John answered, saying to them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I comes…
The symbol must be interpreted by the circle of ideas in which John moved, and which he variously expressed. Its suggestive cause is as hard to determine as it is unimportant. The rite may have formal affinities with the lustrations of the Essenes or the ablutions of proselytes; but it has a material significance of its own. John placed it in a relation with confession of sin and repentance, that made it the symbol of certain spiritual realities — evil recognized and repudiated; good perceived and chosen. In this connection its use may have been suggested by such words as, "Wash you, make you clean," or, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened," &c. (Zechariah 13:1). But his baptism was the symbol of another and no less significant fact; the baptized were not simply the penitent, but the expectant, men consecrated to a great hope. And so John was but true to the best genius of his people when he made his baptism represent, not simply an individual change, but a social fact — entrance into a society prepared for the kingdom which was at hand. The " baptism unto repentance " was also a baptism unto hope: as the first, it was the sign of a renounced past; as the second, it was the symbol of a new future. The Baptist's idea of this new future was embodied in the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven." He could indifferently say, " The kingdom of heaven is at hand," and, "After me cometh One mightier than I." He loved indeed to contrast his own meanness and the King's greatness. He was not worthy to bear His sandals, to loose His shoe's latchet. He was but the friend of the Bridegroom; the Bridegroom was to come. He only baptized with water, the mighty One who was coming would "baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
WEB: John answered them all, "I indeed baptize you with water, but he comes who is mightier than I, the latchet of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire,