And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Sometimes, we think we are bigger than God. If we’re completely honest, we actually think we are god. We worship at the feet of success, achievements, prosperity and power. We think we’re big stuff. We would never say it, but we think most people should bow down and tie up our Nike’s for us. I know, because I’m a recovering pride-aholic.
John uses a metaphor of the lowest form of a servant at the time—someone who would bow down to you and unstrap your dirty sandals. For a wealthy family in Israel at the time, such servants met you at the door of your home and willingly untied your sandals and washed your feet. John is preaching that someone is coming, someone who is so much higher, so much greater, so far above him, that he, John, wouldn’t even be worthy to untie his sandals.
Something has happened to John. He is the most popular preacher in Israel and yet he is so aware of his brokenness and so humbled in his life that he can’t even imagine being a worthy servant to this coming One.
That’s what the wilderness does to some people.
John has been living in the wilderness (note Mark 1:6). He smells like the wilderness. He looks like the wilderness. The wilderness is his home. John has encountered the God of the wilderness. He is an outlaw preacher not wanted in the cities of Israel. His home has become the wilderness.
There is a baptism in the wilderness. It is the baptism of humility, repentance, and power. In that order. This baptism of fire with the Holy Spirit can usually only be found in the wilderness.
God invites us all to follow him into the wilderness. If we will follow him into the wilderness, he will baptize us with his power.
Too many of us don’t want to follow Jesus into the wilderness—we run from it, avoid it, quit. To follow Jesus into the wilderness is to face dry times, thirsty times, and dangerous times.
John could see the people coming—so hungry for a new reality, a new way of life. They were leaving the comfort and hustle and bustle of the city to enter into the dangerous wilderness.
They came as soldiers, businessmen, businesswomen, husbands, wives, students and scholars. They came by the thousands. They came to the wilds of Israel—full of jackals, cacti, coyotes, lions, and bandits. It was a dangerous journey.
They came to be baptized. They came because they wanted power for living more than the comfort of security. They wanted reality. They were fed up with religion, fed up with the pretending, posturing, and posing of Pharisaical legal codes and regulations. They came to find God!
There is a baptism in the wilderness for each of us. But you must follow Jesus into the wilderness. You must follow him into the wilds of uncertainty, confusion, and confession. This will not be a water baptism of repentance only, but a baptism into new power.
On the Road,