John’s popularity and authoritative preaching made people wonder if he was the Christ. John denied it. In fact, he said he was unworthy even to untie the straps of Messiah’s sandals. (16)
That saying does not mean the same for us as it did for them. In that day, a teacher’s disciples would do everything for him. But there was one thing they were never required to do: untie the teacher’s sandals. That was considered degrading.
Yet John said he was unworthy to do even this degrading task for Christ. John was saying, not only am I not the Christ, he is so superior to me that I am not worthy to do even the most degrading task for him.
John was humble. Yet, Jesus said of him that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist”. (Matthew 11:11) If John was the humble, we certainly should be humble.
Consider something even greater. Jesus, the most worthy of all men, did not have his disciples untie his sandals. He did more than untied their sandals. He washed their feet. It was such a menial, degrading task that Peter tried to prevent Jesus from doing it to him (John 13:1-20) Peter said “You shall never wash my feet”.
Jesus served his disciples as an example to show that we should serve each other. There should be no celebrities in the church. There should only be servants.
John also pointed out the differences between himself and Christ. First, he said Christ was mightier than he. And he was. Christ healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, calmed storms and forgave sins.
Second, while John baptized with water, Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. (16)
Christ would, and will, baptize all who believe in him with the Holy Spirit. Each believer would have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
But those who reject Christ face judgment. Baptizing with fire is a symbol of consuming fire. John emphasized Christ’s power to judge, saying Christ had the winnowing fork in his hand. This is the instrument used to separate wheat from chaff.
The wheat is a symbol of those who believed in Jesus and followed him. The wheat is gathered into the barn, a symbol of receiving eternal life. The chaff represents those who do not follow Christ. For example, Psalm 1:4 says “the wicked are no so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away”. In our passage, John says they are burned with unquenchable fire. In other words, hell is their final destination.
John was saying I can call you to repentance but Christ can call you to account.
Israel as a nation faced judgment at the hands of the Romans because they as a nation would not repent. This is the ultimate curse of the covenant. God said, ultimately, if Israel does not repent and turn to him, He would destroy them. Individuals faced the fires of hell because they would not repent and follow Christ.
John’s preaching brought many to repentance. But it also led him to trouble with Herod. John condemned the action of Herod in marrying his brother’s wife Hernias. So, Herod put him in jail. (18) Preaching the truth can get you into trouble.
The Baptism of Jesus
Luke does not give the baptism of Jesus as much attention as some of the gospel writers. But he tells us that Jesus was baptized and he shows it to be an event participated in by all of the persons of the Godhead. It was a Trinitarian event.
Jesus went into the water to be baptized. Afterward, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And lastly, the Father spoke from heaven and said "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased".
The heavens opened and the Spirit descended. (21) The Holy Spirit resided in heaven except when sent to earth on certain occasions. He had not yet been sent by the Father to dwell on earth. That would not happen until Jesus ascended.
The descent of the Spirit shows that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. Remember that Christ means anointed one. He was anointed in the sense of being chosen by the Father to be the redeemer. He was also anointed by the Spirit.
In his baptism, Jesus is declared to be the anointed one and physically anointed as well. Peter later preached that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. (Acts 10:38)
We also see a fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1, which says "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him".
Interestingly, this is a physical manifestation of the Spirit. The Spirit descended in “bodily form”. That form was like a dove. (21) John saw this and understood it to be the Spirit. Others may have seen it also.
The declaration of the Father shows that Jesus is following the Father's plan, for the Father is well pleased. It also shows that he is the Son of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 2:7: "I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, You are my Son; today I have begotten you".
Why was Jesus baptized? It was not as a sign of his repentance, as he had nothing for which he needed to repent. He did not have a sin nature. He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Rather, Jesus submitted himself to baptism to identify with sinners. Thus he began the process that would lead to the cross. There he identified with sinners in the ultimate fashion, taking our sins upon himself and dying for them on the cross.