Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through seventeen of the third chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you ind the apostle Matthew transitioning from the account of Jesus’ birth to a time period that was at least thirty years from that time. It has been speculated that when the wise men came to where the child was, Jesus was no longer the baby in a manger, but could possibly have been two to three years old. What we know for certain is that when we come to this particular portion of scripture a period of at least thirty years had passed from the time Jesus was born to the time of Hohn the Baptist. When we come near and approach this passage of scripture we find the apostle Matthew transitioning from writing and speaking concerning Jesus who is the Christ and his birth to now writing and speaking concerning John the Baptist who hold come as a shining light and a burning torch within the region of Judaea and Jerusalem. What we find in this particular passage is Matthew transitioning away from writing and speaking concerning the birth of Jesus Christ to the preparation for His manifestation and revealing within the earth. One of the realities that has long interested and intrigued me is that although the eternal Word of life was found to be in the earth, there was a period of thirty years when He was hidden and concealed within the city of Nazareth. Consider the fact that when Herod sought to find this young life in order that He might destroy it, Joseph took the young child and His mother down into the land of Egypt until it was safe to return to the land. When the second chapter of this gospel account ends, it does so with Jesus and his family returning from the land of Egypt where He was hidden and concealed until the time of Herod’s death.
What I find to be so incredibly fascinating about how the second chapter ends, and how the third chapter begins is that there were essentially two time period within Jesus young life where He would be hidden and concealed from the world around Him. This is even more interesting when you consider that the story and account of His birth includes two distinct groups of individuals who sought Him out in order that they might come and worship Him, and that they might see the salvation of Israel. In the second chapter of Matthews gospel we find the star appearing unto the wise men in the east, and ultimately leading them to the place where the young child was. The beloved physician Luke presents us with the reality that there were shepherds who were watching their sheep by night, and who were instructed to go and search out the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem. What we find during the account of Jesus young life is that both the wise men and the shepherds diligently sought out the child in order that they might find Him. The account which Luke presents ya with goes on to include—not those who sought out the Messiah, but those who were patiently waiting for the manifestation of the hope of Israel. Luke records how when Jesus was eight days old his parents brought him to Jerusalem and unto the temple in order that He might be presented unto the Lord. It was there at the temple where both Simeon and Anna would lay their eyes on, and behold this young child, and would with their own eyes see the salvation of Israel and the long awaited messiah. When we study and consider the history of the child Jesus, we must consider that it began with the shepherds and wise men seeking and searching Him out, Simeon and Anna waiting for an beholding Him at the Temple, and later His won parents searching for Him when they thought they had lost Him. Like records how Jesus parents thought they had lost Him, and were stunned to find Him sitting in the temple talking and debating with the teachers of the law.
If you study the life of Jesus Christ before the appearance of John the Baptist you will find that He was hidden and concealed within the lane of Egypt so as to guard and protect him from herods murderous threats. Once Herod was dead, Jesus and Mary and Joseph would return to the land—although upon hearing that Herod’s son reigned in his fathers stead, they chose to remain and abide in Nazareth. For nearly twenty-five plus years Jesus would remain in the town of Nazareth and no one would be the wiser that the eternal and living Word of God was dwelling among them. It was true that the apostle John declared that the word took on flesh and dwelt among us, but what we must understand is that that Word was not manifested within the earth until He was thirty years of age. In fact, His manifestation and His appearing in the earth would be precluded and prepared for by the appearing and manifestation of John the Baptist within the regions of Judaea and Jerusalem. When we come to the third chapter of the gospel according to Matthew we do not find Jesus appearing and being manifested first, but rather we find his cousin John the Baptist appearing and being manifested first. What we read and what we find in the third chapter of the gospel according to Matthew is the direct fulfillment of that which was prophesied—both by Isaiah, as well as Malachi. IN order for us to understand that which took place in the third chapter of New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Mathew, it is first necessary that we turn and direct our attention to that which the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning his coming and appearing. In addition to this, we must also direct our attention to the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi, for within the third chapter of this prophetic book we find a second reference to the coming and appearance of John the Baptist—this messenger which would come ahead and would prepare the way for the Messiah. Consider if you will the words and language which are found—first in the fortieth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the prophetic book of Malachi:
“Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. And all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the godliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever. O Zion, that bringeth good tidings, get thee up into the high. Mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: Behold, His reward is with him, and His work before him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:1-11).
