(Bethany beyond the Jordan- near Jericho. This was also near the traditional site where Elijah- whom John represented- ascended into heaven)
Thoughts: Why was John baptizing? This was the question asked by the religious leaders. What was his authority to do so? There were lots of people who baptized in that day. The Essenes baptized for forgiveness and cleansing. Some scholars point out that it was fairly common for female converts to Judaism to be baptized while male converts were circumcised. But the question was really not about whether baptism should occur but John's authority. John vested his authority in the one who comes after him (Christ) for whom he is a forerunner. All Christian authority is wrapped up not in our abilities, degrees, training, but in Christ. We should not claim dignity and place for ourselves. John has much to teach us about humility and glorifying God. After winning the national NCAA football championship tonight, Cam Newton of Auburn was asked, You have had so much adversity- but you've fought through it... How would you describe your own journey?" Cam answered, "It's just a God thing... I was just his instrument and He's using me on a consistent basis daily." This was a John the Baptist-like statement. We are indeed just His instruments!
Prayer: May I not elevate myself, O Lord. My honor lies with you, and I seek to glorify you above all else for myself.
John Calvin Abridged: They accuse John of beginning a new institution without any special kind of authority. John's answer is twofold: 1) that Christ is the author of his baptism; and 2) he is only the administrator of the outward sign. The whole power and efficacy of his baptism lies in Christ alone. John's baptism does not differ from our own. Christ alone performs what baptism figuratively represents, and we have no part beyond the bare administration of the sign. Sometimes scripture speaks of the sacraments as if the power of Christ is tied to the human hands that administer it (Ti. 3:5; 1 Pt 3:21). But the second way (to avoid superstition and blasphemy) is that human ministers are nothing and can do nothing (as pointed out in this passage). John says Christ was behind him in time, but before him in rank and dignity. The name of the place (Bethany) was given to affirm the historicity of the narrative and to call attention to the witness of the crowd that gathered there.