Summary: Jesus is the Messiah
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Melanie’s parents came to visit us over Christmas. Before they came we were both involved in getting the house ready for them ; cleaning, making beds, getting shopping in and so on.
Earlier in this Chapter John the Baptist had been preparing for an important visitor. He encouraged people to turn to God and baptised them in the River Jordan. Baptism was normally administered to Gentiles, non-Jews, who wanted to join the Jewish religion. For a Jew to submit to baptism required great humility. It was as if they were admitting to not being part of God’s people, and wanting to join them.
There was also the symbolism of washing. Baptism conveyed a spiritual cleansing, turning from what was wrong to make a fresh start with God. So this should affect the way they lived their lives. The chronological order of this was :
1) someone decides to turn away from living life their own way and start living for God.
2) they are baptised to symbolise this.
3) They have to live for God in a practical way. John spells this out for them in verses 11-14.
John’s ministry caused people to question if he was the Messiah or anointed one from God whom they were expecting. John makes it clear that he is not, and that the Messiah will be superior to him in a number of ways.
The most menial job that a slave could do was to untie someone’s sandal before washing their feet. That is why none of the disciples volunteered to do this job before the Last Supper in John 13. It was a vile job because people’s shoes and feet would be caked with donkey and/or camel dung from the streets.
John is saying that he is not even worthy to do this menial job for Jesus.
He said that he baptised in water. This Baptism was inferior to that of Jesus. John’s baptism signified that people wanted to turn from their sin to live life God’s way. But it gave them no power to live like that. It was not a Christian baptism because it did not involve the death of Jesus, or the work of the Holy Spirit. The first Christian baptisms were administered to three thousand people on the first day of Pentecost.
John said, "He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" ( verse 16 ). What did he mean by this ? This is not saying that putting a cross on someone’s head with water, or plunging someone under water will make them a Christian. It is saying that Jesus will give the baptism of, or immerse or flood his followers with, the Holy Spirit when they give control of their life to him.
In the Bible fire can be used in a number of ways. Here it is referring to the refining or purifying work on God’s Holy Spirit. A precious metal such as gold or silver is heated up to burn away any impurities. The Holy Spirit also works like fire, burning away our nasty bits, making us more like Jesus. God the Holy Spirit gives us the power to be holy. The word holy means set apart for God. He lives inside all Christians and being God, and being Holy is opposed to that which is unholy, not of God.
John goes on to talk of how Jesus will divide and judge people. Verse 17, "His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.".