Bath Night, Baptism, and Happy Days

By Joel A. Hess

Bath night. I still remember my mom announcing it after dinner. “Before anyone watches Happy Days, you have to get cleaned up.” I was fortunate. If I remember right, I got to take a bath first. Nice clear, warm water was waiting for me. But when I was done, the next kid got in. Why waste water? Each kid would take their turn. By the time the last one got in, that water wasn’t so clean looking. But it did the trick. My parents probably realized that the older the kid the more she would hesitate about getting in gray water. Who knows what was in that water by the time my youngest sister hopped in? Or more importantly, who knows what the youngest might leave in that water? Gross! This didn’t work as we got older. We knew better. No way am I going to get in the bath after my brother.

John announced bath night to the people of Israel, “You better clean up before God comes to your house!” He yelled at the bystanders who came to investigate, “Who are you to think you are clean enough for God? Who are you to think you aren’t as filthy as these people? Repent and hop in the bath!”

The Jordan River is not a pretty river. It’s an ugly stream. How ugly that water was after all those people hopped in. Full of the filth from their bodies, but worse, full of filth from their sins. Their hate, their selfishness, their addictions, their sexual perversions, their greed, their cheating, divorces, lies, murders, cursing, and the like. That river must have stunk.

Then comes the last fellow. I would have run away for sure. Jesus stood amongst the crowd. He didn’t hesitate. He was already clean. No sin, no filth, no need to repent, no need to be clean. He hopped in that dirty water. He hopped into their lies, their adulteries, their insults and profanities, their murders. He let the dirty waters cover him. He let my sins nearly drown him. It covered his whole body. He let it go into his nostrils, touch his tongue, slip into his eyes. He came up and didn’t dry it off. It stayed there. He smelled of it.

He climbed out of the river and began to walk. He walked places even dirtier. He walked to where the Lepers hid. He walked down the alleys and byways. He walked through the graveyards, the prisons, the homes of tax collectors. He kept walking all around Israel with the stench of that dirty water and the fingerprints of dirty people who touched him along the way. Nothing could stop Him. He was determined.

“To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers

(Jesus walks for them)

To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah

(Jesus walks for them)”


“When I left my home and my family

I was no more than a boy

In the company of strangers

In the quiet of the railway station

Running scared,

Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters

Where the ragged people go

Looking for the places

Only they would know”

He walked through the streets of Jerusalem, the cesspool of hypocrisy. He walked with the killers and insurrectionists.

He walked up a road meant for criminals. He walked covered in the saliva of mothers spitting and soldiers swearing. He walked with all our convictions upon him.

He lay His dirty, stinking body on a cross. And with nails and a ragged crown, a spear in his side, He was washed. We were washed. It is finished. Every sin put upon him. Every one. Past, present, future.

Then He told His disciples to wash people in His name. A little water and a lot of Jesus. Wash everyone of every nation, babies—old men, atheists and Muslims—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After you have been washed by Christ, you don’t need to be washed again. You are clean.

I still remember bath night. After a nice warm bath, I put my clean, young body into cozy pajamas and snuggled up in the couch to laugh at Fonzie, Richie, and the gang. Safe at home with my family.

So you too have been washed, dressed, and placed in God’s home, ready for the finale—happy days. Do not be afraid. Come, Lord Jesus.

“The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’.

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.”

Kanye West – Jesus Walks

Simon & Garfunkel – the Boxer

Bob Dylan – the times they are a changing