Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Introducing ... Jesus

Luke 3:15-38

In Luke 3 and 4 we have the formal introduction of Jesus. Chapter 3, verses 21 – 22 contains the introduction of Jesus as God’s Son by God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Chapter 3, verses 23 – 38 are the introduction of Jesus as God’s Son by means of His physical genealogy, and then in Chapter 4, verses 1 through 13 we see Jesus introduced as God’s Son by none other than the Devil himself. Finally, in Chapter 4, verses through 22 we see Jesus introduce Himself as the Messiah.

First, though, to clear up any misconceptions, John the Baptist has to introduce Jesus by comparing himself to the Messiah. The scene in Chapter 3 is that John has come out of the wilderness and invites everyone to be baptized. This dunking under the water is a way of preparing the mind and heart for the coming of Someone great.

15 – 16

The people heard John’s words and started thinking that perhaps he was declaring himself to be the Messiah. It’s an honest mistake. A strange man comes on the scene, looking and acting a lot like Elijah the prophet. This might lead some to believe he actually was the Messiah because Malachi 4:5 says: “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.

John clears up the misconception with a strong statement. He says that the Messiah is so much greater than he that he would not be worthy of performing the most menial slave task of untying his sandal.

In fact, a few chapters later, Jesus Himself will show just how much superior He, and members of His kingdom are in an interesting statement:

Luke 7:28 “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John, but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Jesus declares John to be the greatest human ever born from the union of a human man and human woman. Yet not only is Jesus better, but anyone that belongs to Him is also greater—why? Because humanity in it’s best form cannot reach the perfection of God or those perfected by the sacrifice of Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 says: “All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment.

The best of humanity is compared to the Lord like a woman’s menstrual cloth (that’s the meaning of the Hebrew word iddah). The word became used for something unclean or polluted because the Law says those clothes made a woman or anyone who touched them unclean since life is in the blood. The best of humanity has become polluted because of the nature in us to rebel against God and not think, speak, and act like Him. Jesus is far better because He was not born with a sin nature and never did anything that was not in line with God’s character.

Let me add here that is actually easy to get confused as humans. We were made to worship. And often times a person in a high place of ministry receives a lot more worship than they should. Eventually they unconsciously start to believe they are better than others. This is dangerous territory. If the best human ever born humbles himself like this, then we certainly should as well. In the body of Christ we are all equals under Jesus!

John hints that his baptism by water is only preparation for the baptism of Jesus, which will be one of purification by the Holy Spirit. Why by fire? It seems likely that the dual purpose of the baptism of Jesus then is both refinement and empowerment. God’s wrath was laid on the shoulders of Jesus to pay for our sins, and then transform our character into God’s. Jesus then sent His Spirit to give power to His disciples to share this good news (Acts 1:4-8).

17 – 18

John adds more about the refinement—in that God’s wrath comes to anyone who is not pure. It is the natural reaction to anyone who does not share God’s character. As humans we have two choices. Let Jesus bear God’s wrath or bear it ourselves. I know it sounds harsh, but John is just being real—the fire of this wrath is never extinguished, except when that wrath was poured out on a pure sacrifice, that is Jesus. The winnowing shovel was a tool they used to lift wheat stalks in the air so the chaff would fly away in the breeze and the wheat kernels fall to the ground. He is speaking of the separation that will occur—people who believe John and worship Jesus, and those who don’t. Once Jesus enters into His public ministry the winnowing shovel starts working.

19 – 20

Luke summarizes the rest of John’s ministry here, though the events happened later (John 3:22-24, Mark 16:14-29). Herod Antipas divorced his wife (Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Arabia) in order to marry his brother’s wife. Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21 strictly forbid this. John called him out and so Herod arrested him. His wife Herodias arranged to have John beheaded in the Machaerus prison, east of the Dead Sea. Was Herod evil? Absolutely. Beyond the divorce and incest, he tried to poison his father, among other things.

