John saw Jesus coming towards 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.’
John said: Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! … I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.
We do not know how long John’s ministry of preaching and baptizing in the wilderness had been going on before this moment in the gospel narrative. Whether it had been days, weeks or months is not really relevant because today we hear of the moment when his role as the forerunner of the Messiah is fulfilled. Today we hear of Jesus standing before John in person. Today we see the one of whom John said: I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal. Today we hear John’s testimony of seeing the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and [remaining] on him. Today we hear John’s intense joy of recognizing and acknowledging that he is in the presence of the one long foretold, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
All who are baptized into the Christian faith have shared in this moment. Whether they made the commitment themselves, or whether the promises were made on their behalf by godparents, the commitment to live as one who recognizes the Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit has been made. Water has been poured as a symbol of cleansing the sin that clings so close. The light of the risen Christ has been given to guide and to protect as the newly baptized person stepped out into the world that can be so dark. From that moment a new life came into being. A new Christian life entered this world. A new professing Christian came to the open door of opportunity and choice … the opportunity to share the light of Christ with others; the choice of honouring the promises made or turning one’s back on them.
John brought baptism with water, Jesus brought baptism into the life of the Holy Spirit. Our baptism rituals combine the two as water symbolically cleanses us, making us ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is for us to pray that we might never forget the great gift we have received, and to show how much it matters to us as we step out, like John, and play our part in sharing the guiding and protecting light of Christ with all we meet.