One day, John looked up and saw Jesus walking toward him. I’m not sure that he recognized his relative. As far as we know, they hadn’t seen each other ever.
But we know that John had been given instructions on how to recognize the king. How to recognize the one he had been pointing people toward. It’s not that he’d be wearing a carnation, or carrying a newspaper, or dressed in white.
“When you see someone drenched in the Holy Spirit, that’s the one you are expecting.” That’s what John says that he’d been told.
And on the day we read about, John recognized Jesus.
We know that Jesus came to John asking to be baptized. Not because he needed it, but because he wanted to identify with all of us who need it. John knew him because Jesus was dripping with the Spirit just as much as he ended up dripping with the river water.
I know people who are looking for Jesus. They want to touch him. They imagine that if they could just see him, or touch him, they would believe. They are looking at everyone, trying to recognize Jesus and not ever seeing him.
But here’s the thing.
Much later in his work, Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
And the people around him said, “When?” “How did we miss you?”
Jesus said, “When you did all those things for the least of these,” gesturing to all of those people in need, at the fringes.
While we are expecting Jesus, working to prepare the way for him, we can open our eyes to recognize him in the people we are serving and loving and caring for.
As we care for them as IF we are caring for Jesus.