The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Luke 3

Luk 3:1

Vv 1,2: In two verses only, Luke presents the great parade -- of all the powerful and wealthy and prominent men of the world in his day. There they stand on the world's "stage" for all to respect and admire! But God -- being no respecter of persons, and desiring that no flesh should glory in His presence -- now absolutely sets all the mighty to one side, passing them by entirely, and condescends to speak to a man of the wilderness -- a man of simple food and simple clothes and simple habits. The Creator of heaven and earth has no need for lavish palaces or fine temples; instead, He chooses to dwell with shepherds in the fields (Luke 2:8-14), and a "wild man" on the river bank!

Herod the Great's old kingdom is now divided into 4 parts, only 2 of which his sons rule. (People governed by such men were surely ready to hear the gospel.)

HEROD: Herod Antipas -- "the fox" -- brother of Archelaus, and son of Herod the Great.

ITUREA: 1Ch 1:31: Edomite origin of name.

Luk 3:2

ANNAS AND CAIAPHAS: Annas was officially High Priest from 6 to 15 AD. Annas had 5 sons and a son-in-law (Caiaphas) who become High Priests. When arrested, Christ was taken first to Annas, the head of the family (John 18:13).

THE WORD OF GOD CAME: A formal expression (cp Jer 1:2), placing John in the true prophetic tradition.

Luk 3:3

THE JORDAN: Elijah was last seen here (2Ki 2:8). John Bapt was first seen here.

PREACHING: First principles in John's preaching: See Lesson, John the Baptist, gospel of. Elijah was last seen at the river Jordan (2Ki 2:11); John the Baptist first appeared to Israel at the same place (v 6).

Luk 3:4

DESERT: A "wilderness", both natural and spiritual.

PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD: How? By preaching (v 3), and by being taken out of the way (Mat 4:12).

LORD: "Yahweh" of Isa 40:3 becomes "Kyrios" here.

Luk 3:6

ALL: Limited sense of "all": "all flesh" (Gen 6:12; Isa 66:24; Jer 45:5; Eze 20:48; 21:4); "all people" (Est 3:14; Lam 1:8; 1Ki 8:43; Dan 5:19; Mic 4:5). Christ has power over "all flesh" (Joh 17:2).

Luk 3:7

YOU BROOD OF VIPERS: Three and a half years later they have not been touched by the teaching of Jesus -- for he calls them "serpents" and "vipers" again (Mat 23:33). Hopefully the words of Jesus have a bigger impact on us!

WHO WARNED YOU TO FLEE FROM THE COMING WRATH?: A wildfire driving all snakes and crawling creatures before it (Hist Geog 64).

Luk 3:8

FRUITS IN KEEPING WITH REPENTANCE: That is, works to demonstrate faith (Gal 5:22,23), esp the work of confession and forsaking sin (1Jo 1:9; Joh 8:11).

STONES... CHILDREN: In Heb, abanim/banim.

THESE STONES: The stones of Jos 4 were 12 great stones placed in river, and 12 more stones taken from river. Sym baptism to new life. (In Heb and Aramaic, the words for "stones" and "children" are almost identical.) Joshua's great memorial of God's deliverance -- as are all "stones/children" of God!

Luk 3:9

THE AX... AT THE ROOT OF THE TREES: Marking them out for future destruction. Ax = the word of God, brought in the preaching of John -- by which the status of every "tree" was made evident.

Luk 3:11

One wonders how much we have the desire to adhere to this type of teaching in our present materialistic age. Most of us are so used to having more than we need, and yet half the world goes hungry and unclothed. It seems that there is something wrong here (Isa 58:7-11; Luke 18:22).

Luk 3:12

Luke's interest in tax-collectors: Luk 3:12; 5:27; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10; 19:2.

Luk 3:14

SOLDIERS: Prob military irregulars, like followers of Barabbas. Thus "wages" = pay for regular, non-military jobs.

EXTORT: Suggesting political revolutionists (WGos 60).

Luk 3:15

"Wondering" is not the same as being prepared!

Luk 3:16

First water, then spirit. First natural, then spiritual. First cleansing, then forgiveness. First purifying, then raising to new life. (Note "fire" of judgment is omitted.)

Luk 3:17

WINNOWING FORK: The winnowing fork (RSV): a fan or shovel, used by Syrians (ISBE): cp Isa 30:24; Jer 15:7.

HIS THRESHING FLOOR: The Temple of Solomon was built on a threshing floor: 2Ki 24:16,24.

Winnowing = judgment in Mat 3:12n; Dan 2:35; Isa 5:24; 41:15,16; Mal 3:2,3; Jer 23:28,29.

Luk 3:19

Vv 19,20: John had said that he would decrease (Joh 3:30), but he probably did not think it would be a consequence of his being imprisoned. It is good that we do not know the details of the future.

Luk 3:20

HE LOCKED JOHN UP IN PRISON: "From a certain point of view, it is saddening to think of such a man as John the Baptist in the hands of such creatures as Herod and his paramour; and sadder to think that his life should be sacrificed to the feminine malice created by John's upright attitude as a preacher of righteousness. But the sadness is only for a moment. It is the lot of divine things and divine men to be under the heel of wickedness in the day of sin's ascendancy. We can comfort ourselves with the thought that they do not come under the heel by chance, or before the appointed time. It is part of the process by which they are prepared for, and ultimately introduced to 'an eternal weight of glory'. And there is the further consolation that to the victims of the oppression, the triumph of the enemy is 'but for a moment'. Death is the best thing that can happen to them. Their trials and distresses are annihilated at a stroke: and in a moment, they are face to face with the glory for which their distresses prepare them, for the simple reason that in death there is no knowledge of time, and therefore no conscious interval to the resurrection" (NR 25,26).

