1st March 2023

Geoffrey Robinson’s John the Baptist window focuses on two more aspects of John’s ministry, for you will notice that the Baptist is carrying a banner inscribed, ‘Ecce, agnus dei,’ visually reinforced by a lamb gently standing at John’s feet, all bringing to mind John’s first greeting of Jesus with the words, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. The imagery of the lamb has numerous OT references but probably the most significant are the ram found in the thicket as substitute for Isaac in Abraham’s act of obedient sacrifice [Genesis 22], the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12, and Isaiah’s image [chapter 53] of the servant of God being like a lamb submitting to the hands of the slaughterer ‘bearing the sins of many’. In each case the death of the one provides life to others – the image of the Lamb is essentially about sacrificial love, of and for, others.

Secondly, all this creates a wholly new situation, in which a distinction is made between John’s baptism of repentance, depicted in the lozenge at the bottom of the window, which only deals with the cleansing of the sins of the past, and the death of Jesus, ‘for the sins of the world’, which goes so much further, creating an entirely new future. This emphasis is fortified by the text, ‘He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost’. This is to say that post-Pentecost baptism grants to the followers of Jesus, death to the old life of sin and self, and new birth into the life of God’s kingdom, empowered by the gift of the Spirit.

So here is John, right at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, pointing forward both to Easter and to Pentecost: death, resurrection and the gift of the Spirit are all here.

John Briggs