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As the Gospels show, Jesus often acted in ways that were totally unexpected. People could be left baffled, yet Jesus always had profound reasons for his actions. They all played a part in the unfolding of the divine plan of salvation. We see an example of this as Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John is deeply puzzled by this – surely it should be the other way around? We turn now to consider Luke 3:21-38 The Messiah revealed.
1. The baptism of the Messiah
Why is Jesus baptised (v21)? If John’s baptism relates to repentance for sin and Jesus has no sin for which to repent (Hebrews 4:15), what does this mean? More information is provided in Matthew 3. John knows that as a sinner he should be baptised by Jesus (v14), but Jesus gets to the heart of the matter in v15 ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness’. Jesus is fulfilling every aspect of the righteous requirements of God’s law – the law we have all broken. He obeys God’s law as the representative of his people – his obedience will be counted as ours. In his baptism, Jesus identifies fully with those he has come to save. He is ‘made to be sin’ for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He acts as the substitute for sinners who deserve God’s wrath on account of their breaking his law.
2. The endorsement of the Messiah
In response to Jesus’ prayer (v21) the Holy Spirit and the Father provide an endorsement of the path of obedience that he is walking. This is a profoundly trinitarian passage that testifies powerfully to God’s 3-in-1 nature. All 3 persons are involved. Note:
(i). The gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit descends visibly (v22) he identifies Jesus to John as the Messiah (John 1:33) and equips Jesus for his messianic mission, in fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1. The dove speaks of purity and gentleness, the Messiah’s character.
(ii). The voice of the Father. The words of the Father (v22) affirm at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, as he is about to be tested by Satan (4:1ff), his love for his Son and assure him of his approval of the path he follows to the cross. The plan of salvation laid in eternity is coming to fulfilment and the Father’s heart rejoices. Psalm 2:7 is the background.
3. The genealogy of the Messiah
Genealogy is part of the Jewish person’s identity. When Luke’s version is compared with Matthew 1:2ff there are major differences. It seems Luke actually traces the genealogy of Mary, whilst Matthew gives that of Joseph in the royal line of David. Note:
(i). God’s providence. Through all the twists of history, with very imperfect people, God still provides a wonderful salvation through the Messiah’s work.
(ii). Jesus’ identity. He is fully human, as the genealogy testifies, yet also fully God. He did not descend from Joseph (v23) – God is his Father. The sinful line of Adam is broken.