Friends, in today’s Gospel, Luke tells us about John the Baptist’s parents. We see with utter clarity that John is a priestly figure. Zechariah, his father, is a Temple priest, and Elizabeth, his mother, is a descendant of Aaron, the very first priest.
Now flash forward thirty years and see John emerging in the desert. The first question is, “Why is this son of a priest not working in the Temple?” And the second is, “Why are the people going out from Jerusalem to commune with him?” The answer to the first is that he is engaging in a prophetic critique of a Temple that has gone bad. And the answer to the second is that he is performing the acts of a purified Temple priest out in the desert. His baptism was a ritual cleansing and a spur to repent, precisely what a pious Jew would have sought in the Temple.
And the picture becomes complete when Jesus arrives to be baptized, and John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This is explicitly Temple talk. He is saying that the one who is to be sacrificed has arrived. He is the fulfillment of priesthood, Temple, and sacrifice. The priestly figure has done his work, and now he fades away.