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Daily Devotional • April 21

David Baumann
On Tiptoe
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 3:15-22

15 As the people were filled with expectation and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. 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 granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19 But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

What made John the Baptizer so popular? He preached a “baptism of repentance,” certainly not a feel-good gospel. The people came to him from all over, some coming very long ways indeed, to confess their sins. Is that so exciting? Well, yes, it was. Today’s lesson begins by saying, “The people were waiting expectantly”; one translation puts it, “The people were on tiptoe with expectation.” It is because they “were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.” It’s really about the people’s excitement that the Messiah might be at hand; the expectation had been growing for centuries, and now, now, the fulfillment might be right at hand! 

John’s appearance brought back the “good old days” of the great prophets they had read and heard about in the synagogue, and the power of God was palpable in him. The baptism of repentance wasn’t just confessing sins; it was a super-exciting time of “getting cleaned up” as if for a senior prom, a wedding, a Huge Big Special Event. It was getting your hair done or renting a tuxedo. It was being set right before God and making oneself ready for the Messiah. And … they were right! 

When John exclaims, “One who is more powerful than I will come,” he ratchets up the excitement. “I baptize you with water. … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The people knew the prophecy from Joel about the coming of a Great Day when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on everyone. And to be baptized with fire? A writer of 50 years ago (I’m afraid I’ve forgotten his name) wrote a short popular book in which he said that hell is like an ocean of cold oatmeal; it is heaven that should be described as fiery. And the hottest thing? It’s all true! Jesus is about to be made known!

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Shinyanga – The Anglican Church of Tanzania
St. Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario
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