Luke 3:10-22 (ESV)
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” 15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 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. 17 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.” 18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 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, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 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.”
John preached to the crowds who came to hear him in the wilderness. The message was simple: repent so that your sins might be forgiven. John told those who listened that it wasn’t enough to simply be born a Jew. Those who are right with the Lord through repentance will seek to live consistently with the character of God. Some present were convicted and wanted to make changes in their behavior. They wondered what a repentant life looked like and responded with “What then shall we do?” John gave them specific application, explaining how they could live more consistently with God’s design for people. One fruit of repentance was sharing with those in need. Those who came to John wondered if he were the Christ. John said, “No. No.” John explained that he baptized with water, but one far mightier than him was coming. This one, the Messiah, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He would be greater than John. In fact, John said he wasn’t even worthy to untie the sandal of the one for whom he prepared the way. It was the duty of a servant to untie the sandal of his master, but it was considered a degrading act. In fact, in the first century, a Hebrew slave was not supposed to untie a sandal because it was considered a dishonorable job fit only for the lowest. John said he wasn’t worthy of being Jesus’ lowly servant! What humility John possessed!
John shamelessly announced that compared to Jesus, he was nothing. And he was right. When the disciples of John heard later that people were following Jesus instead of John, they ran to let him know what was up. John’s response to his disciples was “He must increase, and I must decrease.” John knew that he did his job, and that the focus in this life and the life to come, is to be on Jesus, not himself. Later, when Jesus described John, he called him “the greatest of all men born among women.” What a tribute! Like John, we need to remember that this life isn’t about us. It’s about Jesus. We wonder what Jesus can do for us or what his plan is for us. Instead, we should wonder what we can do for him and how we can be useful in his plan. Like John, we need to move the spotlight away from ourselves and onto Jesus.