I did not know him
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Jn 1,29-34
Is it credible that John the Baptist had never met Jesus before he began his public life, because the former had always lived in Judea and the second at Nazareth in Galilee. However, when Jesus goes to him to be baptized in the Jordan, the statement of John “I did not know him” has a theological significance which goes beyond the personal knowledge. It means that John just did not know, before that the Spirit enlightened him, that Jesus of Nazareth had been empowered to baptize the humanity in the Holy Spirit, introducing the humanity, after the fall of the original sin, in the circuitry of the life of God. Jesus, at the end of his earthly life, entrusted the same power to the Church, which, in a visible way, baptizes with water as John did, but, really, baptizes with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus announces to Nicodemus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3,5). By being placed in the life of the Spirit, the citizens of the Kingdom of the heaven live in another dimension: the secrets of God and the plan of life which they are supposed to achieve little by little are entrusted to them, they live the messianic joy and they participate in the bread of the Providence, as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Everything happens gradually, as the children who, after having reached the light, growing up are learning about the parents, the world around them, the history which has preceded them, along with what is their need to live and manage in the everyday life. We must recognize that to us too, during this prayer in the morning, are confided secrets of which we had not had previously the perception. It happens in different ways, but the highway is the meditation of the Scriptures. The most surprising thing, however, is that we have discovered the life as a continuous miracle, of which the daily bread on the table is only a manifestation. In this sense, as the light of the dawn slowly becomes more intense and illuminates all the things, at the end of each day we can say of the Lord: “I did not know him”.