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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Luke 3

Verses 1-2

The John the Baptist and His Time

In the previous scene, the Lord is presented when He is twelve years old. Now we are eighteen years further in time. The service of the Lord Jesus is about to begin and will be introduced by John the baptist, just as the prophet Samuel was the predecessor of David. The date of the beginning of John’s performance is given in connection with the heathen dominion over the people of God.

Judea is a province under the power of the realm of the nations. The other parts of Canaan are divided among different heads who are subject to that empire. At that moment, the people are in a chaotic state, both externally and in their hearts. It is God’s will that His land should be ruled by His Messiah, the King-Priest (Zechariah 6:13). This situation was presented by God in the Old Testament in David and Levi.

However, both the kingship and the priesthood are in the hands of people who do not care about God, but only think about themselves. The emperor of the Roman Empire, represented by a governor, Pontius Pilate, reigns over God’s land. Furthermore, there are several tetrarchs reigning. A tetrarch is a prince over a quarter of the land. This means that the empire will be even more fragmented than the two parts in which it was already divided. Two of these four princes belong to the Herod family, i.e. descendants of Esau. They may belong to a brother nation, but this brother nation are is of the greatest haters of God’s people. We read about their hatred in the book of the prophet Obadiah.

There is not just the unusual heathen domination, also internally everything is in disorder. There are two high priests. Who ever heard that there were two high priests? Annas is the father-in-law of Caiaphas (John 18:13).

In the last chapters of this Gospel we see how all the leaders, political and religious, conspire to bring the Lord Jesus to the cross.

In the circumstances just described, the word of God comes to John. This is an event of great importance. For four hundred years no prophet had come to Israel with the word of God. The word of God comes to John in the wilderness and not to the religious leaders in the religious center Jerusalem. God can no longer go there with His word because the leaders determine their own course and have closed themselves off to His calling voice. The wilderness is the place that corresponds to the spiritual condition of the people. This is where the service of the prophet John begins. A prophet is especially sent by God when the people are in decay.

Verses 3-6

The Service of John the Baptist

Previous prophets have called for return to the law they have broken. John will not continue with that. He calls for repentance. They must understand that they are hopelessly lost on the basis of the law.

The area of his preaching is not the temple or Jerusalem. He has separated himself from the religious center. He preaches around the Jordan, the symbol of the death and resurrection of the Christ of Whom he is the forerunner and to Whom he refers in his preaching. In his preaching he calls for repentance to receive forgiveness of sins and to be baptized. Baptism joins someone to Christ, baptism places someone on His side.

There is, however, a difference between the baptism of John and Christian baptism. The baptism of John joins to a living Messiah. Christian baptism joins to a rejected and dead Christ (Romans 6:3). John baptizes in connection with repentance and forgiveness of sins. Only in this way can one be truly joined to Christ. Those who are baptized also distance themselves from the wicked people. They form a remnant that looks forward to Christ. The preaching and baptism of John are aimed at a spiritual preparation of the hearts to meet the Messiah.

John’s action is foretold, not “in the book of Isaiah the prophet”, but “in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet”. By adding “of the words” Luke emphasizes that every word of that book is inspired. It is not just about the big picture, but about every word. We see that in this quotation. This prophecy is fulfilled with the coming of the Lord Jesus. John is just a voice. He disappears completely in relation to Him Whom he announces.

The quotation of Isaiah presents John as “one crying in the wilderness”. And what is John crying? He calls upon the people to make ready the way of the Lord, that is Yahweh, the Name of God as the God of the covenant with His people. The Lord Jesus is Yahweh of the Old Testament. John calls upon the people to make themselves ready to receive Yahweh, Who will come in Christ. This making ready must take place in the heart and be worked out in practice in going straight paths. To this end, he preaches the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The coming of Christ has an extensive and far-reaching effect that is not limited to Israel. Luke, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, speaks of “every ravine” and of “every mountain” and of “all flesh”. In Matthew, Mark, and John the quotation does not go that far. But Luke, although he begins with the Jews, does not stop there. Therefore, in Luke 3:5-Joshua :, the Holy Spirit adds special expressions of expanse and comprehensiveness. He Who comes is none less than God, revealed in the flesh. Therefore, the salvation that comes through Him is not limited to Israel, but comes to “all flesh”. This grace for all people is the special subject of Luke.

