They came by the thousand. A constant and steady stream of people.
I guess this is what it would have been like when people were leaving Jerusalem on their way home from feasts. But they would have left tired, having exerted themselves with ritual and celebration.
This time people were coming to Bethany with the same kind of anticipation they would have had when they were approaching Jerusalem – especially if it marked the end of a long and arduous journey – you know, like the last dash at the end of a marathon – when all you have left is, well… the energy comes from somewhere.
And those coming weren’t all that sure what they were coming to see. As Jesus once asked us “What did you go out to see?” What were people expecting? A tent meeting and a well-dressed and well-intended crusade evangelist?
Day after day they would come. Day after day John would preach and baptise. The same message, the same method, but always with sincerity and life-changing power. People came. People heard. People responded to what they heard. It really did seem as if people were genuinely convicted of their sin; moved to both confession, repentance, and baptism.
One day things changed. Things were different. The crowds came – from Jerusalem, from Judea, from the South East. John preached. John baptised.
But then something unusual happened. You see, people usually came in groups, like hundreds at a time, and never alone.
Not this one. He came alone. He came from the opposite direction. He came from the North East. I am not sure when John saw Him, but John stopped. It was very unusual for John to be interrupted like this, even amidst the flood of emotional expression, John just kept on with the message and the method.
He stopped. He stopped talking. He just stood there. He seemed to be squinting at this lone traveller as if trying to figure out His facial features – unsure where he’d seen Him before.
The man from the North East approached the crowd and the crowd parted like the red sea, a wall of standing soldiers on either side. It was then that John knew.
John knew that this crowd parting traveller was the long-expected one, the one, the strap of whose sandals he was unworthy to bend down and untie. This was part of John’s message. Every day we’d hear about this coming Great One. And everyday there was a growing sense of anticipation as if to ask “Is today the day?” or as people came forward for baptism “Is this the one?”
The closer He got, the more the shadows of doubt were evicted from our hearts and minds. This is the one. This was the Great One John had said would come.
We had no idea just how great!
The Story of His Coming.