The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.
First of all, who is this John the people were all wondering in their hearts about? John is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth given in answer to prayer. As noted in Luke 1:17 – roughly thirty years prior.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
So why were they wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah? Well, this man would come to be known as John the Baptist for
the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
This was John, for he came out of the wilderness speaking with great power and calling people out for their sins. He did not just call them out for their sins. He called them to repentance for their sins to avoid hell because being the children of Abraham was not enough to save them as many seemed to believe.
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Then John gave specific answers as to what they should do so they could produce good fruit. Even to tax collectors who were despised and often dishonest and soldiers who used their position to obtain more money.
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
Speaking with such wisdom, it is reasonable the people would wonder in the hearts if he was the Messiah. John knew what was in their hearts and answered the question that was in their hearts.
16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. 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 barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
Thus he spoke of the Messiah to come – Jesus – who would bring a message of heaven (His barn) and hell (unquenchable fire). As John did then, God has done before and ever since – knowing what is in everyone’s heart. What is in the heart of every one of us determines if we go to heaven or hell. I hope you can answer the question, “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” in the affirmative.