v15 The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. 16 John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” 18 With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.
19 But Herod the ruler had been criticized harshly by John because of Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife, and because of all the evil he had done. 20 He added this to the list of his evil deeds: he locked John up in prison.
Why was John so popular? I have no clue. He baptized people in the dirtiest river around, he had terrible hygiene and he called the crowd “children of snakes.” He’s breaking all of the rules regarding popularity.
v15 says, The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ
John was a ‘take-charge-kind-of-guy,” he’s so much different than the temple priests, so the crowd wonders if he might be the Messiah.
But Luke says John is “the voice” mentioned in Isaiah 40:3-5
“Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight. 5 Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled. The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.6 All humanity will see God’s salvation.”
John is the voice in the desert and a desert is a place that symbolizes loneliness, thirst and suffering. But John sees his role as the Messiah’s concierge, he is one who removes obstacles and gets things ready. He rolls out the red carpet for the person who comes after him
Remember, Luke grounds this story in real time, midst dark and wicked leaders who are leading and ruling the cities. And then, off in the distance, we are introduced to John – a lone voice calling out from the desert “make ready – change is coming.”
Like the angels before him, John is a herald, he is an announcement that something new is happening.