...
Baptist: You, where are you from?
Jesus: I am a Galilean, like the
two. I live in Nazareth.
Baptist: In Nazareth? In the neighborhood
between Naim and Cana?
Jesus: Exactly. Do you know the
Baptist: I have some relatives there....
What did you say your name was?
Baptist: Youíre not the son of Joseph
and Mary, are you?
Jesus: Exactly. My mother said
we were distant cousins.
Baptist: Thatís it. Itís indeed
a small world! Will you stay here at the Jordan for some time?
Jesus: Yes, a couple of days...
Baptist: Will you be baptized?
Jesus: Yes, John. Thatís why I
came. You are preaching justice. I also wish to comply with Godís justice.
Baptist: Have you repented of your
sins? Truly and with all your heart?
Jesus: Yes, John. I am sorry for
everything.... especially for this fear....
Baptist: What fear? Do you fear
Jesus: Iíll be frank with you,
John. I am afraid of God, because he is exacting. At times he wants
to harvest where nothing has been sown. He scares me every time he demands
what I am not capable of giving him.
Baptist: If you get baptized, will
you promise to prepare the way for the Messiah? Think about it first.
God accepts no excuses. If you say yes, then thatís it. If you
say no, so be it. Make up your mind.
Baptist: Do you want to be baptized?
Jesus: Yes, John, I want you to
Baptist: Very well. You will be
one of those who will assist the Liberator of Israel.
Jesus: You always talk of this
Liberator, John. But, where is he? Who is he? You told the emissaries
from Jerusalem that you are not the Messiah that we are waiting for.
Baptist: Of course I am not the
Messiah. He comes after me, a lot stronger than I. He comes after me,
but he is before me. This I assure you, Jesus: If he came ahead of me,
I would not even dare untie his sandals.
Jesus: But who is he, John? When
is he coming?
Baptist: He has come. My heart tells
me that he is already in our midst, the Redeemer of Israel, although
I have not seen him yet.
Jesus: How do we recognize him
when he comes?
Baptist: The Holy Spirit will rest upon him, like a dove, quietly. The
Spirit of God never makes noise.
The Messiah will come like a light breeze. He will not cut the
almost broken bamboo, nor will he extinguish the flickering wick....
Have you not read what the prophet Isaiah says: ďThis is my beloved
Son, with whom I am pleasedĒ? This is the Messiah, the chosen son of
Baptist: What is wrong with you,
Jesus?... You are trembling.
Jesus: Nothing.... Iím okay.
Baptist: You tremble like the boats
in the river when the desert wind blows over them.
Jesus: Iím just feeling cold.
Baptist: But it is not cold... and
how is that possible when you look flushed?
Jesus: I am nervous, John...,
so please baptize me now, while fear has not taken over me, or I might
change my mind. Please do baptize me now....
The prophet John, that sun-burnt giant, vigorously raised his
arm, held Jesus by the hair and submerged him in the rushing waters
of the Jordan River...
Baptist: Lord, give us our freedom;
send us the Liberator. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Shortly afterwards, Jesus was taken out of the water....
Jesus: Thank you, John. I feel
more relaxed now. I feel... happy, I donít know why, but Iím happy!...
Hey, John, whatís the matter with you? Youíre trembling... John, do
you hear me?...
But the prophet was not listening. His eyes were fixed on the
sky, as if he were looking for something, scrutinizing the clouds, and
examining the flight of birds....
Baptist: I hear the voice of the
Lord above the waters!
The God of glory is coming like thunder!... His forceful voice
Jesus: What are you saying, John?
Baptist: Nothing, nothing... For
a moment, I thought I heard... The birds in the desert speak a mysterious
language and they are like a mirage on the horizon... Itís nothing,
Man: Hey, letís get this over with! Whatís this big talk just to
soak oneís head!
Woman: Shut up, you dope! You should be ashamed of yourself to be talking
Man: Hey, stop pushing, woman, itís my turn now!
Jesus: John, I would like to talk
to you when there is less confusion here. I need to talk to you.
Baptist: It is I who need to talk
to you, Jesus. Now, go back to the shore. The people are getting impatient
with this heat....
In a short while, Jesus returned to the shore...
Peter: What happened Jesus? What
took you so long?
Jesus: I took the opportunity
to ask him some questions...
Philip: I thought you drowned in
the river, ha, ha, ha! Look at my hair. It is still dripping. What the
heck, this prophet has arms like a pair of pliers; he gets hold of you,
pushes you and submerges you in the water, and presto! You are baptized.
Peter: What did you ask him, Jesus?
Jesus: Howís that again, Peter?
Peter: I said, what did you ask
the prophet, John?
Jesus: What every one wants to
know, like, who the Messiah is, and when the Liberator of Israel is
James: And what did he tell you?
Did he say something new?
Jesus: No James, his answer is
Nathanael: There is a certain glow
in your eyes...
Peter: Come on, Jesus, tell us.
What did the prophet tell you...? You were chatting with him for a long
Jesus: He said nothing to me,
Peter. Well, he said that the Holy Spirit comes quietly, like a soft
breeze; you will feel it in your face, without knowing where it comes
from and where it is going.
James: And where does that lead
to? Isnít it John who was talking about the fire, the axe, and the fury
of God...? The Messiah cannot be a soft breeze!
He will be a hurricane, and will come as flashes of lightning!
Jesus: I am not sure about that,
James. Look at the bamboo. A hurricane would destroy the broken bamboo
and extinguish the flick
ering wicks... All of us
here are not like that.... What would become of us if God came like
a hurricane? Who among us would survive before him?
Nathanael: Hey, whatís the matter
with you, Jesus? Youíre talking strange.... What else did the prophet
Jesus: That the Liberator has
already come. That he is in our midst.
Peter: Then let him come out in
the open! Did he tell you where he is hiding? Let us look for him, and
carry him on our shoulders.
James: Friends, the only thing
that is clear to me is that in this stinking river, the Messiah will
not find anything. Look at those people by the riverbank... What has
the Messiah got to do with them? To form an army of scalawags and prostitutes?
Philip: Now look whoís talking.
The son of Zebedee, who is found to have more lice than hair in his
James: Go ahead and laugh, Philip.
When the Messiah comes and finds you with your mouth wide open, he will
shut it with a big punch! Look at the group we have here Ė people who
stink, prostitutes and foolish men! A very good group to welcome the
Jesus: They are like broken bamboo,
James. The Messiah is coming to straighten them, not to give them punches.
James: Look, Nazarene, that sounds
pretty good, but what is needed here is....
Philip: Enough of these bickerings,
guys! I have just been baptized and I will not allow my lips to be tarnished
by cursing. Why donít you just go and eat some round biscuits. It is
already getting late, damn Ė and somehow we have to feed our stomachs.
Peter: Yeah, thatís better. First,
letís have lunch, and continue with the discussion later. Hey, Andrew,
John, Nathanael! Come on, guys. Are you coming too, Jesus?
Jesus: Of course, Peter. Letís
The sun was at its peak, enveloping the parched land with its
scorching heat. That morning the river, the wind and the desert birds
became witnesses of how God made his presence felt in the River Jordan.
The Lord sought Jesus, who in turn listened to his voice. Something
marvellous happened to us, but then, we were not aware of it.