And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
Those who are far up the social. heights are usually under a strong temptation to climb to the very summit. We do not know how strong the temptation may have been to John to assume or to attempt the part of the Messiah. Popularity is very exciting and ensnaring; it leads men to prefer claims and to adopt measures which, on lower ground and in calmer mood, they would not have entertained for a moment. But John's mind never lost its balance in the tumult of great professional success. Unlike most men, he seems to have stood prosperity better than adversity (see Matthew 11:2, 3). He does not appear to have wavered for a moment in his fidelity to the Lord whose way he came to prepare; he always retained a true estimate of himself, his work, and his Master. In this respect he was as wise as he was true, and we cannot do better than emulate his wisdom.
I. A TRUE ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES. John knew that in personal worth and dignity he was not for a moment to be compared with Jesus. That great Prophet whom he was preceding was "One mightier than himself," One for whom he was not worthy to discharge the meanest office which the slave renders his master. In cherishing this thought he was both fight and wise. There is the truest wisdom in humility. To mistake ourselves, to think ourselves greater or worthier than we are, is to do ourselves the greatest injury and wrong.
1. It is to offend God and to draw down some sign of his serious displeasure (James 4:6).
2. It is to incur the disapproval and hostility of our fellow-men; for there is nothing that our neighbors more thoroughly dislike our part than an exaggerated notion of our own importance.
3. It is in itself an evil and perilous condition, in which we are open to the worst attacks of our spiritual enemies. On the other hand, humility is acceptable to God, approved of man, and safe.
II. A TRUE ESTIMATE OF OUR POSITION and of the work we have to do in the world. John clearly recognized, and very distinctly declared, that his mission in the world was one altogether and immeasurably inferior to that of Christ; to those who would not have been surprised to learn that he claimed to be the Messiah he made it known that he was doing that which was slight and small in comparison with the work of Christ. It is indeed a good and a wise thing for us to aspire to do all that God gives us the capacity and the opportunity to do. But let us take great care that we do not, from pride or vain-glory, go beyond that boundary-line. If we do we shall make a serious and possibly even a calamitous mistake. Many that have done excellent service and have had great joy in the doing it when they have worked within the range of their powers, have done grievous mischief and have suffered sad trouble when they have attempted that which was beyond them. Nothing but injury to others, damage to the cause of God, and sorrow for ourselves can arise from an over-estimate of the position we are able to fill.
III. A TRUE ESTIMATE OF OUR LORD. That Mighty One who was coming should do the very greatest things. He would:
1. Act with direct Divine energy upon the souls of men - "baptize with the Holy Ghost."
2. Utter truth which should have great testing and cleansing power; his fan would "throughly purge his floor" homily on Luke 2:34).
3. Make a final distinction between the true and the false: "He will gather the wheat into his garner," etc. No man who cares for his own spiritual and eternal interests can afford to disregard the words or the work of this great Prophet that was to come, that has come, that "is now exalted a Prince and Savior," giving redemption and eternal life to all who seek his grace and live in his service. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;