by Pauline Simonsen
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‘I myself did not know him, but … I have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God’ (John 1:33,34).
My husband is good at doing jigsaws. I am not. I can persevere and finally conquer the edges (unless it’s the sky), and perhaps some detailed sections with lots of visual clues. But I quickly tire, and my husband takes over, slowly and carefully piecing it all together.
John the Baptist put together the different pieces of the jigsaw about the Messiah, long before anyone else did. Today’s reading shows his ‘aha!’ moment when he finally places several completed sections together and gets the big picture.
God told John to preach and baptise for repentance, a wilderness voice preparing the way for the coming Messiah. That’s the ‘Isaiah’ section if you like. Then there’s another jigsaw section about the greater one coming after John, though he existed before John. In yet another section, God prepares John to recognise this great one, God’s chosen Messiah. John will know him when the Spirit descends as a dove and rests on him after his baptism.
So, when Jesus of Nazareth comes to be baptised by John, and it all happens as God has forewarned, John has his epiphany. He sees Jesus for who he truly is, as God manifest in human form. Suddenly John catches a glimpse of God’s whole plan: that God’s Son has come to be the sacrificial lamb who will atone for the sin of the whole world. And John understands how his own baptism ministry has enabled Jesus to be revealed to Israel.
Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John puts the jigsaw together and perceives God’s great plan and his own small role in it. He understands that he is to share his epiphany insight with others, to direct them to Jesus Christ (which he immediately does in the following verses). John is clear about Jesus’ pre-eminence and his own servant role. ‘He must become greater, and I must become less’ (John 3:30).
God’s great plan calls for our participation and service, but it’s not all about us. It’s about Jesus. He is the design bringing the whole jigsaw picture together. Our task is simply to point people to the picture!
Lord God, give us clarity to see your great redemption plan and the humility to know our place in it. Amen.