Luke 3: John The Baptist And The Genealogy Of Jesus.
Luke 3:1-6 Preparing The Way.
Luke once again lays down an historical landmark-both in the Roman political sphere, and in the religious sphere of the temple administration (vv. 1-2a Cf. Mt. 27:2; Jn. 11:49-50; 18:13-14; Acts 4:6). We all have these historical landmarks, turning points in our lives, but what the believer really remembers is dwelling in God’s presence. And the only guide for us in these turns of providence is the word. As the word of God came to Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna, even so it came to John, but in a very unique way (v. 2b). John was commissioned to deliver a message of repentance and hope, for with this repentance there was a promise of the remission of sins (v. 3 Cf. Mk. 1:3-4; Lk. 1:77). But this was not a new message per se, for John’s ministry is that which came in the tradition and fulfillment of the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah (v. 4a Cf. Is. 40:3-5; Mt. 3:1-3).
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” conjured up very specific things for Israel. The prophet Isaiah and the people had seared in their memories the wilderness wandering, an experience which led to Moses not entering the promised land, but the next generation taking that step under the leadership of Joshua and Caleb-the men of faith (Cf. Nu. 14:6-10). Moses was supposed to speak the Lord’s word and strike the rock once. Instead he berated the people for being rebels, with no call to repentance but rather, he struck the rock twice and for his unbelief he would not be the one to lead God’s people into the promised land (Cf. Ex. 17:1-7; Nu. 14:30; 20:7-12). This wilderness experience once again becomes the theme of the new covenant era-there would be a separation between those who repented and believed and those who refused (Heb. 3:7-4:13).
It was no coincidence that John was found baptizing people in the Jordan-it spoke to this fork in the road (Cf. Mt. 3:5-6). John’s message would involve preparing the way for the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. The LORD’s way and ours are not the same. Such a meeting required preparation, and that preparation demands repentance and faith. It is through these that forgiveness of sins comes (v. 3). This is described as straightening ourselves out. Mountains and hills speak to rule and power, like the kingdoms of the earth, great and small (Cf. Ex. 17:1-7; Nu. 20:7-12). These must be “brought low.” (v. 5) It was to those in power in the state and the church that John also preached, and suffered for it (3:19-20; Mt. 3:7-10). This dynamic hasn’t changed. The church speaks and lives a way that goes counter to our culture, but in the gospel alone there is forgiveness.
Luke 3:7-22 John The Baptist And The Baptism Of Jesus.
“Then he (John the Baptist) said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (v. 7) Not what one would typically hear from a preacher today. It is likely that Luke, in harmony with Matthew, has in view those who think that simply being born from the lineage of Abraham was all that was required, including the Jewish religious leadership (Cf. Mt. 3:7-9; 12:34; 23:33). The viper was the offspring of the serpent (Cf. Is. 14:29; Prov. 23:32). Besides being associated with the devil, these were symbolic of those leaders who were guilty of empty words, devoid of justice and truth, while they “conceive evil and bring forth iniquity” (Is. 59:4-5). For John, he saw only wrath for them if they did not repent (v. 8).
Repentance shows itself in fruits, so actions must back up words. It is also not enough to be born into a Christian family as such. Each of us must have repentance and faith (Cf. Acts 16:30-31). Godly sorrow is needed (Cf. Acts 2:37-38; II Cor. 7:9-11). For those in Israel who refused repentance, the axe was at the root of the tree-destined for the fire of judgment (vv. 9, 17 Cf. Mt. 7:19; Lk. 13:6-9). So when the people asked John what they could do, he gave them concrete examples of repentance (vv. 10-14). “The tunic was an undergarment; normally only one was worn. John suggests that the man who owns two should give the spare to someone without one, and so also with food.” (NGSB, p.1608) Repentance is also not simply turning from certain beliefs and actions, but doing the opposite (Cf. Is. 58:7; I Tim. 6:17-18; Js. 2:14-17; I Jn. 3:17; 4:20).
Tax collectors were to stick to what was “appointed.” (vv. 12-13 Cf. 7:29; Mt. 21:32) Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector, said to Jesus that he gave half his income to the poor, and if he had stolen anything he would give back fourfold (Cf. Luke 19:8). He did not simply pull this out of thin air, it fulfilled the law, although in some cases it was 20% or as much as fivefold more (Cf. Ex. 22:1; Lev. 6:5; Nu. 5:7; I Sam. 12:3; II Sam. 12:6). Likewise, soldiers (and police etc), were not to abuse their position of power and authority through intimidations or false accusations. These actions spring from a lack of contentment with ones rightful wages-that is, covetousness (v. 14 Cf. Ex. 20:16-17; 23:1). The people thought that in fact John might be the Messiah, but John’s role was to point to Him, the “One mightier.” (vv. 15-16)
For preaching to those in authority John paid a heavy price, first by being thrown in prison (vv. 19-20), then death and beheading (Cf. Mk. 6:14-28). However, before this end, John had the glorious privilege of not only preparing the way for the Messiah, but indeed by baptizing Him as well (vv. 21-22 ). This act was not for His own sin and need for repentance, but rather to do so for others and to also show the transition (Cf. Mt. 3:13-15). Water baptism shows the transition to the new covenant here, although with Christ alone has the Spirit been poured out in a unique way (v. 16 Cf. Jn. 7:39; 20:22). In Jesus’ baptism we see the Trinity bearing witness, and in particular the Father was well pleased (v. 22 Cf. II Pet. 1:17). One can imagine that with John the Father was also pleased (Cf. Mt. 25:21, 23).
Luke 3:23-38 The Genealogy Of Jesus.
Luke, as always, saw the importance of historical markers, and so he gives us Jesus’ genealogy. Interestingly enough, he does not link this genealogy with his birth, but rather with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The reason for this seems to be the desire to connect Him to some main figures in history. The connection to David shows His human lineage to the throne of David as the final promised King. However, Jesus was in effect adopted, as far as Joseph was concerned. Some supposed Him to be Joseph’s natural born son, but we know He was born of the Spirit of God (v. 23 Cf. 1:31-35) The significance of the age of thirty may be connected to this being the age of ministry in the tabernacle/temple (Cf. Nu. 4:3, 35, 39, 43, 47).
Zerubbabel also connects us to the rebuilding of the house of God during the time of captivity (v. 27 Cf. Ezra 2:2; 3:8). But, it was ultimately the greater Son of David who would build the LORD’s house, this being the ultimate focus of the last administration of the covenant of grace during the old covenant history (Cf. II Sam. 7:12-13). Boaz can also be found in this genealogy, and with Ruth they begat Obed (v. 32). Of course, there then continues on the connection to Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (vv. 33-34), through to Noah (v. 36), and ultimately Adam, “the son of God.” (v. 38 Cf. Gen. 5:1-2) From the first son of God we are led to the ultimate Son of God. The names and order differ from Matthew’s account (1:2-17), but they both connect Jesus to the Davidic line and Abraham, and Luke ultimately with Adam.