About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 3:1-20    ch. 3:21-38

John The Baptist Prepares The Way (ch. 3:1 - 20)

Luke begins chapter 3 with a list of Roman and Jewish rulers. The intent of this list most likely was to give us a close date to when John began his ministry. When you analyze these names and the dates they rule, you note that John most likely began his ministry in 26 AD.

Verse 2 says that "the Word of God came to John" while he was in the desert. Somehow God spoke His Word to John. The Word that came to John was a clear Word from God that told him his ministry would now begin.

Luke says that John preached "in all the country around the Jordan". We must note that the area in which John preached was not an area where people lived. It was quite desolate. Only God Himself would choose such a place for someone to preach such an important message as John did. Why not go into Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism if you wanted to preach to the Jews? For some reason, John was to preach where no people were. The people ended up coming out to see John, instead of John going to see them. It only goes to show once again, that Godís ways of doing things are not based on manís thinking.

Beyond Godís ways being different than ours, there might possibly be some symbolism here. John literally was a voice crying out in the wilderness. Yet spiritually speaking, Israel was in a wilderness of her own when it came to the things of God. Johnís message was to Israel. So symbolically speaking, John was speaking to a people lost in the wilderness. Therefore the location of Johnís ministry might well have been a sign of Israelís depravity.

Luke says that "John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin". First of all we need to understand that other groups and religions baptized people in those days. So to clarify Johnís baptism, Luke states that it was for repentance and forgiveness of sins.

The next thing we need to understand is what repentance means. The Greek word "metanoeo" is the word that is translated as repent in the N. T.. It is made up of 2 other Greek words, "meta", meaning after, and "noeo", meaning to perceive. Thus the definition of "metanoeo" is to "perceive afterwards". So to put this in clear English, repent means to after one perceives something, he changes his mind. This Greek word was not a religious word, but was a common word used in daily life. John brought a religious meaning to this word. John preached that you have to see your sinful state of being, then decide to change and turn from that sin. Thus Johnís message of repentance was to turn from you sin.

For those who decided that they wanted to turn from their sins he baptized. He would not baptize anyone that did not expect to turn from their sinful ways.

There is more to Johnís message than repentance. Luke says that John preached "repentance for the forgiveness of sins". Repentance always precedes forgiveness of sins. If one does not truly repent, he cannot have his sins forgiven. Forgiveness of sins is a result of our faith, or our trust in Jesus. One cannot walk in faith, until he has turned from his sinful lifestyle.

Look at it this way. If you are driving west on a highway, and then you determine that you need to be driving east, you must exit off the highway, turn around and drive east. You cannot drive west and east at the same time. In a spiritual sense, you cannot live a sinful lifestyle and follow Jesus at the same time. You must first repent from your sins, that is change your mind, and understand that your way of life is wrong. Once you make that turn in your thinking, you can then walk toward Jesus is faith.

This does not mean that you will never sin again. It means that you have turned from a lifestyle of sin. Sin will still bother you once you start walking in faith.

This question arises. Did those who got baptized by John, after they repented, get their sins forgiven immediately, or did that come after the resurrection of Jesus? There are 2 thoughts on this. One is that when a person got baptized by John, their sins were immediately forgiven. The other thought is that they were on the path to forgiveness, and that final forgiveness came at the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.

I think that if I had been one of those people standing in line to get water baptized, in my heart I would have repented, or changed my mind on the way I had been living. John preached that there was one to come that I would need to trust for salvation, for this forgiveness. The mere fact that I did trust Johnís message about the one to come shows me that I have genuine faith. So my faith, or trust was placed in 2 things. I trusted Johnís message to be true. I also trusted in the One to come, and I understood Him to be my Messiah. This would result in my immediate forgiveness.

Many have suggested the following over the centuries and I believe it is right. They say that godly people in the O. T. put their faith first in God, and then in a future event that God had promised them, namely the crosss. N. T. people have put their trust in God as well, (specifically Jesus) and look back to the cross, the fulfillment of Godís promise for their salvation. The O. T. people directed their faith to the future, while N. T. people direct their faith towards the past, but both have faith in God, and their Messiah.

Luke quotes from Isa. 40:3-5 to support Johnís ministry from the O. T.. The quotes says, "the voice of one crying in the desert, Ďprepare the way for the Lordí". Johnís ministry was a ministry of introducing repentance, faith, and Jesus to Israel. You might say that he was like a town crier. Town criers walk the streets of a town and in a loud voice make certain announcements for the towns people to hear. John spoke in a loud voice, announcing the coming of the Messiah. All Jews were now to repent and prepare themselves for His coming.