Luk 3:21

Why was Jesus baptized (Mat 3:13-17; Mar 1:8-11; Luk 3:21-23)? The most obvious answer is the Scriptural one: in the words of Jesus himself, "to fulfill all righteousness". This calls to mind Mat 5:17: "I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfill." The work of Jesus, in all its aspects, was to fulfill, or complete, the righteousness of the law of Moses. The law of Moses was a "shadow" (Heb 10:1), pointing forward to the substance, the reality, which was Jesus. As Moses washed Aaron (Exo 30:20,21; 40:12), to sanctify and cleanse him for his mediatorial work, so John washed Jesus. If Aaron had entered the Most Holy without washing, he would have failed; if Jesus had offered himself as a sacrifice with no public baptism (signifying the denial of the flesh), he would likewise have failed. Jesus was absolutely without personal sin. The necessity of his baptism shows how far even sinful flesh alone separates man from God.

Vv 21,22: The anointing of the King. Apparently, the only meeting between John and Jesus. "He had no life of sin to leave behind in the waters of Jordan, but there he did bring to an end the home life of Nazareth, the quiet, peaceful years of preparation, and did accept as the 'righteous will of God' the storm and strain and sacrifice of the work which he had come to do" (Erdman, Mat 36).

See Mat 3:13-17n. Reason for Christ's baptism: found in genealogy, tracing his ancestry back to Adam (v 38). His baptism: a public identification with those he came to save. Cp Christ's baptism with anointings of David (1Sa 16:13) and Aaron (Lev 8:12).

Luk 3:22

This Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness: cp Luk 4:1 with Rom 8:14.

THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDED: The Spirit "brooding" on the surface of the waters (Gen 1:2). "The beginning of the new creation!"

DOVE: Only sacrificial animal to be feathered (Luk 2:24; Lev 1:14,15; 5:7). The dove, with keen eyesight, returned to the safety of Noah's ark, in peace, bringing an olive branch of new creation. The dove is gentle (Mat 10:16), clean (Song 6:9), particular in its choice of food (Gen 8), swift (Psa 55:6), beautiful (Psa 68:13), constant in love (Song 5:12).

A VOICE CAME FROM HEAVEN: Sounding, perhaps, like thunder to the bystanders (Joh 12:29). Understood only by Jesus and John. The voice from heaven identifies Jesus as the "prophet like unto Moses" (Deu 18:15-19).

WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED: "On whom my pleasure rests." Cp Isa 42:1: "From this day on Jesus walked in the shadow of the cross" (WGos 66).

Luk 3:23

See Lesson, Luke's genealogy. Also see Article, Genealogies of Jesus.

The phrase "so it was thought" again indicates that direct parenthood is out of the question. Luke, as well as Matthew, clearly explains why elsewhere (Luk 1:35); so there is no need to suppose that Jesus was lit the son of Joseph. The next phrase however, "the son of Heli", presents the problem. To take this phrase in the most easily understood sense would mean that Joseph's natural father had two names: Jacob (Mat 1:16) and Heli (Luk 3:23). This is not necessarily impossible in itself, but further reading compounds the problem since Jacob's immediate ancestors were Matthan, Eleazar, and Eliud, while Heli's were Matthat, Levi, and Melchi. Clearly we are dealing, then, with two separate men and two separate lines.

Two possibilities exist to reconcile the difficulty: (1) Luk 3:23 could be read: "And Jesus (being, so it was thought, the son of Joseph) was actually the 'son' (ie grandson) of Heli." Under this alternative, "the son of Heli" would refer further back, to Jesus, and not to Joseph. Heli then would be the father of Mary. (2) "Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli." Again, Heli would be the father of Mary, and the genealogy of Luke would be Mary's genealogy, through her father. Joseph's inclusion at that point is easily explained in that the woman's identity is often submerged in that of her husband.

Since both Joseph and Mary were David's descendants their two lines coincide from Abraham to David. Thereafter they diverge, Joseph's continuing with the kingly line of Solomon and Rehoboam, and Mary's proceeding from David's son Nathan. The two lines appear to join briefly with Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (Mat 1:12; Luk 3:27). If, however, these two are the same in both records, then one of Shealtiel's "fathers" -- either Jechoniah (Mat 1:12) or Neri (Luk 3:27) -- must have been his adoptive and not his literal father.

BEGAN: Cp Gen 1:1; Joh 1:1; etc: "in the beginning".

SO IT WAS THOUGHT: May mean "as was reckoned by law".

Luk 3:24

MATTHAT: Same as Matthan (Mat 1:15)

Luk 3:27

SHEALTIEL, THE SON OF NERI: The two lines (Joseph's in Mat and Mary's in Luk) converge in 2 successive generations (Shealtiel and Zerubbabel). Was Jeconiah the father of Shealtiel (Mat 1:12), or was Neri the father (here)? One of the two lines (in Mat and Luk) was prob perpetuated through an adoption. Either way, legally and by blood, Jesus was descended from David.

Luk 3:31

SON OF DAVID: Jesus so called in Mat 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9-11.

Luk 3:36

CAINAN: This name does not occur in Heb OT genealogy, but is picked up from LXX.

Luk 3:38

SON OF ADAM: Jesus as son of Adam in Rom 5:12-21; 1Co 15:22,45. This leads into Luk 4, where the wilderness temptation compares to Adam's Edenic temptation.

SON OF GOD: Every phrase in this genealogy refers back to Christ: Jesus was the "son of Adam", and Jesus (not Adam) was the "son of God".

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