I knew it was him when I saw him even though I did not see his face – with that beard of tangled curls – or hear his familiar voice – both coarse and gentle, sharp and kind at the same time. I knew it was him when I saw him. I knew him by his camel-hair coat and his leather belt. I recognized his sandals, the left one clumsily repaired with knotted leather cords.
I saw him walking in the streets of Jerusalem on the Sabbath after Pesach. Others I know saw holy men and women familiar to them, but I saw my master, my rabbi: Yohanan ben Zechariah, Yohanan the Baptizer.
Seeing him again, after his horrible death at the hands of that wretched little king, Herod, was, as you must imagine, a shock. A fright. It was a horror of incomprehension.
How had it happened? There was darkness in the heavens and the earth shook; were the gates of the lower abysses opened then too? And why had he come into the Holy City and not returned to his familiar haunt along the river Jordan?
And, most disturbingly – if his body, like those of the other holy ones, had been raised – why had he come headless?!
(Matthew 27: 52 – 53. The head of John the Baptist is said to be preserved as a grim relic in the Cathedral of Amiens in France.)