The quote goes on to say, "every valley shall be filled in and every mountain and hill made low". Isaiah is speaking figuratively when he speaks of valleys and mountains. What he is saying is that the message of John should pave the road for Jesus, that is to make it easy for Him to come. The way in which the road is paved is by the hearts of men and women in Israel to receive John's message, that is repent, and believe in Jesus that would follow. This would make Jesusí job very easy, but we know that many in Israel did not repent, and the road was quite rough for Jesus.

The prophet continues, "the crooked road shall become straight, the rough road smooth. And all mankind will see Godís salvation". Once again we have the analogy of the road being made straight so the Messiah can walk easily on it.

We have to ask ourselves. Did John in fact make the road straight for Jesus. In one sense of the word he did. I am sure that many, if not all in the surrounding area heard of John. The hearing of this message got the point across to everyone, even though everyone did not believe what John was saying. So when Jesus began His ministry, it was merely an extension of what John had made known.

The prophecy closes by saying that "all mankind shall see Godís salvation". Did all mankind see Jesus, see the cross, and see His resurrection. I donít think so. Yet the final result of Jesusí life, ministry, death and resurrection will be seen by all mankind when He returns in victory and brings salvation to those who are His, both Jew and Gentile, as the prophet says.

Luke tells us in verse 7 that crowds were coming out into the desert to hear him and to be baptized by him. I am sure that many people heard what John had to say and seriously confessed and repented of their sins. But it is clear from this verse that many others came, asking to be baptized, but not willing to confess their sins. These might well have been Saducees and Pharisees. Perhaps John had gained quite a following and the religious leaders wanted to join in, without really doing as John says. These leaders were hypocrites to begin with, so adding one more hypocritical act to make them look good in front of the masses meant little to them.

John saw these unrepentant people come to him and he had very strong words for them. He said, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath"? The phrase "brood of vipers" literally means sons of vipers, or snakes". These people were born from snakes, and they continue to live as snakes. The word "viper" could possible refer to the devil himself, who was pictured as a snake in the garden of Eden account. These people were actually "sons of the devil". Jesus Himself referred to these people as having the devil as their father. (see John 8:44)

Then John asks these people, "who warned you to flee from the coming wrath". I have not counted, but it has been said that the wrath of God is mentioned more than 300 time in the O. T., and it is a subject that is still prevalent in the N. T.. John says that there is a time coming when God will pour out His wrath. He wonders how these hypocrites understood this. He wondered who told them. Well, maybe no body told them. Maybe they just wanted to look good in front of the masses. It could be possible that the devil himself had spoken to these people, telling them that if they got baptized by John they would escape Godís wrath, even if their act of baptism was hypocritical.

John continues his words to these people in verse 8. He says, "produce fruit in keeping with repentance". John is saying, "show me by your actions that you have repented and I will baptize you". Their words rang hollow to the ears of John He knew that these people were not serious about repenting. Repentance was a serious matter to John, and it should be a serious matter to us today.

John continues, "and do not begin to say to yourselves, Ďwe have Abraham as our fatherí". The Jews claim their security with God based on the fact that they were Abrahamís biological descendents, as we see in the John 8 passage mentioned above. Clearly Jesus told these people in John 8 that they might have been biologically Abrahamís descendent, but it meant nothing to Him, since they were not following Abrahamís example. They were in fact following the devil. John warns these people that claiming special privilege before God based on their nationality is not acceptable. Paul goes into great length over this matter in Romans. It does not matter who we are, we all come to God in the same way, by repenting, and by giving our life to Jesus.

John says that God can raise up children from these stones if He wanted to. The idea that God could raise children from stones is telling these people that their claim to be children of Abraham, thus children of God is futile.

If you remember, one of Paulís defenses in Romans 9 through 11 was his analogy of Godís people being a tree. Jesus uses the same analogy in John 15, and so does John in verse 9. He speaks of the ax being laid to the root of the tree. He says that any tree "that does not produce good fruit will be cut down". It doesnít matter anymore in Godís eyes if you are a son of Abraham or not. The important thing is the fruit you produce in your life. It is clear that many, if not most of Israel had long since stopped producing good fruit in their lives. So John is warning them that they will be cut down. The O. T. is full of such words. In many places God tells His people that they will be "cut off" from among His people if they continue in their rebellious ways. John is saying the same.