Verses 7-9

Preaching of John the Baptist

There are crowds coming to John, but that does not mean that he sees only a mass and has no eye for the individual. John does not speak to the crowds in general, he speaks to the individual. He makes the gospel a personal matter and makes sure that individuals are get not carried away by the masses into a choice that does not come from a real inner conviction.

His performance has nothing to do with the popular entertainment to which the gospel is unfortunately often lowered today. He addresses his non-flattering words to the crowds to make clear to them from whom they are actually descended. They have the devil as father. They do not need to think that they can boast of being descendants of Abraham (John 8:39) and that on that basis the coming wrath will pass them by. It is not like that. The clear language of John will not shy away the truly humbled among them, but rather confirm them in their conversion.

John points out that honest repentance can be seen in the life that someone leads. Repentance involves fruits in keeping with repentance. Valuable fruits of repentance are speaking truth and doing things that are according to the will of God. Such fruits come from the new life that a person receives when he repents.

There are also people among his audience who want to be baptized because they think they are entitled to it. They are not converted, because they do not need it, they think. They belong to the descendants of Abraham, don’t they? They belong to the chosen people of God, don’t they? Then they are entitled to all blessings.

Such reasoning shows that there is no awareness of being a sinner and deserving hell. Pleading on origin does not give access to the blessing. To boast of superior privileges does not count with God (John 8:33; John 8:39-Matthew :). He seeks truth in the innermost being (Psalms 51:6). Nor is God obliged to bless a man on the basis of what he claims. According to His sovereignty He can raise children from dead stones and count them to Abraham. He does so in a certain sense with every person who repents (Romans 4:9-2 Kings :). Not natural descent makes children of God, but only God’s Spirit and God’s Word (John 3:5). God raises His children from useless, dead material.

In his preaching, John points to the judgment that is about to come upon the people. With the coming of Christ not only blessing, but also judgment is connected. Anyone who rejects Him, and thus produces no good fruit, will be cut off from life and thrown into the fire of hell. The axe is already laid at the root, that is to say, on the cause, the problem of the bad fruits. The root is not good and therefore the fruits are not good. Because the root is spoiled, there is only spoiled fruit or no fruit at all. There is nothing that can be done with the old men.

Verses 10-14

Show Fruits of Repentance

The preaching of John makes a deep impression on the crowds. They ask what they shall do, what fruits belong to repentance. To this question the various groups who come to John each receive the appropriate answer from him. However, in the various answers given by John, a common root of evil seems to emerge, that of greed, of money. How we deal with money is an excellent indicator of the mindset of our heart. If Christ is not Lord over our money and possessions, He is not our Lord.

The first group must share of their abundance with others. The second group should not rob others to enrich themselves. The third group must be satisfied with what they have. To the crowds in general, John tells them to share their prosperity with others who have nothing.

This is an important indicator of the reality of repentance. If there is life from God, it will be evident from the giving away of our possessions to others. God is the giving God. He who has the divine nature will act as He does. The rich young ruler is an illustration of the opposite (Luke 18:18-Amos :).

A special group in the crowds is that of the tax collectors. They too have come to be baptized and they ask what is expected of them. That is a good question. Someone who has just come to repentance does not always know immediately how to behave in all things of everyday life. Often the conversion will give the right feeling of what is appropriate, but often there have to learnt first what is right. Then there will also be recognition and action will follow.

The characteristic evil of tax collectors is not their profession, but the way in which they practice it. They abuse their position and collect more than they are ordered to do. John tells them what to do. In the conversion of Zaccheus the tax collector we see an illustration of what John says here (Luke 19:1-2 Samuel :; cf. Luke 5:27-Amos :). Zaccheus does even more than John tells the tax collector here.

The soldiers form another special group that comes to John with the question of what to do. For the soldiers, too, their profession is not the characteristic evil, but the abuse of their power. They also clearly express their discontentment with their wages. Soldiers of an occupying power have power over others. The exercise of power often brings out the worst in man. Greed drives him to abuse his power to enrich himself at the expense of others. What they do is stealing, misappropriating someone else’s property, using force and without sparing anyone. Such people have no conscience and will easily falsely accuse others to remain free of punishment themselves or to benefit from it.

