For many months now I had been preaching the same message: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Prepare the way of the Lord!” I would get all kinds of reactions from those who heard. Those who sobbed their repentance and were baptized in the Jordan by me. Those who asked what they must do and then were willing to follow my advice as the fruit of their Repentance. Those who impiously stood on the banks of Jordan asking me to baptize their bodies while their hearts remained dry as a bone- dead men’s bones. I refused them but not without warning them: “One is coming who will baptize with Fire – and with the Holy Spirit”: God’s fire of judgment and His Holy Spirit of power. These are the very ones who have helped to make the Way crooked; surely He, our Messiah, will come and “straighten” them out!
Though I was “the Voice in the Desert”, I too was like them in one way – I was waiting for Him to arrive as well. I had not been given any timetable; I had been given a Message. Some thought that I was He. Noo! He is so above me that for me to stoop to unlace His sandals would not cause me to stoop low enough. It is the lowest household servant who has to bend to the Master’s dirty feet, but I cannot even claim such as a position as that!
Then one day He stepped out from the midst of the crowd gathered in their usual spots along the river bank to hear my usual message. He waded toward me. Not sure what I was expecting at that moment- perhaps for Him to turn and preach as well? Perhaps for Him to call down Fire on some and His Holy Spirit on others?? What he said next was absolutely the last thing I would have expected: “Would you baptize me, John?”
Why would He ask me this? Mine was a Baptism of repentance; He had nothing of which to repent. Mine was a baptism of water; His was to be of the Holy Spirit and Fire. Mine was a baptism of the Kingdom- He was the King!
I tried to stop Him: “I think we should switch roles here; you should be baptizing me!” “I must have you baptize me so that all righteousness might be fulfilled”. He was telling me that the same baptism that had been announcing that His Kingdom was coming was now the baptism that was announcing that He the King was now here! (John 1:29-34; Matthew 3:13-17) Immediately God Himself put His approval because I heard His Voice from Heaven and I saw the Holy Spirit alight on Jesus as He came up from the water and made His way back to shore. He indeed was the Righteous One. He indeed was anointed with the Holy Spirit and would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
I learned something very important that day: You don’t have to understand to Obey. God does not use those who argue with Him; He uses those who obey even when they don’t totally understand.
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.