When Jesus died on the cross, the ax struck the base of the tree. Paulís way of saying it was that any of these branches that did not produce good fruit were cut off and burned. These Jewish branches that were cut off were replaced by Gentile branches that did produce fruit unto repentance.

So we can clearly see that Johnís preaching was a forerunner not only to Jesus, but to the gospel message, that was for all people, wherever they could be found, and not only for the Jews.

In verse 10 the crowd asks, "what shall we do then"? The crowd is in reference to all the people who just heard these words of John. The crowd is not the hypocrites that John had just been addressing. Many of these people were probably quite concerned after John spoke about the wrath of God that would come, and that they would be like trees cut down and burned, thus the reason for the question.

This is Johnís answer. "The man with two tunics should share with the man who has none, and the one who has food should do the same". What John is saying, is that if you have truly repented and have been baptized by me, then you will show fruit of repentance by the things you do. Two such examples are the sharing of clothing and food. John is not suggesting that salvation, or acceptance by God comes merely by doing good works. He has already spoken of "repentance that produce good fruit". John is saying what James would teach several years later, that is, if you claim faith, let me see it in your actions. If you have no good works, then James would question that you have true faith, and John would question whether you have truly repented.

In verse 12 Luke specifies that tax collectors asked what they should do. There was a certain hierarchy within the Romans system of collecting taxes. The men who actually did that job in and around Judea were actually Jewish men. These men were hated on 2 counts. One count was that they misused their job and exhorted people and demanded more money than what they needed to pay. The other reason why they were so hated was because they were Jews, collecting from Jews, for a Roman dictator. Among Jews these men were considered traitors, and the scum of the earth.

So these tax collectors found themselves among the people coming to John. The rest of the crowd must have not even wanted them to be there. They seemed truly interested in what they should now do. John answered them by saying, "donít collect any more than you are required to". John did not tell them to stop being tax collectors. He simply told them to be fair, collect only what you are suppose to. By doing this, they would prove that they were serious about their repentance and baptism.

Then after the tax collectors asked what they should do, soldiers asked also the same question. Everyone was interested in how repentance and baptism would apply to them.

John answered their question with 3 statements. He told the soldiers not to extort people, not to accuse people falsely, and to be content with their pay. He mentioned nothing about the possibility of killing someone in the line of duty. This may be something for a pacifist to think about. Soldiers had weapons that gave them a measure of power. Many soldiers misused their power by extorting people, by demanding money from people. Most likely they falsely accused a person of something in the process. They would accuse someone falsely and then tell them that if they wanted the charges dropped, they could pay the soldier a sum of money. John told them to stop such a practice. Then John told them to be content with their salary. If they were content, then they would not falsely accuse people and extort them.

Luke tells Theophilus in verse 15 that the "people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their heartís if John might possibly be the Christ". Johnís appearance and way of doing things was surely different than the norm, but his words were full of power from the Holy Spirit. This had to have been the case if all these people wondered if he was the Messiah. You wonder just how one man could create such a stir among the people of Galilee.

This was Johnís answer to their questioning concerning just who he was. He answered, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fireÖ"

We see Johnís humble but truthful answer. He is not the Christ. He is not even worthy to stoop down and untie the sandals of the One that will come after Him, the Christ.

John says that he only baptizes with water. There is One to come "that is more powerful than me", John says. This One will "baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire". As one gets totally drenched when being placed under the waters of baptism, so will one get totally drenched with the Holy Spirit when placed under the baptism that Jesus will baptize them with.

In very short summery, Johnís words are prophetic. The baptism that John spoke of came true in Acts chapter 2 where the 120 received the Holy Spirit for the first time in their lives. Prior to this point in history the Holy Spirit was not freely given to men and women, but all that changed on the day of Pentecost as seen in Acts 2.

When one is truly born again of the Holy Spirit, he or she at that point receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus compares this reception of the Spirit to a baptism. The emphasis is not on how one receives the Spirit, as in the baptism, but is on the actual receiving of the Holy Spirit. Also in short, this is not a so-called second work of grace. This is what I call initial salvation. There is no clear evidence of a second work of grace in the N. T..

By saying that Jesus baptizes in the Spirit and he baptizes in water should not minimize Johnís baptism. Yes, John did baptize in water, but it is very clear that the Holy Spirit was speaking through John, and also speaking to the hearts of those listening. Johnís baptism was important, yet the medium of baptism between the 2 men are very different.