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide in the day of his coming? Ands who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1-3).
If you continue reading in the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi, you will find a secondary reference—and perhaps the more prominent reference—to the coming of this messenger who would prepare the way for the appearance and coming of the Messiah. If you turn and direct your attention to the final three verses of the fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Malachi, you will find one of the most noted prophecies concerning this messenger which would go before the face of the Messiah. Consider if you will the words which the prophet spoke beginning with the fourth verse of the fourth chapter:
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto Him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statues and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:4-6).
The words which we find in these three passages bring us face to face with the wonderful and powerful reality that John the Baptist was born into the world in order that he might rise up ahead of, and rise up before the Messiah, in order that he might prepare a people for His coming and for His appearing. When we think about and consider the life and ministry of John the Baptist, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that his sole purpose, and his sole mission within and upon the earth was not to draw men unto himself, but rather to point men to the Christ, and to prepare them for His appearing. One thing that is actually quite interesting and unique concerning this reality, is that John the Baptist had no idea or no clue when the Messiah was going to come, or when He was going to suddenly appear. When John the Baptist emerged on to the scene according to the express knowledge and foreordained will of the eternal God, he knew one thing and one thing alone—that he was to bear witness to the Messiah and prepare a people for His coming and His appearing. It would have very easy for John the Baptist to take this as an opportunity to develop a ministry of his own—one that was centered upon himself. It would have been very easy for John the Baptist to take this as an opportunity to make a name for himself, and to gather unto himself followers and disciples. It is true that there were those who followed John the Baptist while he was preparing the way for the Messiah, however, when the time came for the Messiah to appear and to be manifested, those who followed him would in turn rise up and follow Jesus who is the Christ. Consider if you will what is recorded in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John concerning this man—beginning with the nineteenth verse:
“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:19-28).
In this particular set of verses we find John the Baptist being confronted by priests and Levites whom the Jews sent from Jerusalem to inquire as to his identity. When John the Baptist emerged on to the scene, he seemingly came out of nowhere, and emerged from a place that was unknown to those who were present within the region. When the priests and Levites who had come unto John asked him who he was that they might bring answer back to those who sent them, John simply responded by declaring he was the fulfillment of that which was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah concerning the forerunner and messenger of the Messiah which would go ahead of Him, and would prepare the way for Him to appear in the earth. What’s more, is that when John the Baptist spoke of who he was—something he without hesitation and reluctance agreed to do—he spoke of how he was not the Messiah, nor was he Elijah, nor was he that prophet who was spoken about. John the Baptist knew his purpose within the earth, and he knew that he existed for one reason and one reason alone—to point men and women unto the One who was coming after him. John the Baptist was raised up and set upon the earth to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the hearts, the minds, and the spirits of those who were willing to come out to him—and not only hear his teaching, but also to be baptized by him in the waters of the Jordan River. When you consider the life and ministry of John the Baptist, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the ministry he was afforded, and the ministry he was provided by the eternal and living God was not one where men would be drawn unto himself, but one where men and women would come unto him, would be baptized with a baptism of repentance, and would be prepared for the emergence and coming of the Messiah. As you continue reading in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, you will find the following declarations made by John the Baptist concerning Jesus Christ, and His being the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. Consider if you will what is recorded in the first chapter of the gospel of John beginning with the twenty-ninth verse:
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto Him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I. Knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of His disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, He saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which by interpretation, A stone” (John 1:29-42).
If you continue reading concerning the life and ministry of John the Baptist, you will find that his entire mission, his entire purpose for being upon the earth was to draw and point men unto the Messiah who would come after him. John the Baptist recognized and understood that he was not to engage himself in developing a name for himself, nor to gain for himself followers who would remain loyal and devoted unto him. In fact, when he declared for the second time, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” one of those who was following him—Andrew the brother of Simon who would be called Peter—would hear those words and would not only follow Jesus, but would also go and find his brother, and bring his brother to Jesus. Further along in the New Testament gospel of John we find an encounter between the disciples of John and the Jews who questioned them concerning He [Jesus] who was baptizing beyond the Jordan—the one whom he himself bore witness of. Beginning with the twenty-second verse of the third chapter we find the following reference concerning John the Baptist when his disciples were questioned concerning Jesus baptizing, and how all men were now coming unto him. This encounter is actually quite remarkable and astonishing, for it is this encounter where we discover the single greatest declaration John gave concerning his relation to the Messiah, and his mission and purpose upon the earth:
“After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Enron near to Silam, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testified he; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:22-36).
