Well, I think these verses pretty well speak for themselves. Obviously, John knew that he was not the Christ. He knew as well that what he was doing was important, to prepare the way, but not the most important. Baptism with water was symbolic of the "real" baptism (being filled with the Holy Spirit) that believers would receive once the plan of salvation had been activated, so to speak.
I find it interesting that John the Baptist would use a phrase like "whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." It would be easy, I think, to become prideful in a position such as his. He was the fulfillment of a prophecy! He was preparing the way for the Christ, the King of the Jews! I would say he was confident. He preached confidently. He didn't dilute the truth, in spite of the fact that it probably wasn't what many people wanted to hear. So he was confident, but at the same time, he was humble. Maybe he was humble because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Maybe he was humble because he lived in the wilderness, wore animal skins, and ate whatever was available to hand. Maybe he was humble because he knew that he was merely an instrument of God and nothing he had or did came from himself. Did he have an important role to play? Absolutely. Was he famous? A celebrity of sorts? By the standards of the day, I would say he certainly was. People came long distances to see him, hear him, be baptized by him. But he wasn't full of himself.
I admire people who are confident in who they are and what their abilities are and don't downplay their strengths or skills, but don't brag or boast or treat other as though they are beneath them or "less than" in some way because they have different strengths and skills. Self-worth is a huge issue in society today. My impression of John the Baptist is that he didn't suffer from lack of self-confidence, but he didn't consider himself above other people, either. May we find that balance for ourselves!
As for verse 17, I find that verse terrifying. It's such a strong image, isn't it? Jesus will gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff with burn with unquenchable fire. Terrifying. There are so many people who are lost and don't even realize it or care. How do we reach them? There are so many messages out there. So many distractions. So many illusions. So many misconceptions. So many times that Christians come across looking like something NO ONE would aspire to be like.
I'm feeling a little disappointed that I don't have time today to research any sermons and see what more knowledgeable and educated people have to say about this passage, but I have about 15 more things to do before I have to leave for my 2nd job in a couple of hours, so you'll have to make do with my thoughts for today.
Happy Thursday, everybody! "Grow where you're planted."
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 3:18-20