Saturday, December 12
It’s obvious to us from our twenty-first-century vantage point that John is not the Messiah. But that wasn’t obvious to his first-century contemporaries. He seemed like he might fit the bill—eccentric, prophetic, unapologetic. He was a charismatic speaker, calling Israel to repentance. Hope grew in the hearts of his listeners:Maybe he’s the one!
But John refused to let them wonder long. He was quick to set the record straight: “Nope, I’m not the Messiah. I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John put distance between himself and the true Messiah by calling himself so unworthy that he couldn’t even serve as the Messiah’s slave. John is low as low can be; the Messiah is higher than high. Whatever the crowds thought of John, they’d have to picture someone infinitely more worthy before they’d be picturing the Messiah.
And John distinguished himself from the Messiah by describing the kind of baptism they each performed. John baptized with water—an important element in Israel’s history, to be sure—but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John had the anointing of God upon him, but the Messiah had the breath of God in him. John could warn, but the Messiah had the power to judge and to purify.
The passage ends by saying that John proclaimed the good news to the people. And indeed, it is good news that John is not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah. Only he has the power to save. Praise God!
Prayer: Messiah, sometimes I get mixed up and think that someone else might save us. I see a politician or a cultural figure and start to think that person has the solution. I start to believe someone else might be the one to bring restoration. But only you have that power. I trust you.