As you continue to study the life and ministry of John the Baptist, you will find then his ministry was characterized by preparation for the kingdom of heaven and the arrival and emergence of the Messiah through baptism, and a baptism of repentance. In the third chapter of the gospel account which was written by the apostle Matthew, you will find that after writing concerning Jesus abiding in Nazareth that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled, he immediately began writing concerning those days in which John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Continuing to read in the third chapter of this New Testament gospel account we find that all Jerusalem came out to hear and to see John the Baptist, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. In addition ion to his fierce loyalty to the Messiah, and his understanding and recognition that he was not the Light which was to come into the world, John recognized and understood that he was to prepare the way for the Messiah—a mission and assignment which was carried out through baptism in the waters in the wilderness of Judaea, and even in the Jordan River. It is absolutely interesting to consider the direct connection between being baptized in water and both the confession and repentance of sins. In fact, I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand that which was taking place in the waters within the region of Judaea and Jerusalem, we must turn and direct our attention to the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings. Within this particular chapter we will find the account of a Syrian captain of the host of the king of Syria by name of Naaman. The account concerning Naaman reveals that he was captivating of the host of the king of Syria, and was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. The author of this Old Testament book goes on to write how Naaman was also a mighty man of valour. Despite the fact that Naaman was a mighty man of valour, and despise that he was a skilled general and captain on the battlefield, Scripture reveals how he was a leper, and as such would have been considered within the land of Israel as being unclean. Leprosy was an external skin condition that not only required covering up and concealing that which made you unclean, but also declaring unto those whom you encounter that you were unclean—at least this was what was required according to Jewish law. Consider the account of Naaman as it was recorded in the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book of Second Kings:
“And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would record him of his leprosy;. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that you mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:5:14).
Now while on the surface it might not seem like there is any connection or correlation between that which is found in this passage of Scripture and that which is written concerning John the Baptist and his baptizing in the waters within the region of Judaea and Jerusalem, as well as in the Jordan River, however, I am convinced that there is a wonderful and powerful connection between the two. If you read concerning John the Baptist, you will read how he engaged himself in baptizing with water all those who would come unto him, and how his baptism was a baptism of repentance. The baptism of John was one that centered upon the confession of sin, and repenting of sin in order that one might be ready and prepared for the kingdom of heaven. Ultimately, the baptism of John was one that centered upon a strong and powerful cleansing that would take place within the hearts and minds of those who made the decision to come unto him. Scripture makes it very clear that those who came unto John came unto him confessing their sins, and after confessing their sins, would be baptized in water for the remission of sins. It was this repentance—this confession of sins and being baptized in water—that would make ready and prepare a people for the coming and appearing of the Messiah. While the waters themselves could and would not cleanse those who came to them, they were nonetheless symbolic of an inner work that was taking place within their hearts and lives. Anyone who studies and knows anything about baptism knows and understands that baptism is an external demonstration of an inner reality that is taking place within one’s heart and life. Being baptized in water was an outward demonstration and manifestation of an inner work of cleansing that was taking place—a work which could only come as a direct result of confession of sins unto repentance. The whole purpose of baptism was that confession of sins might be made in order that one might not only be ready and prepared for the kingdom fo heaven, but also that one might be ready and prepared for the manifestation of the Messiah. What we read, and what we find in the fifth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Second Kings is a powerful demonstration of being baptized in water, and the tremendous cleansing that took place as a direct result of that baptism. In the Old Testament historic book of Second Kings we find Naaman being a great man—a mighty man of valour, and one whom the Lord used to bring deliverance to Syria—and yet in spite of all this, Naaman was a leper. It was true he was skilled on the battlefield, however, Naaman had a condition that caused him to be unclean within the earth, and unclean among men. It was this condition that brought Naaman before the prophet Elisha where he was instructed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River, and upon doing so, he would be made completely whole and completely clean.