Jesus later called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32) and commented on what he had done to John:

Matt. 17:11 ‘“Elijah is coming and will restore everything,” He replied. 12 “But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist.’

21 – 22

Luke gives us a somewhat truncated view at what happened at Jesus’ baptism but the details he includes are vital.

  1. He identified with humanity. Jesus went down with all the rest of the people, not in some special ceremony to call attention to Himself (the Father does that for Him). Jesus was baptized, though, not for repentance from sin but to identify Himself with the ministry of John. There is a crucial connector here between old and new covenants. In a real sense, Jesus is being baptized INTO His ministry by John as a sort of passing of the baton from the last of the Old Testament prophets to the Messiah.
  1. The importance of prayer in ministry is introduced. Jesus’ first act after entering His ministry was prayer. Jesus last act as the Messiah was also prayer—and He prayed often throughout His time on earth.
  1. Jesus was introduced by John, but confirmed by the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is one of the very few times we see the three persons of the Trinity present at the same time. And one of only three times when the voice of the Father speaks (some think it was only to Jesus this time). The other two were at the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), and in the temple during Passion Week (John 12:28). Something of note here: The Father says here that He takes “delight” in the Son who is “beloved.” (from Isaiah 42:1); In Luke 9 He tells people to “listen” to what the Son says; and in the temple He talks about glorifying the Son, which can mean to give Him the significance, worship, and the weight He deserves. What a great lesson for us: we too should love Jesus, listen to what He says, and bow ourselves before Him.
  1. The Anointed One (“Messiah”) was “anointed” by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove lighting on Him. Because of this scene, the dove became a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Why the dove? No one knows. It has no Old Testament roots or contemporary significance. But I find it interesting that the most significant picture of a dove occurs in Genesis 8 with Noah. God flooded the earth and to find out if it was safe to leave the ark, Noah let loose a dove three times. The first time the dove returned empty. The second time there was an olive branch in her beak and the third time the dove did not return. Could this possibly represent the ministry of Jesus in making it safe for humanity by dying in our place? Jesus had no rest for His feet during his earthly ministry (Luke 9:58), when He died it was to bring peace with God (olive branch), and then He rose and went to heaven to prepare for His return out of our physical sight. Just a thought.

So we leave the baptism, and the introduction of Jesus by the Trinity, to an introduction of Jesus the Son of God by birth and ancestry:

23 – 38

The genealogy of Jesus in Luke’s gospel traces Jesus’ physical line, going all the way back to Adam, so He could identify fully with humanity. It traces Mary’s line from David through Nathan, a younger son of David. Matthew shows Jesus legal right to the throne of David, as traced through Solomon. Jesus could legally claim the throne because it was assumed he was Joseph’s son (and He was his adopted son). But he could physically claim it because Mary was also descended from David.

Jesus was “about” 30 years old – which was the age a Levite began service (Numbers 4:46-47).

Conclusions

In this portion of Chapter 3 I find an interesting dichotomy. Jesus gets baptized as a human like everyone else. And Jesus has a genealogy like any human. Yet John speaks of Him as someone so great, even the greatest human ever born is nothing compared to Him, and the God of the universe takes “delight” in Him. I think this tells us that Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is the perfect bridge between sinful man and a perfect God.

Jesus’ baptism begs the question—have you been baptized into Jesus? Falling in love with Jesus is step one—you change your mind about the condition of your own character, realize your lack compared with the perfection of God, and throw yourself on God’s mercy and ask forgiveness of your sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf. But as the Apostle Peter said in Acts 2, you need to repent and be baptized.

It’s not that you aren’t saved if you aren’t baptized, but it is important as a sign to you and the world:

1Pet. 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When you receive Jesus as your Lord you identify with His death, burial and resurrection. The physical baptism is that outward sign of an inward reality and helps you realize in your mind what has happened in your heart by going under the water and “dying” and being buried with Christ, then raising up the the dead as you raise up from the water. If you’ve never been baptized, do it!

Next time, Jesus gets introduced to us by the devil himself.

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