John 1:24-28 : The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know. He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loosen.” These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Last time John was being questioned by some religious leaders about who he was and why he was doing what he was doing. He had already told them that he was fulfilling a prophesy but they didn’t seem to respond. They were only interested in why he baptized people if he wasn’t the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah. I am not familiar with the Pharisees views on baptism, but for some reason, it is mentioned here that the Pharisees (a Jewish religious group) sent them. From other parts of the Bible we know that the Pharisees are the ones who would be trying to put Jesus to death. They appeared to have a problem with John performing baptisms.
One of the great things about John is he stayed on task and simply told them that he was baptizing in an inferior way to the one who is about to show up. He tells them that the one who is coming is so much more important that it would be too high of a job to undo His sandals.
I have been told that it was a servant’s job to take care of feet in those days. Travel was often done by foot and I understand that people’s feet got pretty dirty. John seems to be saying that he would have been honored to do the lowest job for Jesus. It shows that he had a good understanding of who Jesus was.
John is an interesting study in humility. He was definitely not one you would call weak. He wore camel hair, lived in the wilderness and ate wild honey and locus (Matthew 3:4). He was probably one of the most courageous men of the Bible. He faced the Roman government directly and told their leaders that they violated God’s law. This ended up causing him to be put in jail and eventually to be executed. (Matthew 14:3-12)
He shows us that being humble doesn’t mean that you lose your will to fight for the truth. It means that you see yourself appropriately in your relationship to Jesus. Jesus ended up calling John the greatest man that was ever born up to that time. (Matthew 11:11)
Now for a geography lesson: This was taking place in a town on the Jordan called Bethany. There was actually another Bethany, that was mentioned that is near Jerusalem according to my Bible’s footnotes. We know that this one had to be on the Jordan because this is where John was baptizing. Evidently, the Jewish leaders had to travel quite a ways to pay John a visit.