As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”
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 and the other three gospel-writers all remember well the magnetic attraction of this man John the Baptizer, who lived deep in the Jordan Valley far from the capital.
He said to the crowds, “Repent.” And because they repented, he baptized them, dipping them in the waters of the river.
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt round his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
The locusts that he ate were one of the few kinds of insect declared clean by the religious laws. What else was there to eat?
His clothing was the same as that of Elijah, one of the most famous prophets of earlier times. who for a while had to hide in the same valley when hunted by the government.
For these reasons too people came to see John.
And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
‘Repent’, said John.
But it was more than this that he preached. ‘The Lord, who is coming after me, is greater than I. I am not good enough even to kneel as a slave before Him. When you repent, He will not just dip you in the water as a sign of clearing away sin; He will pour God’s Holy Spirit into you, so that you actually have power for changing into new persons.’