Our chronological study of the New Testament continues with Luke 3 and Matthew 4. On a personal note, the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ have inspired books that would fill libraries (my personal library boasts dozens of books and commentaries written about the Gospels). My task and goal is to convey devotionals inspired by the Scriptures, but necessarily limited in content. I pray my effort will inspire a greater hunger, and deeper understanding of God’s Truth. This is the first of two daily devotionals.
Luke 3 – The Ministry of John the Baptist
Luke gave the historical time and setting of the ministry of John the Baptist, and the baptism of Jesus (3:1-3). Luke wrote it was “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” who had succeeded Augustus Caesar when he died in 14 AD (3:1). Herod the Great, who was appointed king of Galilee when Christ was born, died in 4 BC, was succeeded by two sons (Herod and Philip), and one Lysanias of whom little is known (3:1b). The aforementioned puts the date for the ministry of John the Baptist around 29 AD.
Luke also identified Annas and Caiaphas as “being the high priests” at that time (3:2). Both men will figure prominently in the Scriptures, though they were not co-high priests. Annas was deposed from being high priest by Rome, and followed by several sons. Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law, eventually succeeded him and both men will preside at the trial when Jesus is arrested and tried.
Summary of Luke 3 (3:3-22)
The ministry of John the Baptist was set in the wilderness near the Jordan River. There, in the desert, men and women of Jerusalem resorted to him, and listened as he preached the forgiveness of sins, repentance, and baptism (the people publicly confessed and repented of their sins (3:3). John’s ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies of one who would come warning the nation of judgment (3:4-5; Isaiah 1-39), and calling the people to salvation (3:6; Isaiah 40-66).
John the Baptist’s messages were strong and convicting. He condemned the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and identified them as poisonous vipers (3:7a) among the people. John heralded repentance, and condemned the pride and self-righteousness of the Jews who boasted, “We have Abraham” (3:8). He warned the people of God’s imminent judgment should their lives not bear the fruit of righteousness (3:9). When the people asked, “What shall we do, then?” (3:10), John challenged them to live lives that would bear evidence of repentance (3:11-14).
The Baptist was not preaching a man might be saved by works, but that the fruit of one’s salvation is proved by his works (James 2:18). In other words, the fruit of righteousness is displayed when one shows care and compassion for those in need (whether it is to give a coat to one who has none, or food to one who is hungry, 3:11). When publicans (tax collectors) asked, “Master, what shall we do?” (3:12), John answered, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you” (i.e., be just and fair, 3:13). There were also soldiers who questioned John, and asked, “what shall we do?” (3:13a). John commanded the soldiers, show respect to others, do not be violent, be just, and be content with your wages (i.e., without complaints, 3:14).
When the people wondered if John the Baptist was the Messiah, he answered with humility, and identified the greatness of Christ, saying, “one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose” (3:16). John continued, while he baptized with water, Christ would baptize them with “the Holy Ghost,” and the fire of conviction would be fanned separating the wheat from the chaff (3:16-17).
Closing thoughts (3:18-38) – It seemed as soon as John’s ministry began, it was eclipsed by the coming and ministry of Jesus Christ. Sometime after he baptized Jesus (3:21-22), the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch, for he had condemned that ruler’s wickedness and adultery with his brother Philip’s wife (3:19).
The closing verses of Luke 3 give us the genealogy of Jesus Christ through His mother Mary’s lineage (3:23-38). Jesus was of David’s royal lineage (3:32), and was a son of Abraham. Finally, Christ was the “son of Adam,” the first man and who was identified as “the son of God” (3:38).
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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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