Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ARTIFICIAL (08/11/16)
TITLE: Wilderness Prophet
By Joe Moreland
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Already a bit of a crowd was gathered on the banks of the Jordan. He could see his disciple Andrew talking to some men, explaining what it meant to be baptised. John pushed past them at the edge of the water and kept right on walking--right into the water. A hush fell over the people milling around, and they gathered in closer, expectantly.
Once he was about thigh-deep in the water, John turned to face the people on the bank. A glance to the left and right revealed to him that more were coming quickly, some at a dead run.
“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” He shouted. Immediately a line of men began to form with the leader making his way out to where John stood, waiting. One by one, John listened to the men confess their sins and then he dipped them below the brown water of the Jordan.
After a time John glanced up and noticed men lingering around the fringes of the crowd at the water’s edge that didn’t fit in with his usual followers. Pharisees to the left. Sadducees to the right. Careful to not come into close contact with one another, the rival groups nonetheless were making sure they were each highly visible to the people.
John felt a vein in his temple begin to throb. How dare they? He thought angrily. These snakes cared nothing at all for the kingdom of heaven or the will of God. They only cared that there was something going on at the river that was attracting huge crowds. Their precious reputation demanded that they be seen at such events.
Hypocrites! They wanted to be seen where God was at work, but they didn’t want to be used by Him as tools for that work. Standing on the fringes, giving speeches about what they thought John was doing out there in the water. Some criticizing the baptisms, other taking credit for what God was doing. Even others trying to winnow away followers for themselves.
“Teacher? Are you well?” With a start John realized the next man in line had been waiting for several moments for his turn at being baptised. John glanced at him, then back to the snakes on the shore. Both hands came up, pointing boney fingers at each group.
John recognized the wrath building up inside him as God’s and not his own. The Wilderness Prophet opened his mouth to pronounce the judgement of a righteous God on these men who stood at the back when, as supposed men of God, they should have been first to submit to His will.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”*
God continued to tongue-lash the false followers until there was a rustling in the mass of people gathered on the bank. Slowly a path parted in the crowd and a man passed along it smoothly. He entered the water and made his way towards John effortlessly, almost as though the water parted before him, just as the crowd had.
Tears welled up in the corners of John’s eyes as he beheld the opposite of the phony men standing on the edge of the river, each vying for attention from the masses. Jesus was the fulfillment of John’s message. His life’s work stood before him in flesh and blood.
Jesus waited in silence. He had no need to say what he wanted, but John was confused. “It is I who needs to be baptized by you!” He cried. “And do you come to me?”
The Messiah smiled at the Prophet of the Wilderness. “Let it be so now.”**
What happened next was a blur for John, but Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened, God spoke from the clouds and the snakes on the shore fled before the truth.
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