It is interesting to see that Jesus says the same as John in Acts 1:5. Jesus says, "John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit". A few days came in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. Thus it is quite clear that the fulfillment to what John says came true in Acts 2, not earlier, nor later.

John relates "fire" with the Holy Spirit. Some have suggested that this fire is the eternal fire of hell. They say that Jesusí baptism which was fulfilled in His people, beginning in Acts 2 is the baptism in the Spirit. Yet these people say there is a baptism of fire, which is the final judgement. One reason why they think this is because they equate fire with judgement. But this is not always so. Fire can also be equated with cleansing.

It is my understanding that fire as spoken by John means that once one receives the Holy Spirit, His fire will then begin to cleanse that heart and life of the person who has received the Holy Spirit. This is clearly seen in the "tongues of fire" in Acts 2. Thus when John speaks of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire, he is not speaking of 2 separate baptisms. He is speaking about men and women receiving the Holy Spirit in the form of a baptism like experience which results in a fire within that begins the cleaning process of a saved person.

Verse 17 continues what John says about the One that would come after Him. Once again, we should remember that John had no clue who this person is going to be. He says, "His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire". It is this reference to unquenchable fire that some understand the above baptism of the Spirit and fire to refer to.

Luke uses the well understood analogy of the threshing floor to make a point. What people in those days did to harvest wheat was this. They had a large flat floor. Theyíd put the freshly cut straws of wheat on the floor. An ox would walk on the straws of wheat which would separate the actual wheat from the straw stocks. The straw would then be raked away. Then with a wooden shovel someone would shovel up some wheat and throw it into the air. The wind would blow the lighter chaff that covered the wheat away, and the heavier wheat would fall to the ground. This process separates the wheat from the chaff.

John uses this analogy to tell us that the One that would come after Him would bring judgment to mankind by a similar type of threshing.

What we see here is 2 divine aspects of the One who would follow John. The forgiveness of sins along with the giving of the Spirit shows us the love of God. Then the separating of the wheat from the chaff, with the eventual burning of the chaff, as John points out is the divine Justice of God. Both love and justice are seen in the One to follow, and that is Jesus.

It is important to understand that Jesusí work was not finished at the cross. Yes, His work that brings salvation was completely finished at the cross. But Jesus had, and has more to do, and that is to return in judgement.

In verse 18 Luke says that "with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them". What else John says, we are not sure. It is interesting to note that John preached the good news. If what we just read was the good news, then it is important for us to understand that preaching of final judgment is part of the good news. Many today tend to leave this out of their message of good news.

John was a very brave and very to the point type of person. One day he pointed out to Herod, a Roman ruler, that by living with his brotherís wife, he was committing adultery. Luke says that "when John rebuked Herod", this rebuke was not a one time rebuke . The Greek verb tense suggests a "continuing rebuke". This rebuking was most likely a public rebuke. Even the Jews were disgusted with Herodís immoral lifestyle. It was no secret.

John could have prevented what was to follow in his life if he had just cooled it when it came to this rebuke. But Johnís ministry was a ministry of repentance from sin. In order for him to preach repentance, he had to address the issue of sin. Herod would have been a prime public example of one living in such sin.

Even in Johnís day, he was not politically correct. He preached repentance from sin, and he pointed out what sin was, and who needed to repent. It seems in our day of "easy salvation" such preaching has been laid by the wayside. This should not be. This law still applies, what one sows, he will reap. If we sow a repentless gospel, we will get false Christians as James says. You cannot come to true salvation without repentance.

The Baptism And Genealogy Of Jesus (ch. 3:21 - 38)

Luke does not spend as much time on the baptism of Jesus as does the other gospel writers. You might ask, "if Johnís baptism was a baptism of repentance, why did Jesus get baptized, because He had nothing to repent of"?

One possible answer to this is that this baptism was the official beginning of Jesusí ministry. You might say that this was a dedication service, a public acknowledgement that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the Son of God.

Some people note the fact that Jesus was 30 years old, the required age for men to enter the Levitical priesthood. (Num. 4:3) This indeed may have some significance since Jesus was a Jew and obeyed the Law of Moses in all of its points. The book of Hebrews calls Jesus "our Great High Priest".

Another thought concerning the reason why Jesus was baptized by John is that He was identifying himself with the masses of people coming to John. These people, no matter how Law abiding they were, were still sinners. Jesus, the perfect One put Himself along side these sinners. Of course He would go much father than that by hanging on the cross as a criminal.

