JESUS CHRIST, THE WINNOWER
Matthew 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Also see Luke 3:17).
For the most part the Jewish nation was characterized as full of sin and being impenitent. This is what John the Baptist saw as he was preaching in the wilderness of Judea. His message was Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His God-given duty was to Prepare ye the way of the Lord (See Matt.3:1-3). Many came from Jerusalem and all Judea, heard his message, and after confessing their sins, were baptized by John in the river Jordan. Although many received John's baptism, most were of the disbelieving sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees. John recognized their impenitent hearts and told them they were not worthy and needed to bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Verse 10 indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees placed too much emphasis on their heritage, believing that as a "chosen people", they were without sins to confess, needing no repentance. However, in truth, they were void of the fruits, or godly characteristics, which would have made them worthy of repenting. In verse 10, they are compared to trees which bringeth not forth good fruit that were hewn down, and cast into the fire. This was to be the fate of the impenitent Jews, and by example, the fate of all that reject the invitation of God to seek salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. In fulfilling his responsibility of preparing the way of the Lord, John the Baptist, now introduces Jesus to his audience. He refers to Jesus as being far superior to himself and offering a much superior baptism (Verse 11). The proximity of verse 13 indicates that Jesus, then, immediately came unto John, in the presence of all that had come from Jerusalem and Judea, to be baptized of him.
Between these two verses we find the lesson text, which is another example similar to that of the axe hewing down the trees which bringeth not forth good fruit (Verse 10). Both of these examples foretell the coming of the Day of Judgment. On this day there will be a separating of the righteous, obedient souls from the impenitent, disobedient sinners - the righteous inheriting eternal life in heaven and the disobedient being cast away from the presence of God for eternity, and into a lake of fire. The example used in the lesson text to demonstrate the separation of saints from sinners is the process of winnowing grain. Here we find on the threshing floor a mixture of both grain and chaff. In order to separate the good grain, which can be used as food, from the chaff, which has little or no benefit, the winnowing process is used. Both the grain and the chaff are tossed into the air with the winnowing fan. The chaff, being much lighter than the grain, is separated and carried away by the wind.
This winnowing process is likened to Judgment Day. The threshing floor represents the world in which we find both saint and sinner living together. The wheat represent those having accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and have been obedient to the will of God. The chaff are those that have lived a life of disobedience - those that have rejected the Son of God as the Messiah. The garner is Heaven. It is here that the faithful children of God will be gathered while the fate of those rejected - the disobedient - will be punished eternally with unquenchable fire.
Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. From that time forward, Jesus became the winnowing fan of God. He gathers all mankind from the world's thrashing floor and tosses them into the air. Those that believe and accept Him as their Savior will be separated from those that reject Him - the believers will be separated from the doubters, the faithful from the unfaithful, the obedient from the disobedient. That is, the good wheat will be separated from the chaff. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you been faithful to His cause? When tossed into the air by the winnowing fan of Jesus, will you be carried away by the wind into eternal punishment by fire, or will you land safely in the garner of Heaven?