In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
Next to J.C., my favorite character from the Bible is John the Baptist.
I dig his style.
Ol’ John had one purpose, one passion, one message: to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah. That was it.
In this singular mission as the forerunner to Christ, John didn’t give a crap what he wore, what he ate, where he lived, or what people thought of him. He certainly was no “reed shaken by the wind,” and he had no problem calling out the sins and hypocrisy of the Jewish aristocracy of his era. This would eventually cost him his life, when he started talking righteous smack about Herod Antipas hooking-up with his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. To the rich and powerful, John was considered a bit of an asshole, and there were very few tears shed on his behalf in the palace after Salome ordered his head on a platter along with a fresh round of drinks.
Of course, much like today, revealing the truth is often seen as a dick-move by those in power who would rather not have their truths dragged out into the light. Again, like the honey badger, John didn’t care. His truth was immutable. Moreover, if you had any issues with your own truth, it wasn’t his fault. Either repent or don’t. It’s up to you. John was just laying down the situation.
Now, John’s very simple and direct message of “repentance” has become somewhat obscured over the centuries, first as the result of countless oral and written translations, and secondly because of modern era laziness when it comes to language.
For most of us, when we hear the word “repent,” we sorta think it means something about not doing anymore bad stuff. But that’s not what it means at all. If to ‘repent’ meant to do away with your own sins by yourself, you wouldn’t need Jesus or John or God or anyone else. You could take care of it after brushing your teeth every morning.
According to the three languages attached to the three major religions on Planet Earth, these being Hebrew, Arabic, and, to a lesser extent, Aramaic, the word repent is translated as “to return”.
To return to God.
To return to the cosmic source that created all of us and everything.
To return to who we are.
That’s what John was ranting about in the desert, and, if you think about it, the human race would do a heck of a lot better if all of us–Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Rich, Poor, Black, White, Straight, Gay, Male, Female–saw each other not as enemies, but as members of the same family, which, in fact, we are.
We are truly brothers and sisters in this human-thing, and you don’t have to define “God” the way I do or even the way John did in order to see this truth, and to embrace it, and to live it. I believe that’s what Jesus meant when he re-wrote the Ten Commandments with the simpler, more direct: “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is, of course, really hard to do when you’re gunked-up inside with narcissism, avarice, greed, envy, and all that other sinful stuff. It separates you from your family. It blocks the way back to God. That’s what I believe the Baptist was talking about when he told us to “make straight the path…”
I don’t know where you are on President Trump’s historic decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem, although I suspect a few of us are bracing for some form of global madness, if not outright frogs and locusts raining down from the sky.
Whatever your opinion, it does seem like a good time to remember what old John called us to do over two-thousand years ago, and consider what your own “return” would look like.
Can’t hurt, right?
Jesus loves you and so do I,