The whole idea of the coming of Christ has very powerful features. Even today it isn’t difficult to get people wondering and hoping for the near return of Christ. In the 1st century AD those who studied the Scriptures knew that the time of Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy was nearing its culmination. Some were already looking for his coming. We are told that both Simeon and Anna the prophetess of chapter two in Luke both looked for the coming of Christ (Luke 2:26) and the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). It is entirely possible that the Magi that came from the east in Matthew 2 were high ranking Jews from Babylon who waited for and sought the coming of Christ. The problem is that the authorities at Jerusalem, though they knew of his coming (Matthew 2:3-6), didn’t seek him out, as the Magi did. No doubt, this is why John was sent by God. None of the Jewish leaders looked for the Messiah, and the people didn’t know enough to seek him.
Often, when people respect and admire their leader enough, they will believe all sorts of wonderful things about him, whether real or simply imagined. This was no less true of John the Baptist. The people who followed him began to wonder if John weren’t, indeed, the Messiah that he claimed would appear soon (Luke 3:15). On the one hand, this showed how effective John’s ministry actually was, for all were in expectation. That is, they were all looking for the Messiah. John mission was successful. Nevertheless, John wasn’t of David’s lineage and, therefore, couldn’t be the Messiah. John began to clarify his calling by pointing out the differences between his and the Messiah’s baptisms.
John described his ministry (baptism) as an immersion of repentance, dipping one into water as a sign of repentance, for the hope of sins being washed away (Luke 3:3). However, John claimed he was unworthy to unloose the sandals of the Messiah, presumably to immerse his feet in water to wash away dirt acquired through travelling the dusty roads of John’s day (Luke 3:16). If John was unworthy to wash away the dust from the Messiah’s feet, how could his baptism be effective to wash away the sins of the repentant who came to his baptism? The hope of John’s baptism for the remission or forgiveness of sins is fulfilled in Jesus’ baptism—the one mightier than John’s (Luke 3:16; cf. Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18)
According to Luke 3:10-14, John’s baptism of repentance had the repentant one share what he had with those who lacked. If he had power over the people, he was not to abuse his position of authority (financial or the sword), but, rather, he was to use his position of authority to serve the people. Far from being a social gospel, which some have tried to say John preached, it is the very basic approach to repentance, that is, it concerned expressing love toward one’s neighbor, and love covers an abundance of sins (James 5:20; 1Peter 4:8; cf. Proverbs 17:9).
So basically, what John’s baptism was all about was that it prepared a way for the people to receive the Messiah through the expression of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. John’s baptism filled the valleys and brought down the hills and mountains (cf. Luke 3:4-5), and in doing so he pointed to and prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah who was about to come on the scene.