· Why are we told in v19-20 that John ends up in prison before v21-22?
· If baptism was a sign of repentance why is Jesus baptised if he is sinless?
· Why a dove?
· What does it look like for heaven to be opened? Is it significant?
· Why the list of names? Why here and why is it different from Matthew?
· Why does it go back to Adam?
· Why give the genealogy if Joseph if he isn’t Jesus dad?
Hopefully in answering these questions we can come to understand the passage, we can see what it is that Luke wants Theophilus and therefore us to realise.
Context helps us answer some questions. The big question in Luke 1-3 is who is Jesus? How does he fit in to God’s big plan of salvation. The answer we have seen so far is that he is God’s long awaited, long promised King come to save God’s people and bring peace between man and God. In (2:49) we see the 12 year old Jesus in the temple astonishing people with his questions and answers in relation to God and claiming to have a unique relationship with God his Father. Last week we saw John preparing the way by telling the people that the coming Messiah, Jesus, is more powerful than he and would baptise with the Holy Spirit and bring judgement. And in chapter 4 as Satan tempts Jesus the issue again is over Jesus identity, more specifically his sonship, as Satan says “If you are the son of God…” (4:3, 9).
Identity is the big issue in the section and here in chapter 3 as Jesus is baptised and we are given a record of his descendants identity is again the issue. Who is Jesus? How will he be identified?
1. Jesus is God’s royal rescuing ruler.As you look at v21 we see a shift in Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist fades from Luke’s vision and from now on Jesus takes centre stage. John the fore-runner, the get ready guy, has done his job, he has warned, proclaimed and prepared for Jesus to come and now he is here. That’s why Luke includes v20 before v21-22, it tells us what happens to John as he slips into the background. The expectant crowds being baptised (15, 21) show that John has done his job, the way is prepared and now the Messiah has come, but how will the people know this is him?
As Jesus steps forward from the crowd and is baptised and as he prays following his baptism God announces that this is him, that his Messiah is here. In Luke’s account the action and the emphasis is on the v22. One of the themes in Luke’s gospel is that key events are accompanied by prayer. And here as Jesus prays after his baptism God speaks and acts declaring who Jesus is.
As the heavens open it is as a sign that God is addressing man, and as the Holy Spirit visibly descends on Jesus that he is God’s anointed, publicly commissioned for the mission that God has given him, the mission the angels sang of at his birth.
His commissioning and anointing here are for the mission he has always had, the mission the angels and Simeon declare when he was a baby and that Jesus himself knows he has a twelve year old. Jesus was always God’s Messiah, his long promised King come to save, but this is his public inauguration as he prepares for his public ministry.
But what does God say and what does it mean? Who does he identify Jesus as and for what purpose? What does God say? “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Those terms are not just picked from the air, they have a history and God is identifying Jesus as the one he promised long ago. They identify Jesus as God’s long promised royal rescuing ruler. The phrase ‘you are my son’ is a reference back to Psalm 2, God is identifying Jesus as the royal ruler of the Psalm who will possess the ends of the earth. The rest is from Isaiah 42:1-4:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
Jesus is the one in whom God delights, God’s beloved, God’s servant on whom God pours out his spirit, as has just happened. One who comes to bring justice to the nations and to rescue God’s people.
Who is Jesus? God identifies him as his long promised royal rescuer ruler as Jesus starts his mission. It makes his words worth listening to, because he speaks on God’s behalf. That’s why Luke has gone to such pains in ch1-3 to point out who Jesus is. As the Messiah, God’s Son his words are worth listening to and basing your life upon.
The question if I have recognised he is who God says then am I listening to his words? Does that show in my life? What is my attitude to his word – seen in my attitude to the Bible?
2. God’s royal rescuer ruler identifies with us.After such a great scene what would you include next? God has just declared Jesus to be his Messiah, the last thing I’d put next would be a list of names. So why is it here? Well it mentions David, so yes it tells us that Jesus is descended from David, he is God’s forever king as promised. But unlike in chapter 2 there isn’t a great emphasis on David here. What about Abraham? This is the second time he appears in Luke’s gospel, in fact in this chapter (8). Certainly Jesus is a descendant from Abraham, he is an Israelite and it is in him that all nations on earth will be blessed. But he is just another name on the list.
I think the clue is there is v23 and 38. Jesus “was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.” This is Jesus legal line of descent, though Luke emphasises that Joseph is not his father. Jesus is actually God’s Son, a fact emphasised with the final clause of the chapter “the Son of God”. Exactly what God has called him as the Spirit descends and heaven opens.
Unlike in Matthew’s genealogy Luke goes back past Abraham to Adam why? Because Luke wants Theophilus and us to understand that Jesus, God’s Son has become a man, he identifies with us though he is not like us. In fact he is the Son of God as no one has been since Adam.
In Genesis 5 we get a genealogy of Adam and it goes like this: “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God…” But then in (v3) there is a change, Seth who is born after Adam and Eve reject God’s rule, is described like this: “Adam had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”
What is the difference between Adam and Seth? Adam is in the image of God, but when they reject God it affects that image, Seth and every generation since are like Adam marked by sin. It’s as if someone has gone up to the Mona Lisa while the paint is still wet and taken their thumb and smeared the paint right across the image. It is disfigured, you can still make out what it was supposed to be but it is now marred.
And there lies the problem, everyone from Adam to Abraham to David to Joseph to you and I are marred by that rejection of God’s rule. And the Bible shows us that we can’t reverse it, even Abraham and David are imperfect – just like Adam after he rejects God.
But that is why Luke emphasises that Jesus is the Son of God, he comes as a man, yes. He comes identifying with us, yes. But he comes different from us in that he is without sin – he is God’s perfect Son but identifying with sinners, with man, with us.
Jesus is the one in whom all the hopes of the Old Testament, in fact all humanities hopes of ever being made right with God rest, because he is the Son of God. Because he comes to represent and to rescue humanity because we couldn’t do it ourselves he comes to do it for us. God’s perfect Son on God’s mission on our behalf.
The question is will we accept that is what we need, that we can’t save ourselves. And that Jesus is God’s Saviour who comes to do what we cannot. That Jesus is God’s Son, God’s royal rescuer ruler who comes to do what we can’t, and that he does it for all humanity.