Luke 3:21-38 The Messiah revealed

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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.

Luke 3:7-20 The Testimony of John

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The evangelical culture that promotes ‘celebrity preachers’ is profoundly dangerous – it puts the focus on the preacher and God tends to be relegated to the side-lines.  That brings all kinds of temptations to the preacher who receives this attention, and also pressures to maintain popularity at all costs.  John the Baptist faced such dangers in his ministry.  We turn now to consider Luke 3:7-20 The testimony of John.

1. A solemn warning

Since baptism requires repentance and repentance requires a recognition of sin, John does not avoid this difficult subject.  He speaks directly and with great courage (v7).  He speaks of ‘the coming wrath’ – God’s wrath is his holy, settled attitude to all that offends his holiness.  It is his appropriate judicial action against sin.  There will be a future climax to the present reality of judgment (Romans 1:18).  The only appropriate response is repentance, which is to be made visible in action – the ‘fruit in keeping with repentance’ (v8).  John sweeps away false hopes such as ‘We have Abraham as our father’.  It is not too late – the axe is ‘at the root of the tree’ (v9), but the blow has not yet fallen.  There is hope of deliverance.

2. A vital question

John’s words have a profound impact: ‘What should we do then?’ (v10).  True repentance must be demonstrated by action.  A loud religious profession may be spurious (Matthew 7:21).  John responds in a conscience-searching way:

            v11 There must be open-hearted care for those in need.

            v12 Tax-collectors – greedy traitors – are to do business honestly.

            v14 Soldiers are not to abuse their power, but are to be content with their pay.

True repentance is life-changing, impacting a person’s character and all of his life.

3. A humble witness

Inevitably people ‘were all wondering…if John might be the Christ’ (v15).  He resisted temptations to exalt his own position (see John 1:20) and bore a humble witness.  Note:

            (i). The inferiority of his person.  He points to ‘one more powerful than I’ (v16), for whom he will perform the most menial service.  John knows his role will shrink (John 3:30).

            (ii). The inferiority of his baptism.  John baptised with water, the symbol of inner cleansing, but the Messiah will bring the inner reality – ‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (v16) – the Holy Spirit acting like fire.  The ‘winnowing fork’ (v17) indicates separation – the saved (‘wheat’) gathered in and the unsaved (‘chaff’) suffering the fire of judgment.  The Messiah is both Saviour and Judge.

4. A high price

John’s imprisonment (v19) actually took place during Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 14:3).  John shows great faithfulness and courage in confronting Herod regarding his immorality.  The price of faithfulness to Jesus may be high, including the world’s hatred (1 John 3:13).

Luke 3:1-6 Preparing the way

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If a royal visit is to take place, all necessary preparations have to be made.  Not to prepare adequately would be to dishonour the visitor.  The same was true in the ancient world.  Indeed, for the arrival of some great dignitary a road might even have to be constructed.  What if the Coming One is God himself?  We turn now to consider Luke 3:1-6 Preparing the way

1. Located in history

For some 30 years the Messiah has been developing and maturing in private.  Our only glimpse is his visit to the temple at age 12 (2:41-52).  No longer will that be the case.  With the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist, the arrival of the Messiah becomes public.  Events are firmly located in history (v1-2), probably around AD 25-26.  All the significant secular and religious leaders are listed.  The events of the ministries of John and Jesus take place on the stage of world history – this is not hearsay, much less myth or legend.  Note:

            (i). Luke is a fine historian.  Where his information can be tested, he always passes the test – note ‘carefully investigated’ (1:3).  The proven reliability of Acts gives us confidence in his Gospel record.  Christians need have no fear when historical evidence regarding the Bible is investigated.  We are dealing with real events, God’s work in history.

            (ii). God is a sovereign God.  He has prepared for this moment from eternity.  His plan has unfolded through the centuries, including the fate of nations and the lives of individuals.  All is now ready, and the actions of the people listed here are under his direction – they do ‘what your power and will decided beforehand should happen’ (Acts 4:28)

2. Preaching a baptism

In this prepared setting, the Lord moves – ‘the word of the Lord came to John’ (v2).  This is John’s call to be a prophet of the Lord.  The voice of prophecy, silent for 400 years is again heard from Zechariah, Simeon, Anna and especially John – the Messiah is about to be revealed.  These are the ‘last days’ (Hebrews 1:2), the definitive time of salvation.

            The word is central to John’s ministry – baptism follows from it.  It is a word that demands a response.  His baptism (v3) is a radical message, calling Jews as well as Gentiles, shocking Jews who may well have thought they did not need this.  All need the Messiah’s work.  The core issue is repentance, sorrow for sins as an offence against God, leading to forgiveness.  Baptism is the outward sign of an inner change effected by God’s grace.

3. Calling in the desert

John, as the last of the OT prophets, announces the fulfilment of prophecy in his ministry.  He quotes in v4 from Isaiah 40:3-5.  John is ‘the voice’, 700 years after Isaiah wrote.  Isaiah’s call to prepare for the Lord to deliver his people from exile foreshadows the Messiah’s coming to deliver from sin (v6).  All obstacles will be removed, as roads are prepared for an important visitor (v5).  Note ‘all mankind’ (v6) – there is a universality in the Good News.  The work of the Messiah is for sinners of all kinds – words full of hope for needy sinners.

