Friends, in today’s Gospel, John the Baptist declares that he is the forerunner of Christ.
Why, when we first hear of the adult John the Baptist, is he out in the desert and not in the temple, where you would expect the son of a priest to be? Well, in John’s time, the temple was mired in very messy politics.
What is drawing people into the desert to see him? He is offering what the temple ought to be offering but wasn’t: the forgiveness of sins. This was the importance of John’s baptism.
But here’s the odd thing: he did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” He was pointing toward the one who would be the definitive Temple.
And therefore how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the temple.