Might John Be the Christ?

Nope. Something else is coming, and it's not what you're thinking.

Luke 3:15-22 (ESV)

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 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.”

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Notice how John avoids using the word “Christ.” The people ask him, “whether he might be the Christ,” and he answers with a glorious description of the one who “is coming.” The one who is coming is so mighty that John isn’t even worthy to untie His sandals.

The one who is coming will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (They may not have even understood this, but it’s clearly supernatural.) The one who is coming will separate the wheat from the chaff. This is a frightening picture of final judgment.

Avoiding the word, "Christ" makes perfect sense. The people had a preconceived notion that the coming Christ would be a conquering hero. John is making sure he doesn’t play into that stereotype.

His shocking words are meant to shock. He’s elevating the coming Messiah to something much greater than the Messiah they expect. This sets the stage for the last paragraph above, where God really takes it up.

He announces to all present that Jesus is His incarnate son.

The first century Israelis knew what kind of Messiah was “supposed to” show up. “We’ll show those Romans what real power looks like!” The only problem is they believe in the Messiah they want instead of the Messiah God sent.

We make the same mistake. We don’t want a conquering king anymore; we want a benevolent savior.

But that forgets the word Lord – or at least forgets what it means.

So, we don’t treat Him like a boss, much less a Lord. We don’t pray to Him like He’s our Lord. We don’t serve Him like He’s our Lord. We don’t think of Him as our Lord. He’s just our Savior.

How convenient.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.