There was a classic line from one of the early radio and television shows (I think it was The Lone Ranger…but I might be wrong). The show always had the line, “Who was that masked man?” Well the people at the time when John the Baptist appeared were asking themselves a similar question, “Who is this John the Baptist?”
The people were wondering whether John was the Christ and Messiah who was to come. They heard the marvellous words and saw his works and thought perhaps he may have been the Christ. Unlike the Lone Ranger though, John told them who he was and also who he wasn’t. In this section of scripture we see him answer the people saying, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Verse 16)
He made it quite clear that the people were not to be fooled into thinking he was the Christ. Nor was he seeking the people to look up to himself, but he pointed them forward saying that the Christ who was to come was the one to be worshipped. He showed them that the Christ to come was “mightier then I” and that he was the one for whom John was working to prepare the people. He told the people that the power and ministry that he had was only just a beginning. The real power would be seen when Jesus appeared. He contrasted his baptism of water with the baptism of fire that was to come. John recognised that the Holy Spirit would be given to the people and that at that time they would receive the power to become the children of God.
He also gave them full warning. When Jesus appeared he would draw a line in the sand. He would separate the people as the farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. Jesus polarised the people then and he still does so today. There is no middle ground, you are either with or against him.
In many ways John exhorted the people to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, and his words still ring true today. There is much we can learn from the ministry of John as preparation for the Lord and we will do well to listen to what he had to say.