John, known as the baptizer, was preaching in the wilderness. He was called by God to make a way for Jesus. He was using his message to prepare people’s hearts to hear Jesus’ words of love and salvation. It’s all about getting the mindset right first. We know that to be in the case in business, too. You can’t have a successful business without the right thought patterns and beliefs. Much more importantly, you won’t be ready to accept Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s preparation. In this case, John was being used.
John was attracting quite a crowd. Word was traveling around the area about John’s ministry. People were realizing their sinfulness and wanted to be cleansed. John was setting the stage with a sense of urgency. “The Kingdom of Heaven is near,” he was telling people. What would you have thought when you saw John?
He was living in the wilderness. He was dressed in camel skins and ate locusts and wild honey. Can I say “yuck!” When you are called by God, you do what you need to do. You go where you need to go. John had given up a posh life in town to be a servant in the wilderness near the Jordan River.
What do you think he thought when he saw the pious religious leaders coming toward him? They were holy, why did they need to repent? Had they come to judge him, to shut down his ministry?
We see no fear on John’s part. But John sensed their agenda. He boldly denounced them calling them a “brood of snakes.” Certainly, that wasn’t a compliment! Who would have the chutzpah to say such a thing to the religious leaders?
John could see right through them. Did they truly believe they were superior? Would they heed John’s warning? How many people witnessed John’s outburst that day? It’s the words that follow the warning that truly prepare us all! John was talking about Jesus. Surely the religious leaders knew about the promised Messiah. Now they, too, knew he was coming soon.
John was almost using scare tactics here. He said Jesus would be “ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” What does that even mean? Did those listening to John that day understand? Certainly, they would understand the image of separating wheat and chaff. You need to do that, remove the outside covering (chaff) to get to the good stuff inside (wheat kernels).
But Jesus wasn’t a wheat farmer. He was coming to give people a chance to remove their baggage and follow him. John’s job was to spark interest and prepare the people so when they saw Jesus, they would know him. They would say to themselves, “that’s who John was talking about!”
So how about you? Are you ready to receive Jesus into your life? Are you ready for him to reveal himself to you? Are you the chaff or the precious wheat inside? I don’t think any of us want to be that chaff, that which is thrown into the fire. Take some time today to picture John at the riverfront. Are you ready to repent and be cleansed?
Let’s pray. Lord, forgive my sinful heart. I know Jesus came to save us from our sins. I do repent and ask for cleansing. To be effective in my ministry I need to be prepared and ready to lead with no baggage. Make me relatable. Help me to sense the needs of others. Fill me with the compassion I need to be a better follower. In Jesus’ name. Amen.