Luke says that "when all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized too". This paints the picture of Jesus standing in the midst of the crowd waiting for His turn to be baptized along with everyone else. I wonder what was going through His mind as He was standing in line waiting His turn. I also wonder how and when He knew to come and be baptized. Was it a direct word from His Father? Or was it just something that was instinctive? He just knew His time was at hand and He had to take the first step into His earthly ministry.

While Jesus was standing in line waiting to be baptized, Luke says that He was praying. During this time of prayer "heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in a bodily form like a dove". (ch. 3:22) The apostle John in his gospel tells us that John the Baptist understood that when he saw the Holy Spirit come down on a particular man, this would be the one who baptized in the Holy Spirit. This would be the Messiah.

I might wonder if John was anticipating this moment. If he was foretold of this event there is a good chance that he expected something like this to happen at some point. Whatever the case, I am sure that this was a real thrill for John, and maybe even more than a thrill Ė a heavenly experience.

The Holy Spirit appeared in such a way that He could be seen by all those around. Everyone could see the Holy Spirit fall on Jesus. Many have equated this experience of Jesus to the Acts 2 experience of the 120. They say that this was the baptism of the Holy Spirit for Jesus, and since Jesus received this experience, we need to receive this experience called the baptism in the Spirit as well.

Was this experience of Jesus the same as that which was seen in Acts 2? It was similar, but not the same. There is one main difference. The 120 had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Acts 2, Pentecost, was the day in which they received the Holy Spirit. The way in which they received Him was described as a baptism. The important point of Acts 2 is not that the 120 received an experience called the baptism in the Spirit. The important thing is that they actually received the Spirit for the first time in their lives. The way in which they received Him was like a baptism.

Now this experience that Jesus had was not a time where He received the Holy Spirit. He already had the Holy Spirit. He was God in human form. The Holy Spirit and Him are one in the same. You cannot separate Jesus from the Holy Spirit. Thus, this is the difference between these 2 events.

This experience for Jesus was in fact a public inauguration. I have always said, that there is more to the Holy Spirit than one person can contain. This applies to Jesus in His earthly bodily form as well. Even for Jesus, there is more to the Spirit of God than what His earthly body could contain. This is why the Spirit can be in Jesus, and come upon Him at the same time.

I need to point out at this time that not all people believe that Jesus had the Holy Spirit within Him prior to this point. Some believe that it was at His baptism that He received the Spirit. Prior to this, He was just a man. If this is so, then the above difference between Acts 2 and Jesusí baptism does not exist. This in no wise would suggest that the way in which the Spirit was given, that is a baptism, is more important than the actual giving of the Spirit. I say this specifically because within some circles, the experience called the "baptism in the Spirit" is more important than the actual receiving of the Spirit. This is a misplaced emphasis.

Still, I have a hard time believing that Jesus did not already have the Holy Spirit within. Luke tells us (ch. 1:32 and 35) that Jesus will be called the Son of God. Was He only "called" the Son of God, or was He in fact the Son of God. It is clear throughout the N. T. that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. I donít think He could be the Son of God without the Holy Spirit from birth. It is my understanding that the Holy Spirit entered Mary at conception and remained within the developing baby Jesus within Maryís womb. Jesus and the Spirit were inseparatable from conception onward, or so I believe.

Another point is this. It is clear that John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit within him at conception. (ch. 1:15 ) If this is the case with John, logic tells us that it surely would be the case with Jesus.

Along with the descending Spirit came a voice from heaven which said, "you are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased". This voice came from God the Father and was a public witness to who Jesus was. All that saw and heard this would be presented with the idea that this man who stood before them was the Son of God. What an experience this would have been. You would wonder how anyone could have not acknowledged the truth of Jesus after seeing this, but it is clear that not everyone trusted what they saw or heard.

In verse 23 Luke tells us that "Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry". It is my understanding because Luke says this at this point that he equates the baptism of Jesus with the beginning of His earthly ministry.

The rest of chapter 3 gives the genealogy of Jesus, most likely through Joseph, although there has been much debate over the centuries about this. Mathew also gives a genealogy of Jesus. Scholars throughout the centuries have tried to reconcile both of these genealogies. I am leaving this debate to people who know more than I about this subject. It would only appear to me from a brief reading of the text, without comparing it to Mathew in detail that Lukeís genealogy was through Joseph, Jesusí legal, but not biological father.

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