He Who Was Named Before He Came

But what astonishing grace!m That total yield by a prophet-man to another's role! Saying to those two disciples of his own (as they stood there with him, looking on) "Behold -- " Not John, but the Lamb of God. And so loosing them, to straightway turn from the side of one who -- until then -- must have been the only mentor they'd found to trust, and obey, and openly accompany on a road like this. Did he stand there alone? Watching them go? Watching what now was about to become (in so miniscule a span of space and time) the vast enactment of all that he Forerunner, Messenger: the desert-man -- rough and unkempt in his hairy coat, and feeding like a vagrant on locusts and wild honey -- had, from the outset, been charged to announce. From a wilderness he came. Into a wilderness he cried: castigating, instructing -- and, each time, so instantly and vehemently rejecting what was voiced by those (crowding close, wherever he went) who were more than halfway drawn it would seem to accept, as the Deliverer of whom he spoke, he, himself -- he, John -- No! No!m "Not I, but a mightier one than I!" "The latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. . . ." O heritage of humility!m For thirty years before, in a certain dwelling, in a certain town how each of those summoned to fulfill a role had, with such perfect grace, deferred to an angel's word. The two kinswomen. Their wonderment shared! The aged wife, the young girl -- so obediently journeying, from her Nazareth home, into the upland country of Judah: there to abide with one who herself was already five months gone with a child of her own. That old Elizabeth! By a miracle granted what surely (in her withdrawal) she might secretly -- and most reverently -- have begun to dream would itself, when delivered, prove to be the Promised, the Awaited one but who now, instead, with so instant a recognition! so glorifying a joy! was lifting up her voice to salute what had gently entered like this, to share with her a seclusion so needed by them both: "O blessed . . . . blessed art thoum among women! And blessed is the fruit of thym womb. . . ." And then, later, that jubilantly communal hour in the house! With the neighbors, the cousins, all crowding in as he, Zechariah -- at long last holding an heir of his own -- with loosened tongue and in one great soaring rush of song yielded him up! Yielded him up!m "And thou, child . . . . shalt go before. . . ." To prepare the way for another's son.

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