The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 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.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
Joy on Judgment Day
Do the verses of that lesson seem to contradict each other. John the Baptist talks about how Jesus is going to burn up bad things with unquenchable fire. A fire that never goes out. John’s talking about hell. But in the very next verse our lesson claims that John said those things to encourage us. How can talking about Jesus’ wrath possibly be encouraging to us?
Well, let me ask you this. When you see someone being mistreated, do you get angry? Say someone at school is bullying someone else. That makes you upset, right? It bothers you to see someone be teased or hurt. When bad things happen to people, it makes us angry.
It is no different with Jesus. There is nobody who loves you more than Jesus. He loves you more than your parents. He loves you more than your pastor. Our lesson says that people thought John the Baptist was so great, they wondered if he might be the Christ. John told them, “I’m not even close.” Jesus is so much greater, so much more loving, than anyone else. Therefore, when he sees someone hurting you, he gets angry. When he sees you suffering, it bothers him greatly. Because he loves you, he gives you this promise. Anything that hurts you, anything that scares you, anything bad in your life eventually Jesus is going to come and set all those bad things on fire. He is going to destroy everything that could do you harm. He is going to roast anything that could cause you pain or sorrow. So, when you are hurting, you have that encouragement. Jesus hurts with you, and he is coming to take your pain away.
You might say, “But what if I’m the source of pain? What if I’m the bully? What if I’m the one who caused someone to cry themselves to sleep? Is Jesus going to set me on fire?” NO. Because on the cross, Jesus himself was torched for you. He was punished for your sin, so that you might be set free. When you were baptized, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live inside you, to give you the gift of faith. Jesus is going to set bad things on fire. But through your faith in Christ, you don’t look bad to God. You look beautiful, holy, perfect.
Judgment day is coming, and with it, an unquenchable fire. That news is rightfully terrifying to some. But judgment day is not scary for those who know what happened after Jesus came on Christmas Day. Jesus Christ redeemed us. So, we look forward to judgment day. We will be saved. But everything that causes pain in this world—that will all be incinerated.
Lord, you are the Savior that I need. I want others to have the same joy that Jesus gives. Use me this Christmas season to share it with everyone I can. Amen.