Reflections on Luke 3

Joachim-PATENIER-The-Baptism-of-Christ-1515-Kunsthistorisches-Museum-Vienna

This week begins a real shift in Luke’s Gospel.  The first two chapters have provided a theological context for the story of Jesus and have placed Jesus as God’s chosen one by foretelling and grounding his story in the preparation and expectation.

Indeed some scholars suggest that the pattern of Luke’s gospel is the pattern the church has adopted for it’s two high and holy seasons, Christmas and Easter. Without preparation, both would be devoid of any impactful meaning.  Can you imagine Christmas or Easter without the weeks of preparation and anticipation?

The meaning would be diminished dramatically.

With chapter 3, we enter a new section of the Gospel. This segment actually conclude at Luke 4:13, the end of the wilderness experience. It might be helpful to read this section as a unit to grasp the full meaning of what is going on here.

If there is a word that captures the essence of chapter 3, it is the graciousness of God. Already Luke is laying the foundation that the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob is a gracious, initiating God. This Jesus does not come in arrogance but in humility and submission to God’s grace. Baptism is the beginning, if you will, of all that is to come.

  1. “In the fifteenth year” Luke is placing this particular section of scripture in the same historical context as he did with Jesus’ birth.  Emperor Tiberius,  Pontius Pilot, Herod.  High priest Annas and Caiaphas….we going to hear these names later on, not at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but at the end.
  2. John shows up calling people to repentance…change their hearts, lives and ask God to forgive. Then  John quotes the prophet Isaiah. Harsh words he uses.  “Brood of Vipers or “children of snakes.”   Luke has John speaking strong words of judgment and offers instruction.
  3. Luke then has John tell us that  some one is coming whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.   And then recalls that John offers many words which appealed to them  and proclaims good news to the people.(vs. 18)
  4. We then hear of John’s arrest, imprisonment, Jesus’ baptism, and lengthy    genealogy.

You have here, Luke  helping the hearer to understand the relationship between Jesus and God. The voice from heaven is affirming Jesus’ relation to God and it’s overall importance in the theology of the  Gospel of Luke. Here the voice of God precedes the beginning of Jesus ministry. We will hear this voice again at the     transfiguration in Luke 9.  It is  a confirmation of Jesus of Son of God preceding the journey to Jerusalem and to the cross.

In verse 21, there is a reference to the prayer life of Jesus. This is an important  aspect of Luke’s theology.  Pay attention as we read along through the Gospel of Luke to those moments when Jesus is at prayer.  It is a significant point that we make now.  We will revisit this as we journey through the life of Jesus and later in the book of Acts.  In fact, it will be the praying Church which will invite the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to act on the Church’s behalf.

This is not historical information. It is witness.

Just a note about the genealogy of Jesus: Perhaps it is linking Jesus to Adam, to Moses.  It seems more likely that Jesus is seeking an expression to the universal reach of God’s  purpose.  Moreover, he is connecting Jesus with his heritage as a  true child of Iraael.

The central message of his chapter to me is that Jesus is moving and is being led by the Holy Spirit. There will be difficult roads ahead for Jesus.  We know this because we know the rest of the story. Chapter 4 will show us that difficulty as Jesus engages the wilderness.  As Fred Craddock says, “Love generously and hatred will pull on boots and helmet; speak truthfully and falsehood begins to charm its authors; live simply and extravagance sets up a carnival across the street; serve faithfully and self-interest renews its seduction of human pride.”

Baptism doesn’t lead to smooth sailing. Indeed, it leads to deeper discipleship.  The Holy Spirit is leading. As the line from “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” in the baptismal scene, “Come on in, the water’s fine.”     It is, but the waters of baptism present us with  more than a nice dip in the water. Baptismal waters send us  forth for greater things. May we not shrink back from the Holy Spirit’s leading us out of the baptismal waters of life.

Resource:  Interpretation: Luke by Fred B. Craddock


2 Comments on “Reflections on Luke 3”

  1. Scripture: Luke 3:7-9 (NIV)

    7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

    Observation: Luke makes it abundantly clear in stating “the coming wrath,” that God expects us to give him our best. Perhaps Luke is making a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70, but I feel sure he is also speaking of the final judgment. If we are not willing to give God our best, God will exact justice.

    Application: Not only is it is my responsibility to God to be intentional about becoming a mature Christian; it is my responsibility to God to become a Spiritual Father to others. Only mature plants, mature animals and mature disciples of Christ can reproduce themselves.

    We have faith communities full of people who have been Christians for 40 years, yet not “producing fruit in keeping with repentance”. Many congregations go year-after-year with no new professions of faith. This is because we have faith communities full of people who are not intentional about becoming mature Christians or reproducing mature Christians. They have been satisfied to be one year old Christians, 40 times.

    Prayer: Lord, forgive me for not being more faithful in exercising the spiritual disciplines I need to become a mature Christian. Remind me, when I fail to maintain a broken heart for those who do not know your love, your mercy and your grace.

    Guide me in your ways so that I may become a Spiritual Father to others. Grant me the staying power to see my Spiritual Children grow to maturity and become Spiritual Mothers and Fathers themselves.

    Help me to (re)produce spiritual fruit in keeping with repentance.

    In Christ name I pray and for His sake, Amen

  2. Marion Pitts says:

    And I say”AMEN” to hookedonchrist’ s comment and prayer!


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