Sometimes you meet a person and you know that there is something immediately different about him or her. You know that that person has been touched or blessed by someone greater for something greater. These are just hunches that we have. I believe John the Baptist was one of those guys.
|Hebert Translation||Nestle-Aland 27|
|The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him and he said: “Behold, the lamb of God, the one taking up the sins of the world. This is the one about whom I said: ‘After me a man comes who is in front of me because he was before me.’ I did not know him, but on this account I came baptizing in water so that he might be made known to Israel.” And John testified saying: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove out of heaven and remain on him. I did not know him, but the one sending me to baptize in water said to me: ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, that one is the one baptizing in the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God!”||Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει· ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. οὗτός ἐστιν ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον· ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεται ἀνὴρ ὃς ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα φανερωθῇ τῷ Ἰσραὴλ διὰ τοῦτο ἦλθον ἐγὼ ἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων. Καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν Ἰωάννης λέγων ὅτι τεθέαμαι τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον ὡς περιστερὰν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν. κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾿ ὁ πέμψας με βαπτίζειν ἐν ὕδατι ἐκεῖνός μοι εἶπεν· ἐφ᾿ ὃν ἂν ἴδῃς τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. κἀγὼ ἑώρακα καὶ μεμαρτύρηκα ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.|
After telling the Pharisees about this guy that was coming, lo and behold!, John looks up and here comes Jesus strolling along the banks of the Jordan! John sees him and immediately begins screaming about how this is the guy. (NB: This is different from the Synoptic Gospels — John does not appear to baptize Jesus.)
John goes on to say a rather key phrase that reveals a lot about himself:
…the one sending me to baptize in water said to me…
John has been sent to baptize with water. He has been sent to prepare the way for Jesus, to plow the field and make straight the path. John is a guy who has most definitely been set apart.
Being set apart for God is not an uncommon phenomenon amongst biblical characters. For example, both Isaiah and Paul talk about being set apart (in fact, Paul’s language seems to mirror Isaiah’s — cf. Galatians 1:15 and Isaiah 49:1).
John doesn’t seem to boast about his being set apart at all. His reference to this direct communiqué from God is fairly nonchalant, I think. For John, it wasn’t about who he was or what he was doing, it was about who was coming: Jesus.
I’d argue that we have all been set apart in some way or another. Perhaps this calling out is not as obvious as it might have been for John or Paul or Isaiah, but nevertheless it’s there. The trick is to be open to it when it hits. How you go about doing that, I just don’t know.