Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be His slave and untie the straps of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with His winnowing fork. Then He will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into His barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”Luke 3:15-17
This is a very interesting passage. It starts with the people’s expectation. But expectation of what? Only the NLT translates this first verse as above; making the focus of the expectation the Messiah. Literally the expectation is without an object. It is left hanging. Maybe the expectation was just stirred by John’s preaching. In other words he was capturing their imagination with his words and his challenge. Most other translations make John the focus of the expectation. (See below) Only the NLT specifically states it in a way that Messiah is the focus of the expectation.
- (CEV) Everyone became excited and wondered, “Could John be the Messiah?”
- (ESV) As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,
- (GNB) People’s hopes began to rise, and they began to wonder whether John perhaps might be the Messiah.
- (GW) People’s hopes were rising as they all wondered whether John was the Messiah.
- (ISV) Now the people were filled with expectation, and all of them were wondering if John was perhaps the Christ.
- (LITV) But the people were expecting, and all reasoning in their hearts about John, lest perhaps he is the Christ,
- (MSG) The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”
Whichever way we look at it, whether Messiah is in focus or people are excited by John’s preaching, it appears the end result is that John becomes their expectation of the Messiah. So John moves quickly and unequivocally to make it clear that he was not the One in focus. He was most definitely not the Messiah, No way. John makes it clear that he was not the one. He says literally, “I, with water, I baptize”. I am the baptizer but WITH WATER. “Water” is in the emphatic position in the sentence. Emphatically he was contrasting himself with the One coming. I am not in the same league guys. I am a water baptizer, but he so much greater than I that I am not worthy to undo his sandal (like the lowliest of slaves – implied) baptizes with Holy Spirit and with fire. First part of the sentence – me with water; last part of the sentence Him with Holy Spirit and fire. If you think this water baptism stuff is awesome, wait till you see the main act, the real deal. I am just the forerunner.
So if that is case what is the baptism with (or in) fire all about? And why does Luke then move on to a judgement statement?
Time for you to pause and think about it. More in the next Gem.
Hey Preachers: Speak from your weakness and you’ll never run out of material.Andy Stanley
Never let praise go to your head. Never let criticism get to your heart.Rick Warren
Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams!Rick Godwin