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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 4: September 16, 2009, Luke 3.1-38

Day 4: September 16, 2009, Luke 3.1-38

My commentary will follow the text below:

Luke 3.1-38

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

The Baptism of Jesus

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

The Ancestors of Jesus

Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai, son of Maath, son of Mattathias, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, son of Joanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri, son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son of Er, son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliakim, son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala, son of Nahshon, son of Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah, son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech, son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan, son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

Commentary: John is not the messiah. Now I know that is pretty obvious, but its worth repeating because sometimes we lift John’s message to messianic significance. Repent, turn yourself around, be satisfied with your wages, and don’t take more than you should: all good advice but none of it is the means to salvation, and none of it reflects the new thing that God is about to do in Jesus. John is preparing our hearts, helping us to look at ourselves honestly and challenging our complacency (“for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”) but it will be the Holy Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus who will give salvation—John is in some ways pointing out the obvious, we need a savior!

It happens so quickly in Luke that we almost miss it, but in the account of Jesus being baptized his real identity is made known, the Son of God—this marks the fulfillment of what Gabriel had told Mary and also the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise for the coming of the Messiah. But notice something in Luke, the heavens are opened and the voice claims Jesus AFTER he had been baptized and was in prayer. Prayer will be an important part of Jesus ministry (5.16; 6.12; 9.18; 9.28-29; 11.1; 22.41) and it is the means for Luke by which God often bestows the Holy Spirit. Later on in Acts we’ll see that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the community as they pray. What does this say about us and our need for prayer? Do we expect to be filled with the Spirit when we prayer either in private or in worship?

Here’s a fun little thing, we have two genealogies for Jesus: one here in Luke 3 and the other in Matthew 1.1-16 and the two genealogies don’t match up! That’s ok, Matthew and Luke simply have different sources and they don’t agree—it happens. (show this to your fundamentalist friends and it will drive them crazy!) However both Matthew and Luke are making theological points with their genealogies. Matthew starts in the past with Abraham and shows how Jesus is the culmination of the promise for a Messiah. Luke on the other hand begins in the present (with Jesus) and works backwards through David and Abraham all the way to Adam—thus showing that Jesus is going to be about ‘undoing’ that which Adam had with Eve begun.

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