Luke Bible Study (Journey with Jesus)

Luke 3:21-38, Jesus’ Ministry Begins

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Having spent the majority of chapter 3 talking about the message of John, Luke is ready to record the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus now becomes the focal point of the gospel and the introductory material and preparation has been given. It is now time to learn about Jesus and take the journey with him. There are a couple of observations we need to make that reveal to us the supremacy of what is being recorded concerning the baptism of Jesus. First, all the gospels record this event, each in their own unique way, but refer to it one way or another. Second, any time there is the voice of God from heaven speaking we need to pay careful attention. God’s voice booming from the heavens is not a common occurrence. When it does happen, we are being told to pay attention. God has something important to say and he will not say it through his messengers or prophets. God will say it himself.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21–22; ESV)

Let’s begin our study with what Jesus does. Jesus comes to John for baptism. This brings up a number of questions. John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). The scriptures are very clear that Jesus did not need to repent from sins nor needed forgiveness of sins because he is the perfect lamb of God. So what is going on? Even John asks Jesus why he is coming to him for baptism in the Matthew account. Jesus responds that is was time to fulfill all righteousness. This also does not give us much to go on, but I think it is enough for us to grasp what is happening.

  1. Jesus is validating the work and the message of John. John is preaching the message of God. John is a prophet of God. Jesus’ work is not going to stand in conflict to John’s message. Jesus is validating the work and message of John.
  2. Jesus gives us examples to follow. One cannot help but consider that Jesus is providing an example for us to follow. If baptism is not important or necessary, then what is Jesus doing? If baptism is completely irrelevant and has no function in the Christian life, then why is John preaching baptism and why is Jesus submitting to baptism? Baptism is an act that everyone must participate in to be in Christ and receive God’s grace (Romans 6:3-4).
  3. But the most important reason for this event is to declare Jesus to be the Son of God. It is not to make Jesus the Son of God. This was the declaration and confirmation that Jesus is the Son of God. Let us first examine the declaration of Jesus as Son of God. The gospel of John explains how Jesus’ baptism was the declaration to Israel of who Jesus was.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29–34; ESV)

Notice that John says he was baptizing with water so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel (1:31). Once this event happens, John was able to testify to Israel that he saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and it remained on him. According to verse 33 this was the sign that God gave to John to know with certainty that this man was no ordinary man, but was the Son of God.

Not only does the baptism of Jesus have a declarative aspect to the nation of Israel, but it also has a confirming facet. The words of God concerning Jesus confirm that Jesus is the Son of God. The voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

The first part of this statement comes from a prophecy found in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is a coronation psalm where the Messiah was anointed and crowned as king.

7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:7–9; ESV)

Jesus is identified as the messianic Son of God. The psalmist declares the sovereignty of the Son even in the midst of opposition and rejection. The quotation from Psalm 2 shows that Jesus is the prophesied king who is enthroned by God to rule the nations.

The second part of God’s words after the baptism of Jesus come from Isaiah 42:1-4.

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:1–4; ESV)

The parallel is found in verse 1. This is my beloved Son, in whom my soul delights (or, “in whom I am well-pleased). We should not quickly pass over those words. What a powerful declaration that this one, Jesus, is the one person that God could say that he takes delight! Jesus is the only person who would live a life that God would be well-pleased. He could not be pleased with us because we have all sinned and all fallen short of God’s glory. None of us are righteous, not even one. We are enemies of God and are separated from God. Only Jesus is the one whom God could say, “With you I am well-pleased.”

Isaiah 42 prophesies the coming of the servant. The servant is described as a ruling prophet. But he does not come in tyranny or in an abuse of power. Look at the words that he will not lift his voice, he will not break a bruised reed, or quench the faintly burning wick. The servant is coming to heal the people. The servant is coming to save the people. He will bring justice (notice the repetition of this thought, verses 1,3,4). Jesus is that prophesied servant.

The baptism event is the declaration and confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, the king, the prophet, and the savior. Jesus’ ministry will now begin, declaring to Israel who Jesus is, confirmed by God that Jesus is who he says he is. Jesus comes fully approved by the Father. He has authority as the promised Son over the blessings of salvation. Jesus is the one and only way to the Father.

The Genealogy of Jesus

Luke 3:23-38 records the genealogy of Jesus. We should immediately ask, “Why does Luke put the genealogy here?” Why now? Why not earlier in the gospel narrative? What is Luke trying to show us with the genealogy such that Luke puts the genealogy in the gospel at this point? Why put the genealogy between the baptism of Jesus and the temptations of Jesus?

There are important connections in Jesus’ genealogy. The connection to David establishes Jesus’ rights as a royal heir. Jesus has the right to be king of Israel. The connection to Abraham links Jesus to the promise given to Abraham. God promised Abraham that in his descendants all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Jesus has the right to be the savior of the world because he is a descendant of Abraham. But Luke makes a connection that Matthew does not make. Luke takes the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam.  This is an important connection to the theme of the gospel. Jesus represents all humanity. The genealogy, therefore, lays out that Jesus is able to be the fulfillment of the hope of Israel and the fulfillment of hope for the whole world. Jesus has the right to serve God as the mediator for all humanity. The promised king of Israel is also the head of the human race. Gentiles have been brought into the promises of God along with the Jews. Consider that everyone from Abraham and earlier is not a Jew or Hebrew, but a Gentile. Jesus is the hope for all the world, regardless of nationality.

The point is not only that Jesus represents all humanity, but he relates and acts for all humanity. This is the necessary connection to Luke 4. Luke is going to move on in the narrative of Jesus by describing the temptations of Jesus. Now I believe we can see the appropriate flow of Luke. The baptism of Jesus declares Jesus to be the Son of God. The Father confirms that Jesus is qualified to be the Son of God and the fulfillment of prophecy. Further, the genealogy reveals that Jesus is qualified to be the Messiah, the hope of Israel, and the savior of the world. The temptations of Jesus show that he is the savior for all the people, a man for the masses. He can relate not only to Israel, but to every human being because he was tempted in all points but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Finally, we learn the approximate age of Jesus when he begins his ministry. Luke says he was about 30 years old. We noted that Jesus was born around 6-4 BC. Therefore the ministry of Jesus began around 25-28 AD. In Luke 3:1 we pointed out that the ministry of John begins around 29 AD. So the math does work, since Luke does not say that Jesus was exactly 30 years old, but about 30 years old. This allows a give and take of a couple years.

Verse 23 also contains a subtle but important statement that Joseph was the supposed father of Jesus. As we have studied thus far in Luke, Joseph was not the father of Jesus by blood, because Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Joseph took the legal right as father of Jesus in his marriage to Mary. But Luke reveals that many simply supposed that Jesus was the son of Joseph by natural means. But Luke has taught us that this is not the case.

Conclusion:

  1. Baptism is necessary and important. Otherwise, why is John preaching baptism and why is Jesus baptized?
  2. Jesus was not baptized because he needed forgiveness, but as a validation of John’s ministry and, more importantly, to declare to Israel that he is the Son of God.
  3. God confirms that Jesus is the Son of God with the words, “You are beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
  4. The genealogy also confirms that Jesus has the legal right to be the messiah king and savior of Israel and the world.
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