Summary: John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism from the eyes of a Roman centurion. This is a call to repentance and the realization that we are in need of God's grace.
-- Intro of Petronius the Centurion --
My name is Petronius. I am a Centurion responsible for the garrisons in Jericho and Jerusalem. Tiberius Caesar has been reigning for fifteen years. Pontius Pilate is governor of Judea. Herod is king of Galilee.
Annas and Caiaphas are high priests for the Jews. They are corrupt so the priests follow suit. Not only are the people angry at us for occupying their land, they are very unhappy with their own religious system. The rules they have to keep are endless but there just does not seem to have any hope in their practices. I have not been able to figure out their God. So much work yet there does not seem to be any rewards in what they do.
This has been a rough year for us. We've had to quelch an uprising on a monthly basis. There is some prophecy about a Messiah coming. This Messiah is going to drive us out of their land. Ah... I haven't seen anyone that comes close to opposing us. These Jews hate us and they are an explosive group of people. Anything little thing sparks a riot in the streets. In order keep order, we have to jump on anything that looks and smells funny before it gets out of hand.
-- Intro of John the Baptist --
Well, one day we started hearing about this man by the Jordan river preaching about this Messiah again. He was attracting thousands of people from all over the land. People from Judea, Jerusalem, and even from Galilee were coming to hear him. His words seem to have power. The people come away changed.
This is exactly the type of event that can send the whole country into chaos. With so many people in one place and a charismatic personality... We can have a revolution on our hands in a matter of days or weeks. Pontius Pilate sent me to see what was going on. We didn't know what to expect so I sent some of my men to investigate before going to the Jordan river in force.
We found out that this man's name is John. They call him the Baptist because he baptizes people. This baptism thing comes from their cleansing process before their big festivals. They would dunk themselves into the water to symbolizes the washing away of their evils. There is a very large pool on the temple grounds that they would wash themselves. After they wash themselves, they would enter their temple to worship their God.
We have control over the situation at the temple because Antonio's Fort is just above the temple grounds. We are able to look over the walls onto the court yard to make sure everything is in order. But this ... this is totally different. This Baptist person is out in the middle of no-where. Thousands come to listen to him. The people line up after his speeches to be baptized. He has them eating out of the palm of his hand. If he wants these people to attack us, they would listen to him.
He claims to be the one that is making the "crooked road straight." Well that is a real problem because everyone knows that before an emperor arrives, there is a whole army of people that makes sure all the roads are repaired and potholes filled. John is claiming to be that person that announces the coming of the king. I guess he is quoting this prophet called Isaiah.
Even some of my troops that go to do surveillance come back changed. They say His words have power. Some of them even go through their baptism ritual. This guy has the people mesmerized.
We have a real problem on our hands. Since he is treated as a prophet by the people, we cannot just go up to him and arrest him.
-- Growing up in the Wilderness --
We found out that John grew-up in the wilderness. He wears very rough camel's hair clothing. He eats only honey and this plant call locust.
His birth was said to have been a miracle in itself. His father and mother were very old. His father was a priest. One day when his father was in the temple performing the evening sacrifices, rumor has it that he saw an angel. The angel told him he was going to have a son. The angel gave him very specific instructions on how to raise this child. He was not to drink strong drinks and his hair is not to be cut. There were to teach him at home.
Unlike their leaders, he did not seem to want money or even fame. According to people, he dresses like a prophet called Elijah that lived about 300-400 hundred years ago. Elijah was a powerful prophet that opposed the wicked kings of his time. According to the stories, he cursed the sky and the sky did not rain for three years. Now that is some crazy stuff. Can you imagine a man having the power of the gods? I'm not even sure the gods can stop the rain much less a man.