The air was still, as though even the wind knew a change was coming and held its breath.
A hush fell as a man approached the river. Though ordinary in appearance, with the common garments of a laborer, something about his presence commanded attention.
Slipping off his sandals, Yeshua descended the bank, mud oozing between his toes. The water rushed at him, wicking half way up his robe and plastering the wet cloth against his body. He caught his breath, as much from the gravity of the moment as from the chilly river. It was time to reveal himself to Israel. He moved swiftly toward Yohanan, the baptiser.
As he waded, he scanned the crowd that had gathered to watch. Some faces displayed seeds of repentance; others remained as hard as the iron of a plowshare. A few wore expressions of curiosity. How many of these would receive him? How many would turn away?
Yeshua met Yohanan’s stare. Recognition glimmered in the baptiser’s eyes, his mouth hanging open for a mere tittle of time. He snapped it shut and drew his brows together.
“This isn’t right. Why do you come to me?” Yohanan said, his eyes widening. “It is I who should be baptized by you.”
Yeshua let his gaze travel again to his lost sheep. His heart ached with love for them. Their way was prepared; now it was up to him. He turned back to Yohanan and said, “It is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”
Yeshua stared into the rippling eddies, his mind reflecting on the mikvahs that were a part of every Jew’s life, the waters meant to ritually cleanse them from any impurity. Soon there would be no reason to repeat these over and over. His sacrifice would bring an end to this need, an end to all of the ceremonial law. This mikvah, though, was different. It was an outward rite to reflect an inner change of heart.
He held a breath as he was plunged beneath the cold water. Darkness enveloped him, gripping him with a vision of the grave that waited and the price he’d have to pay. The suffering would be intense, of that he was sure, but it was envisioning the father’s ultimate rejection on that black day that drew him near to despair.
Strong arms lifted him from the murky steam and he gulped air as if back from the dead. He opened his eyes. If it weren’t for the faces of the hopeful and the joy set before him … He stopped the thought before it could take root. No matter the cost, he’d obey. All he desired was his Abba’s glory.
Light streamed down from an opening in the heavens, bathing him in warmth and bringing with it his father’s words. He raised his face. “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Yeshua smiled as the Spirit of God rested on him.
Many will follow, he thought, as he climbed the bank and retrieved his sandals. Though it cost them everything, they will follow. Through water and fire they will follow.
Yes, one final mikvah would he ask of them – to show the world that they are his.
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