John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
The clothing of John the Baptist is the most effective metaphor for his identity. He is a man of the desert, John the Baptist represents the desert. Here desert is understood as the place that prepares the inner rebirth, the rediscovery of themselves in the light of God. In fact, Camel’s hair, locusts and wild honey are the poor things you could find in the desert. Things that guarantee the survival and not certainly the well-being. Above all John personifies the desert’s voice, the nostalgic reminder of an essential life-style, the loneliness as the condition to go deeper inside, beyond the banal superficiality of everyday life and routine. Jerusalem is the symbol of the city, the environment in which we live and from which – at least for a while – we should go out to find themselves, to recover the right point of view about the world.
However it is not necessary to leave towns, to leave what you normally do. You can safely remain at your posts, but trying to listen to the call that comes from deep within, where God lives. The fact that all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan came to John reveals the charm of the desert and of the simple life, the charm of a new immersion in the water – the greek word baptizein – i.e. the need for a revival. But it would be useless to discover who we are and what we really want from our lives without to rediscover within ourselves the living water’s source that only a full immersion in the eternity of God can provide.
In this sense, the confession of sins is not a list of sins, but the full and conscious recognition of what has alienated us from ourselves and from God, the reason why God did not reveal to us his true identity. The amazing discovering of God that lives in us and outside of us needs an immersion in the mystery and in the concealed origin of our life.
The river is not only a river, but also a border, a passage between an anonymous and grey life, to a life full of light. In fact, like the Jews crossed the Jordan passing from slavery to the service, so who finally discovers where God lives passes from the slavery to the exalting service to God to which we belong.