15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps 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 he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
John the Baptist was baptising people in water, but clearly declared that his baptism was lesser compared to the baptism of one he declared would come after him. The prophets physical washing with water would be surpassed by the Saviour’s Spiritual washing and purification by the Holy Spirit’s fire. As always, Jesus raises the bar! It is immediate and practical to be baptised in water – even necessary (side note: get baptised if you have not already!), but it is far greater to allow the Spirit of God to baptise us in the Spirit of God! Broadly put: let us all desire baptism in God’s Spirit, which is the baptism of Jesus! Practically put: let all us believers reading this today meditate on Jesus baptism of spiritual fire which is with us every day by God’s Spirit which is with us every day. It is a baptism that is more challenging to handle than water baptism, it is a baptism that drove John into the desert to conduct his baptism ministry, emboldened John to speak out against Herod. It is a baptism that purifies like fire and ‘winnows’ like the farmer sifting out the kernels of wheat at harvest time.
Jesus, thank you for the powerful baptism of your Spirit that you bring to me. Purify my life just as you every day give me life! Set me on fire! Thank you for your power to be bold and passionate for your cause. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart