12 The Banks of Jordan

THERE CAME A day when that long apprenticeship was over. His Father had sent His herald before His face, and John the Baptist was raising the people of Israel to a high pitch of expectancy. Excitement was abroad, all minds were agitated, men were making restitution, confessing their sins, looking for Him who should come. But the One who laid down His chisel and plane for the last time, and bade farewell to a reluctant and apprehensive family knew no such tumult. Calm and rock-like and free from the iron restraint of years, He came to Jordan with His people's sin upon His shoulders, and their salvation in His heart.

As Ezra rent his garment and his mantle, and plucked off the hair of his head and of his beard and sat down astonished at the sin of his people, so did the King of Israel confess in Jordan the sin of His people before His Father. Doubtless John was astonished when his unknown kinsman approached him and, in answer to John's question about His sins before he baptised Him, confessed that He had none; and drew from John's lips the cry 'I have need to be baptised of Thee!' John did not realise then that it was the true High Priest standing for His people before an outraged God. Christ knew the shallowness of this mass movement, knew that their repentance was but a shadow, knew that their past sins were to be immediately surpassed by the murder of God's only Son; and in this knowledge bore them to His Father, as a parent might make restitution for an erring child before an offended neighbour, being far more upset himself than was the actual offender. And as His head disappeared in Jordan's stream was there no vision of that day when He, and His brethren after Him, should be buried by baptism into actual death?