An understatement is a literary form used for emphasis. When Luke writes, “The people were in expectation,” he may have been employing this technique. Anticipation filled the air. People sensed the Messiah was coming, and the feeling was electric. John’s powerful presence led many to suppose he might be the Christ. John did not hesitate to set the record straight. His message was clear and consistent: “One mightier than I is coming.” Comparatively speaking, he felt unworthy to stoop and untie the strap of His sandals. John’s humble attitude is a model for leaders today. Keep the spotlight where it belongs: on Jesus!
John baptized with water but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Holy Spirit baptism occurred on Pentecost when tongues of fire rested on the apostles enabling them to speak to the crowd in their various languages. John’s cryptic words may also refer to the beginning and end of the new age. It would begin with the outpouring of the Spirit (grace) and would end with the outpouring of fire (judgment). The experience of the faithful and unfaithful will be dramatically different.
In my house, I keep pictures of barns. This passage was the inspiration for my collection: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." A winnowing fork is used to separate wheat from chaff by throwing it into the air and letting the wind do its work. The lighter chaff is blown away while the weightier wheat remains. Spiritually speaking, are you wheat or chaff? Life tests you. It asks if your faith is substance (genuine) or shell (pretend). Wheat is for the barn. Chaff is for burning. Sometimes we dream of lavish accommodations in heaven, but if I can be with Jesus, a barn will do just fine.
Aubrey Johnson, Minister
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