“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (Luke 3:16)
I have heard several explanations of what John means regarding loosing someone’s shoe. Frankly, most of these interpretations fall short of the very bold statement I believe John is making here. I believe John is referring to a tradition among the Jews regarding the duty of the kinsman redeemer.
We find an example of this practice in the book of Ruth. Boaz desires to marry the widow Ruth and redeem the land of her late husband. However, he knows that there is another man who was a nearer kinsman. This man has the right to redeem first. If he chooses not to, then Boaz can redeem Ruth.
Boaz sits in the gate of the city waiting for the man to come by. When he does, Boaz tells him of the opportunity to redeem both the field and Ruth. The man says that he cannot redeem them or else he will lose an inheritance that is already promised to him. What happens next is the practice to which John refers.
“Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.” (Ruth 4:7-8)
Therefore, John is saying that he does not have the right to claim to be the Christ because the true Redeemer Christ is coming and He WILL redeem the people of God.
Jesus knows that He has a purchased possession which He has the right to claim. John is telling us, “Jesus will claim His own!”