Every time I read this Gospel's passage I envisage in my mind the image of St John standing in the river to immerse Jesus into the water to baptise him. For this reason they called him John the Baptiser. John isn't an ordinary man. He is a special person with many significant events unfolding throughout his life. It began even before his birth and Jesus spoke highly of him after John's violent death- being beheaded. His conception happened after when his mother, Elizabeth, had lost all hope of having children, caused by her advance in age. John's birth was announced by God's messenger. His father, Zechariah, had lost his voice for not trusting the Messenger who told him his wife was going to bear him a son and he should name him John. On his naming day, all his relatives were surprised because the name given him had nothing to do with the family traditions. His father, Zechariah, regained his voice after John had been named. What the prophet Isaiah had prophesized became clear.
The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name Is. 49,1.... He is to be called John. They said to her: but no one in your family has that name. v.61
What happened at his naming day ceremony had made people wonder about
'what will this child turn out to be?' v.66.
John enjoyed a simplicity of life, no luxury clothing in his appearance as he wore a garment made out of carmel skin; he lived not in a castle but in wilderness; he had no taste of expensive banquet but simply wild honey and insects; his message was short, sharp and simple: calling people to a baptism, a sign of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. Lk 3,3. His entire life was dedicated to the Messiah and strongly believed that whenever the Messiah began his mission; his own mission would come to an end, giving way to the Lord. Several times John had made it clear when the Priests and Levites challenged his mission, John simply answered about his vocation that he is,
A voice that cries in the wilderness. Make straight way for the Lord Jn 3,23....I baptize you with water, but someone is coming, who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy spirit and fire. Lk 3,16
During his life John always remembered that everything he had that came from the Lord. His popularity, his public speaking skills and even his followers were all given to him by the Lord. John kept nothing for himself. When he saw Jesus passing, John stared hard at him and said: Look, there is the lamb of God' Jn 3,35 and two of his disciples who followed Jesus.
I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength!....He must be increased and I must be decreased. Jn 3,30
We follow human instinct but for John the human instinct needs to be confirmed by the Spirit. The Spirit played a very prominent role in his life. He jumped for joy when Mary came to visit his mother. His name was given by the Spirit of God. No doubt he was not in the wilderness alone but the Sprit trained him for the mission. Prompted by the Spirit he recognized Jesus as the Saviour at his Baptism. Seeing Jesus walked past, John told his disciples that he is the lamb of God.
The Bible briefly said
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Lk 1,80
We learn from John as we listen to the voice of the Spirit in our heart.