Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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In times past, I often pondered over what it was about John the Baptist that caused the Israelites of his time, including the elders and priests, to wonder if he was the promised Messiah. It was easy to understand why people would think of John as a great man, but what would cause them to go so far as to think that he might be the Messiah?
After years of having that question spring up in my heart, and then fruitlessly contemplating it, the Lord directed my attention to something God sent John to do, a holy act that God had never ordained any man to do since Moses. God commanded Moses to perform that ritual only once, many centuries before John. This act, which no prophet had performed since Moses, was to carry out a ceremonial washing of people, the way Moses had ceremonially washed Aaron and his sons at Mount Sinai. Moses washed Aaron and his sons with water as part of their being ordained to be God's priests for Israel. Since that time, no one in Israel's history had been ordained by God to wash anyone else. No one, that is, until John.
Understanding that, it is easy to understand why all men "mused in their hearts concerning John, whether he were the Christ or not." He certainly was a prophet like Moses, as far as performing a water-cleansing ritual is concerned. But the men looking on and musing in their hearts about John did not know that John's watery baptism was just a temporary shadow of the real washing to come, the one that Jesus gives to every soul who truly repents. The difference between John's baptism and the baptism Jesus gives is that Jesus baptizes souls, not bodies, and he uses eternal life, not the water of the Jordan River. Jesus baptizes men in the invisible river of life that flows from the throne of God, a powerful flow that cannot be seen by those who receive it, but that can very much be felt.