People get cleaned up and dressed up for important events. A woman gets her hair done, picks out a new business suit, and buys a new briefcase because she has an important job interview in the morning. A young man stands in front of the mirror, clean-shaven, smelling of cologne, and tugging at the first tuxedo he’s ever worn in his life—his prom date is waiting across town and he wants everything to be right. A chief master sergeant pulls his dress uniform from the closet and carefully puts it on, adding three rows of medals, laces up the shoes that are polished like mirrors, and buckles on his ceremonial sword; after more than 30 years he will celebrate his retirement today. For important occasions the “everyday” just won’t do—a special event requires a very special kind of preparation.
When John the baptist appeared in the wilderness, he stepped into a long line of prophets and elders—stretching back across the span of Israel’s history—who told the people to wash and dress themselves, for the Lord God would soon be made manifest among them. Little did anyone know just how special this event would turn out to be, for God himself was washing them in order to prepare them for receiving the Holy Spirit.