Thus with v. 29 the Evangelist uses the word ‘immediately’, stressing the very next day, that is the second day of what, as we shall see, appears to have been a three day event, the first being the interrogation of the Baptist, when unfolds now the second day and later we shall see the events of the third day.
All woven together like a catechetical tapestry.
Within the aforementioned theme of urgency the Baptist is described as seeing Jesus ‘coming toward him.’
Was this Jesus emerging from the Jordan? Unlikely as the text would seem to indicate this was later as from the descriptive it would appear most of those listening to the Baptist had not been observers at the event with Jesus in the Jordan.
Perhaps it was indeed the next day.
There are another two threads which weave themselves throughout St. John’s Gospel and indeed in the Synoptics as well: 1] much toing and froing, which is lots of movement going places, people heading to meet Jesus, Jesus going to them, to meals, to healings, exorcisms; 2] proclamations which are sometimes parable teachings, other times glimpses by Jesus into who He really is, to responding to challenges from those who ultimately want to kill him.
Jesus certainly knew by approaching the Baptist for their encounter in the Jordan, and here, that He, Jesus, was irrevocably entering this ‘public’ life.
There would be no turning back.
His face now set firmly towards Jerusalem, which meant as well towards the garden of Gethsemane, the hill of Calvary, the awaiting tomb.
Like the echo of the exaltation which caused him to shudder with joy in his mother’s womb when he first encountered Jesus [cf. Lk.1:41], the Baptist in this instance [v.29,30] cannot contain himself and cries out, shouts, indeed commands: “Behold! 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 is preferred before me, for He was before me! I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefor I came baptizing with water.’”
BEHOLD! – Nowadays we rarely use that expression, more likely we shout: “LOOK!” - or perhaps nonetheless seeking someone to pay attention would more mutedly ask: “Did you see THAT!”
Granted some persons, usually the very young, do go rather nuts when a celebrity of some type is within view, older people most often reserve their excitement for the head of state, Catholics certainly get excited when the Pope is in view – but here, in this instant, on this day, it is Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God who has come into view, more is publicly entering history in a way which through the millennia to this very moment, continues.
For several decades, and it is most sad, there have been and continue to be struggles in Catholic parishes about when and if to kneel, or not!
Jesus in all His Risen glory is in our midst, in every Holy Mass, every Holy Communion more than in our midst, in our very beings and He resides with us in the Tabernacle.
We have not simply lost a capacity for wonderment, for BEHOLD!, we seem to have lost an appreciation, a humble, childlike love for Him.
One woman crawled on her belly just to touch the hem of His garment, another knelt at His feet washing them with her tears and kissing them with love and gratitude.
The Magi knelt to lean into the manger to love and adore Him.
Jesus is such radiant love and mercy not merely does the question pose itself, why not kneel, but pushes further, why not prostrate and await His loving touch where He says: arise!
This ‘behold’ moment was the moment all creation, all humanity, the People of the Promise in particular had been waiting for across the millennia, the advent of the promised Messiah, the Christ.
The Baptist’s urgency is to call our attention to this tremendous advent, the import of the moment, the wonder of the One for whom this moment is: Jesus.
Something I have wondered about, for it is not explicit in the text, did the Baptist at this juncture suspect that soon Herodias would seek to have him killed?
None of the Gospels tell us precisely when he challenged Herod about his adultery but we do know ultimately this would cost St. John the Baptist his life.
It just seems to me perhaps some premonition added urgency, clarity, to his words about Jesus.
Certainly here he wastes no time further fulfilling his mission as the precursor of the Messiah, imbued as he is with the spirit of Elijah.
Again the Evangelist stresses that: “John bore witness, saying….”
In these verses 32-34 the Baptist reminds those who witnessed the event with Jesus in the Jordon, and informs those who did not, the reality both of what unfolded and the truth of the One now among us.
V.32- “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.”
When we are Baptised the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, making us at the one and the same time: disciples of Christ, children of the Father, temples of Himself, the Holy Spirit and immersion in Baptism is to receive the gateway sacrament opening to us the life of sanctifying grace in all the other sacraments.
Jesus, second Person of the Holy Trinity, true God and true Man, always in communion/union of love with the Father and the Holy Spirit did not suddenly be taken up into that Trinitarian reality at the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him in the Jordon.
Rather this event is for our eyes confirmation of the always existing union of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and affirmation of the Spirit’s being with Jesus in His human life – just as in Baptism the Holy Spirit gifts Himself to us for our lives: clothing us with Christ, empowering us to cry Abba! Father!, teaching and sanctifying us.
v.33 – “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
THEOPHANY: This is the English of the Greek word theophania, which means God revealing Himself, God appearing.
In the accounts of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordon found in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22 we find details not present in the Baptist’s teaching above, namely the voice of the Father affirming Jesus is His Son and we must listen to Jesus.
Yet even in the Baptist’s words we have a theophany teaching for it is the Father who both has sent St. John the Baptist, indeed given him his Forerunner mission, tells him what to say/teach in this moment and, of course, the Baptist testifies also to seeing the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus, God in human nature yet remaining true God, Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
From this moment on, with absolute certainty, we know the one true God is one, yet a trinity of persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
St. John the Evangelist concludes with an explicit testimony, surely with the great behold still echoing in our hearts, from the Baptist, v. 34: “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”