John's baptism is preparatory in anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. John even draws people from the city of Jerusalem, the city of religious leaders, who "were baptized by him (John) in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" (Mk. 1:5). John's baptism of repentance and forgiveness is a call to the people of Judea and those in the city of Jerusalem to turn from their godless ways and receive the forgiveness that is present in God. The description of John stretches our imagination. He is identified as a wilderness man: "John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey" (Mk. 1:6). However, the primary intention of John was not to draw attention to himself, but to the one of whom he is the forerunner: "'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me, I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals'" (Mk. 1:7). John's role is that of a servant to the one he is called to serve.
The baptism of this one who is to come is radically different from that of John's baptism: "'I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit'" (Mk. 1:8). This is the role that John plays out in a significant way, calling attention to the one who ushers in God's kingdom. Jesus is the Messiah whose ministry is empowered by God's Spirit. The baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan is a baptism in which the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is evident (see Mark 1:10-11).
John fulfils the role of the one who is the forerunner, the one who is called to make known "the Messiah, the Son of God" (1:1), "the Lord" (Mk. 1:3), the one who "will baptize with the Holy Spirit" (1:8), and the one who is "my (God's) Son, the Beloved" (Mk. 1:11). Jesus is the one who has come, who is present, and who is to come again. We too are called to announce and make known God's Son in this season of Advent. Like the witness of John, we too are witnesses to the one who incarnates "the beginning of the good news, the gospel" (Mk. 1:1). John the Baptist leads us in this Advent season to the one who is our Lord, whose birth we await and whose reign in eternity will never end. This is "the beginning of the good news, the gospel of Jesus.
John prepared the way of Jesus. Who prepared the way for you coming to know Christ?