By Ellen Ceely
“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 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. 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.’ So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” - Luke 3:15-18
What is your definition of good news? For me, good news usually means, “news that makes me feel good about myself.” When I think about good news, I associate it with meaning, “something that makes me feel safe and happy.”
Luke states clearly that John’s words are good news for the people. He’s proclaiming that the Messiah is coming and clarifying that he is not said Messiah. The deliverer they’ve been waiting and searching for is on his way!
However, at first glance none of this good news sounds like good news to me! John’s description of Jesus’s coming is strong, almost apocalyptic. There’s a sense of urgency and fear that creeps in when I first read the words. Jesus won’t baptize people with water; he’ll baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire! Jesus will gather his people (the wheat), but he’ll destroy those who don’t follow him (the chaff)!
So how is this good news? Good news for someone will always be bad news for another. Jesus’s arrival is good news for those who wish to follow him and choose to believe that he is the Son of God. But Jesus’s arrival is bad news for those who refuse to believe and choose to persecute him and walk the other way. There will be people who don’t want to be in communion with God, and God is not going to force them. Instead, he will sort them out like the chaff from the wheat and their eternity will be much different from that of a believer.
As for the baptism of the Spirit and fire, Jesus will bring transformation to the lives of those who love and follow him. As scary as those things sound, and as difficult as some of the process might be, part of the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus doesn’t allow us to remain where we are. Through the trials of life and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus transforms his people to look more like him every day.
When you think of the good news of the Gospel, what comes to mind? Is there anything about it that makes you uncomfortable? I encourage you to wrestle with your questions by going to Scripture and to God in prayer. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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