Some Pharisees who had been sent asked John: "If you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet, why do you baptize people?"
John answered, "I baptize with water, but there is one here with you that you don't know about. He is the One who comes after me. I am not good enough to untie the strings of His sandals."
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River where John was baptizing people.
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, "If you aren't the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?" John told them, "I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I'm not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal." This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, 'A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.' I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John testified, "I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn't know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, 'The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God."
John the Baptist saw a dove and believed. James Whittaker saw a sea gull and believed. James Whittaker was a member of the hand picked crew that flew the B-17 Flying Fortress captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. Anybody who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day Rickenbacker and his crew were reported lost at sea.
Somewhere over the Pacific, out of radio range, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The nine men spent the next months floating in three rafts. After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater. It would take a miracle to survive.
One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes. A bird landed on his head. He peered out from under his hat. Every eye was on him. He instinctively knew it was a sea gull.
Rickenbacker caught it, and the crew ate it. The bird's intestines were used for bait to catch fish...and the crew survived to tell the story.
You may have heard the Rickenbacker story before. The greatest event of that day was not the rescue of a crew but the rescue of a soul.
James Whittaker was an unbeliever. The plane crash didn't change his unbelief. The days facing death didn't cause him to reconsider his destiny. In fact, Mrs. Whittaker said her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, a crew member who continually read his Bible privately and aloud.
But his protests didn't stop Bartak from reading. Nor did Whittaker's resistance stop the Word from penetrating his soul. Unknown to Whittaker, the soil of his heart was being plowed. For it was one morning after a Bible reading that the sea gull landed on Captain Rickenbacker's head. And at that moment Jim became a believer.
Who would go to such extremes to save a soul? Amazing the lengths to which God will go to get our attention, huh?