God’s Word for You
Mark 1:7-8 the strap of his sandals
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, June 5, 2021
Israel, the father of the twelve tribes himself, prophesied on his deathbed: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Genesis 49:10). Whether “shiloh” means “the one to whom it belongs” or “prince of peace” is a debate for another time. Either way, the prophecy was about the coming of the Savior from the tribe of Judah. Now on the banks of the Jordan River, John the Baptist was proclaiming that the Savior was coming.
7 He preached, “One more powerful than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals! 8 I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke tells us that everyone was wondering whether John might be the Christ or not (Luke 3:15). John didn’t hesitate to correct that idea: “One more powerful than I am comes,” he said. He didn’t deny having an important power. The phrase, “more powerful” implies that John was powerful, too. John’s power was in the holy Word of God. He had a prophetic message to preach. When we share the Word of God, the same power is there. We should not doubt its ability to work, to change hearts, to turn sinners to Christ.
It is the difference between a preacher of Christ and Christ himself that John stresses. “I’m not worthy to act like his servant,” John said. “I am not worthy to stoop down in humility and touch the strap of the Master’s sandal.” We are not worthy to do anything but throw ourselves down in the dust before Jesus Christ, to clench our eyes shut as tightly as can be, to lay there in silence, groaning inwardly over the sins and guilt that overwhelm each conscience, willing and ready for the heavy blow of judgment to fall. This Christ, this Jesus, is God Almighty. He is not someone to be bargained with. Our guilt is not something to be haggled over, as if my charm might sway the Creator to smile and laugh away some of my trespasses.
John continues: “I baptize you with water.” The water baptism of the Old Testament priests enabled them to work before God at the altar and in the Holy Place (Leviticus 16:4). The baptism of the New Testament was not only for priests, but for everyone. It washes away all sins. So what does it mean that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit? Is the baptism of Jesus different or better or more effective? No, the baptism of Jesus is the same as the baptism of John. But Jesus would also fill us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us through the Word of God and he works through us with that same word, proclaimed to others.
So John pointed to Jesus, not as a figurehead or an icon, not so that we could make of him whatever we wanted to, but John pointed to Jesus as someone to listen to. “He will clean up your heart, your life, your conscience, with the Holy Spirit.” Who in the world wouldn’t be content if Jesus were nothing more than a painting? Nothing but a statue, or a meme? We could slap whatever slogan we feel like on such a Jesus and make him our mascot. But then our faith would be in ourselves, and not in our Lord. John pointed to Jesus, and promised that he was divine. Jesus came preaching, and no one else did anything like this. Luther said:
“(John) performed no miracles; but he witnessed with great earnestness to the Lord, saying: ‘Now you see and hear me, but when I am checked and perish’—for Herod, that archhypocrite, who had a large following at that time, had him beheaded for the sake of that infamous whore Herodias— ‘beware that you do not neglect Him, but joyfully accept Him who will follow me immediately. Make sure that you recognize Him as the one who had been promised our forefathers, who was to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) and to bless all the peoples of the earth and not only us Jews’ (Genesis 22:18). St. John the Baptist could not have given them a better or more reliable testimony than this: ‘Look to Him who will succeed me soon, who will create a greater sensation in this world with His sermons and miracles than I did.’ And Christ did appear shortly after John’s proclamation. For Annas and Caiaphas did not preach soon after John the Baptist; Christ did, and He preached with power.” (LW 22:127-128)
The Lord Jesus is not what we make of him. We are what he makes of us. Listen to him, repent at his preaching. Accept his invitation to believe and be saved. He accepted the invitation of the cross so that we would accept his invitation to live with him forever in paradise. Trust in him, as David teaches us: “In you I trust, O my God” (Psalm 25:2). In him is forgiveness, purity, righteousness, eternal innocence, and everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith