In the last message, we ended with John 1:23, where John had just told the priest and the Levites who were send to ask him who he is that he is the voice of the one crying in the wilderness as Isaiah said. Simply telling them that he is the forerunner of Christ. They were sent to ask him this because he was going around the regions of Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance.
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “ I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
Now we are told here in verse 24 that these men were sent by the Pharisees.
Who are the Pharisees?
Of the three prominent parties of Judaism at the time of Christ– Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes– the Pharisees were by far the most influential. The name “Pharisee,” which in its Semitic form means “the separated ones, separatists,” first appears during the reign of John Hyrcanus (135 B. C.). Generally, the term is in the plural rather than in the singular. They were also known as chasidim, meaning “loved of God” or “loyal to God.” According to Josephus, their number at the height of their popularity was more than 6,000. The doctrines of the Pharisees included predestination, the immortality of the soul, and belief in spirit life– teachings the Sadducees denied (Acts 23:6- 9). They believed in a final reward for good works and that the souls of the wicked were detained forever under the earth, while those of the virtuous rose again and even migrated into other bodies (Josephus, Antiq. 18. 1. 3; Acts 23:8). They accepted the OT Scriptures and fostered the usual Jewish messianic hope, which they gave a material and nationalistic twist.
It was inevitable, in view of these factors, that the Pharisees bitterly opposed Jesus and his teachings (John 9:16, 22). Clashes between Jesus and the Pharisees were frequent and bitter (Matt 3:7; 5:20; 9:12, 34; 12:2, 14; 19:3; Mark 12:17; Luke 5:21; 7:30; 16:14; 12:1). Jesus ‘longest rebuke of the Pharisees is found in Matthew 23.
Now we know who they are. These men that were sent by the Pharisees then asked John why he is baptisizing if he is neither Elijah or the prophet. John’s answer must have confused them. He answered and said, I am baptizing but among you stands the one you don’t know whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. This is what Matthews version is
Matthew 3:11-12 (ESVST)
“ I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Now baptizing with the Holy Spirit was simply referring to Pentecost and the time when believers will not only be baptized by water but, they will all recieve the Holy Spirit as well. We have seen this in the book of Acts. Baptism by fire has nothing to do with what most false pastors these days are calling fire. You here them shouting fire all over the place as if to say that this fire will heal you or give you a breakthrough or remove demons from you. Fire in the bible has always being used as a means to refer to the destruction of sinners and it is no different in this verse. The baptism of fire in this verse refers to eternal hell fire. A winnowing fork is like a fan used to separate the chaff (unwanted stuff that grows with the wheat) and the wheat. John says this person will gather his wheat into the barn (a place of storage) but the chaff, he will burn with unquenchable fire. This stament simply refers to believers and sinners. Believers are the wheat and the sinners are the chaff. So, he will baptize others with the Holy Spirit and he will baptize others will eternal hell fire. So, next time your pastor shouts “fire” and you say amen, you might just be agreeing to burn in hell.
So, John is saying, I m not the Christ, I am just a forerunner of the King whose shoes I am not worthy to untie and although I baptize with water, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This was John’s answer to why he was baptizing. John in my view although he answered, he did not answer the question of why he was baptizing. Instead of answering, he told them about the one who is coming.
28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “ Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me. ’
The bible then continues in verse 28 to tell us that these things happened in Bethany not far from Jerusalem in the region of Judea. The area is now Israel. The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. John continued to say, this is the one who I said ranks before me because he came before me.
31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Now John here continues to say listen, I did not know him myself. The reason why I came baptizing with water was so that he might be revealed. Now John answers the question of why he was baptizing. He is simply saying that, that was his way of ensuring that Jesus is revealed to Israel.
32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. ’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
I am sure the next question was, if you did not know him, how did you know it was him, what sign was given to you. John then says, he saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and it remained on him. The one who sent me to baptize with water said to him that the one whom the Spirit descends and remains, this is he who baptists with the Holy Spirit. So, when the Spirit came and remained, he knew it was him. At that point, he had seen and has borne witness that this is the Son of God.
Father thank you for sharing with us your word. Bless those that continue to read and study your word so they may know you and love and believe in you even more. Give us the wisdom to understand you word and to make others understand your word as you would like them to and for your own purposes. In Jesus name, amen.