Before John could talk, he motioned suddenly in the distance, stabbing a finger into the air at some point on the horizon. “Look!” he pointed again. As one the crowd turned. James looked, too, and saw a solitary figure approaching the crowd from the west. John spoke, “Remember the one of whom I said I was unworthy to untie his sandal strap? It is him!” James froze, as did the rest of the crowd. As the figure, a man, walked up to John, everyone held their breath. This was truly something remarkable.
“Master,” John greeted Jesus. “What are you doing here?”
“I have come to be baptized.” To James, the words came out in such a sublime manner he became entranced. The crowd, the heat, and the rocky ground became as nothing as he watched.
John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. (Matthew 3:14-15)
James watched as John led Jesus down to the riverbank where they both waded in to their waists. He heard John utter the prayer that he himself had used for James, then Jesus fell backward into John’s arms, immersing his head completely in the water. For a fleeting moment, he remained there underwater, then shot back up. James watched in fascination as single water droplets flew off Jesus’ head. Then something strange happened to the water. It became very clear, so clear that he could not only see the bottom from his vantage point fifteen yards from the riverbank. James closed his eyes and rubbed them. He opened them and to his wonder, he was able to see upstream, underneath the water, and underneath all the way to the opposite riverbank. It was as if the river became the color blue-tinged air, almost as one with the sky.