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The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The First of Many
I find it interesting how John the Baptist is viewed in different ways in the different gospels. For example, according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, John is the last of the Old Testament prophets. And his job was to prepare people for the one who was coming later, you know, after him. As a matter of fact, this contrast between the old, represented by John, and the new, represented by Jesus, is so strong in these two gospels that, according to Mark, Jesus doesn’t start his ministry until after John has been arrested. Why, because John is the last great figure of the old age. And in Luke, there’s an overlap between John and Jesus, with their lives both related and parallel. But even though what happens with each is similar, Jesus is always the superior figure. Now that’s the Baptist in Luke.
But in the Gospel of John, there’s still another view of the Baptist. You see, here John the Baptist is the first disciple, the first witness of the Jesus Christ. I mean, he’s the first one who tells others about the one he called “the Lamb of God.” And that’s why, instead of having the baptism of Christ included in the narrative, it’s part of John’s testimony. For the Evangelist John, that’s what the Baptist came to do, to bear witness to Jesus.
And because of that, he offers an example to all of us. You see, like him, we’ve been called to testify to the one who carried the Holy Spirit, the one who entered creation as a light in the darkness, the one who was the word made flesh. In other words, we’ve been given the opportunity, through both our words and work, to point away from ourselves and toward the one who is for us the savior of the world.