Wisdom Calls – Proverbs 8

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In this passage Wisdom is calling out. A cry like this would usually indicate some sort of loss, hurt or danger. However, Wisdom doesn’t cry because of any danger she is facing, but because of the danger that we are in. Wisdom is calling to us for we are in danger and this danger could have eternal consequences if not addressed. Two questions we must consider then;

  1. Are we aware of the warning?
  2. Are we responding to the warning?

As Wisdom calls, it’s worth investigating the true identity of Wisdom, those that Wisdom addresses and finally the offer that Wisdom gives to those who listen.

  1. The Identity of Wisdom

If we look at the claims of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 we can get clues regarding the true identity of our speaker. Spoiler – it is Christ who calls. Some of the clues are:

  1. Wisdom is the authority of authorities. (vv. 15-16)
  2. Wisdom is eternal (v. 23)
  3. Wisdom witnessed creation and was an agent in creation (vv. 27 & 30)

These clues all align with what Colossians 1:16-17 says of Christ. Christ calls – are we listening?

2. Those Addressed by Wisdom

Wisdom calls to all mankind (v. 4). The call of Wisdom is addressed to us. It is a call from Christ to men, women and children – all mankind. If you look at where Wisdom calls then you can see even more of the width of Christ’s call. We see it is in the high places, along the pathways and at the gates to the city. Christ calls in the high and lofty places but also the common places. This call is for us and for us in all our areas of living, work and travel. This address from Christ is meant to meet us wherever we are – it is the most relevant address that we could hear. Christ is calling to us, wherever we are. It is tremendous condescension by him and we should take notice and listen to what he offers.

3. The Offer of Wisdom

Wisdom offers itself. Christ offers himself. It’s not just an offer of intelligence, but life (v. 35). He is the one who has walked the way of righteousness (v. 20) and so he can offer life to us. This is the work he was appointed to do and he delights in humanity and saving humanity (vv. 23, 31). Those receiving Christ receive life. If we seek him then we will find him as (v. 17) assures. Failure to take up this offer will do harm to us (v. 36). Those rejecting Christ’s offer are rejecting life and holding to their own wisdom which is foolishness. They cling to their sin instead of Christ.

If you are a believer then be encouraged, you have this life that is offered and favour from the Lord. The world may mock Christianity but taking up the offer of Christ is the wisest thing you can do. Keep enjoying that life offered, keep following that same wisdom and be like those who diligently wait upon Wisdom in (vv. 33-34). Hearing and obeying the words and example of Christ will have a sanctifying and encouraging effect upon us and will prepare us more for that final day.

Matthew Magee

Luke 2:41-52 In His Father’s house

The first 30 years of Jesus’ life are passed over almost in silence by the Gospels.  We would of course love to know more about those years, especially his family life.  Some were tempted in earlier times to fill in this gap with imagination and invention in various ‘apocryphal’ gospels.  In the NT only one event is recorded and so it must be particularly important.  We turn now to consider Luke 2:41-52 In His Father’s house

1. A godly family

We have here a precious glimpse of Jesus’ early family life.  ‘Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover’ (v41) – these are people of faith, like the psalmist in Psalm 122, a pilgrim psalm for those going up for such occasions.  These are people who delight in the presence of God and the worship he prescribes.  It was in such a family that the Messiah was placed, with the godly example of his parents.  He was raised in a context of living faith.  It is significant that this is the Feast of the Passover (instituted by God in Exodus 12-13), celebrating the deliverance of his people by the shedding of the blood of the lamb, and now the fulfilment of Passover has come, with ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) present in the temple.

2. A unique Son

On the return journey to Nazareth – disaster – they discover Jesus is not with them.  When 3 days have passed, they find him ‘in the temple courts’ (v46).  Note regarding Jesus:

            (i). He is a learner.  ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (v46).  We see the growing boy is a learner – there is no suggestion he is disputing with the teachers.  His human mind needs to be nurtured and educated – only his divine mind knows all things.  It is evident that there is something different about him – ‘amazed at his understanding and his answers’ (v47), but not such that any thought of him as more than a 12-year-old child of striking ability.

            (ii). He is the Son.  Mary, relieved and stressed, rebukes him (v48).  Jesus’ response (v49) indicates he expected them to know where to find him.  The crucial statement is in v49b ‘Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house? (less likely – ‘about my Father’s business’).  Joseph fills the role of father, but Jesus has another, greater ‘Father’.  Even at this early stage in his life Jesus has a profound awareness of:

            a relationship that he bears to God.  We glimpse his unique relationship to the Father.

            a task that he is to perform.  He has a mission to fulfil – the Father’s plan (John 4:34).

3. An abundant blessing

We have a brief glimpse of family life at home in v51-52.  The focus is on Jesus – both parents fade from the record, Joseph probably dying soon and Mary mentioned again by Luke only in 8:19-21.  His brothers did not believe until after the resurrection.  We have a significant description of Jesus’ human development – he ‘grew in wisdom and stature’ – true humanity evident.  Also ‘in favour with God and man’ – like Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) and see also Proverbs 3:4.  The Messiah is grace filled for the work he has been sent to do.