What we find in this passage of Scripture is that at first Naaman was wroth and incredibly angry when he was told to dip himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan River, for he had preconceived expectations and ideas of how the prophet would cleanse him of his leprosy. Naaman thought that his being cured of leprosy would not require any action or responsibility on his part, for he thought that the prophet would merely call on the name of the Lord, wave his hand over the place where there was leprosy, and he would be cleansed. Please pay close attention to this, for Naaman expected cleansing without responsibility, and without any further action on his part. I can’t help but think how many men and women find themselves in this same place—the place where they desire to be made whole, the place where the desire to be made clean, and yet such a reality doesn’t require of them any action or responsibility on their part. I can’t help but be reminded of the man who was blind, and how Jesus made clay from the dirt of the ground, spread the mud over and upon the eyes of this man, and then instructed him to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam. It would only be as a direct result of this man’s obedience to the command and instruction of Jesus the Christ that this man would receive his sight. CLEANSING WITHOUT OBEDIENCE! HEALING WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY! TRANSFORMATION WITHOUT ACTION! Oh, I can’t help but think about how many men and women desire such realities within their lives such as change, such as transformation, such as healing, such as cleansing, and yet they do not think or expect for one moment that they will be required to do anything themselves. I am utterly and completely convinced that this is what is so incredibly powerful about baptism, for through baptism—not only are we making the declaration that we are unclean and need to be clean, but we are also making the declaration that we have sinned, that we have fallen short of the glory of God, and that we are in desperate need of cleansing and forgiveness. What I so love about the account of Naaman and his cleansing as a direct result of dipping himself seven times in the Jordan River, is that once he finally obeyed and complied with the instruction of the prophet, his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Did you catch that? Do you see what is mentioned there? When the author of this Old Testament book spoke of Naaman’s being cleansed, they spoke of his flesh coming again unto him like the flesh of a little child. It is that phrase “of a little child” that we must pay close attention to, for it was Jesus Himself who emphatically declared that unless we become like a little child, we cannot and will not enter the kingdom of heaven:
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh” (Matthew 18:1-7).
I absolutely love—not only that Naaman dipped himself in the waters of the Jordan River seven times, for it was a symbol of baptism, but also that when Naaman emerged from the waters the seventh time, his flesh was restored unto him like that of a little child. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that in order for us to understand the awesome importance of baptism, we must understand its direct connection with repentance and confession of sins, as well as its direct connection to our becoming cleansed and completely restored. What’s more, is that just as Naaman’s flesh was restored unto him—flesh like that of a little child—so also through baptism we have the ability to become as a little child. If there is one thing we must understand concerning baptism, it’s that baptism is a place where we enter into the waters as one man, but come out of those waters as a completely different person. The waters of baptism are in fact symbolic of a death that we undergo—a death to our flesh, and a death to our old self in order that a new man might emerge. When Naaman emerged from the waters of the Jordan River the seventh time, he didn’t necessarily emerge as a new man, but he did emerge with new flesh, and flesh which was like as unto a little child. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this, for it is absolutely necessary that we understand the importance of baptism together with repentance and confession of sins, and the cleansing we can and shall receive and experience as a direct result of it. As I am sitting here this morning, I can’t help but ask myself whether or not I am willing to go down to the Jordan River in order that I might be cleansed—in order that I might find transformation and change that is lasting. What areas in my heart and life do I need to find and experience repentance of sins? What areas within my life are in desperate need of forgiveness, of cleansing, of repentance, of transformation and of change? Scripture records how there were countless men and women within Judaea, within Jerusalem, and within the surrounding region who were willing to go down unto John the Baptist in order that they might confess their sins and commit themselves to a baptism of repentance. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to commit ourselves to the waters of confession, to the waters of repentance, to the waters of cleansing afresh and anew. I fully recognize and understand that there are many who might have already been baptized in water, and I have to declare that I have been baptized in water myself. What I am speaking of, and what I am suggesting is a willingness of men and women—perhaps those who were initially reluctant and resistant like Naaman was to dip themselves seven times in the River—to get over themselves, to get over their preconceived notions and expectations, and to give themselves over to that which is necessary in order that they might be cleanse. The question you and I must be willing to answer is whether or not we are willing to go down into the waters of baptism in order that we might experience the cleansing we so desperately need and long for.