Important is that they must be content with their wages. Rebellion against the superior, the employer, is never an activity that belongs to conversion. Contentment is a hallmark of faith in a caring God and also prevents to take money from anyone by force.

Verses 15-17

John Testifies of Christ

The people are so fascinated by this man and his preaching and they sense well that this is special, that there are discussions in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. The powerful preaching of John, performed without any fear of men, reminds all of Christ. It is God’s intention that every preaching brings Christ to the people. Not that they should think that the preacher is Christ. That the people discuss whether John is perhaps the Christ makes it clear that they have ideas about Christ that have not been worked by the Spirit. The shepherds and Simeon and Anna had no problem recognizing Christ.

John understands what they are discussing. He therefore immediately rejects any thought that he would be the Christ by talking about the difference between himself and Christ. Faithfully John points to Him Who comes after Him. He does not allow the people to think high of him for a moment. He points to himself as someone who baptizes with water. That is a symbolic act. What the Lord Jesus will do goes much further. He will prove His power by baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit is what He does on Pentecost, when He forms the church by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of fire is what He will do when He comes to earth for the second time. Then will He bring judgment upon all the wicked. Fire is the judgment that consumes evil. In the light of that mighty Person John sees himself as not even fit to untie the thong of His sandals.

Christ will prove His power by making a perfect distinction between those who belong to Him and those who do not. He will separate the wheat from the chaff. The wheat, those who belong to Him, who have Him as their life (John 12:24), He will gather in “His” barn, heaven. The chaff, the unbelievers, He will burn up with the unquenchable fire of hell.

Verses 18-20

End of John’s Service

John has preached many more exhortations to the people through which he proclaimed the gospel to them. Here we see that the preaching of the gospel goes hand in hand with the preaching of exhortations. All the exhortations with which John preaches the gospel include denouncing the corrupt way of life of Herod, which manifested itself in many areas.

One of them Luke particularly mentions, that is his adulterous relationship with Herodias, his brother’s wife. John spares no one in his preaching, while its main purpose is to prepare every human being to accept Christ. John the baptist is loyal not only to the lowest classes of the people, but also to the highest class. His testimony for Christ is determined, he does not care about his own honor, for him it about glorifying the Lord.

After a painting of the faithful service of John, Luke mentions his imprisonment. Hereby John suffers for the sake of justice, for he is locked up in prison because of his righteousness. Historically, this only happens later, because John also baptized the Lord, about which the following verse speaks. But the end of the service of John is thus established. Luke does this to draw all attention now to Him in Whom the grace of God has appeared, “bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11).

Verses 21-22

The Baptism of the Lord Jesus

Of all the reports we have of the Lord’s baptism, only Luke mentions that He prays after His baptism. Prayer is the true expression of dependence. It marks the perfection of the Lord Jesus as Man. Luke shows Him eight times in prayer, seven times on earth and one time lifted up from the earth on the cross (Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18Luke 9:29; Luke 11:1Luke 22:41; Luke 23:34).

By being baptized, the Lord takes His place among “the saints who are in the earth” (Psalms 16:3), meaning the remnant that is expecting Him. From the first step these humbled believers take on the path of grace and life, they find the Lord Jesus with them there. And when He is there, it also means the favor and pleasure of the Father and the presence of the Holy Spirit. We see that when the heaven is opened. All the attention of heaven goes out to this praying Man on earth. He has no object in heaven, like Stephen, He Himself is the object of heaven (Acts 7:55-Titus :). Every time heaven opens, He is the object of the admiration of heaven (John 1:51; Revelation 19:11).

For a moment, the Spirit becomes visible, the voice of the Father is heard, and the Son is tangible present. This is a wonderful revelation from the triune God. In the Son the whole fullness of the Godhead physically dwells on earth (Colossians 1:19). This fulness of the Godhead still dwells physically in Him while He is in the glory of heaven (Colossians 2:9).

The Father speaks from heaven His personal pleasure in Him to Him: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” He also does so in Mark (Mark 1:11), while in Matthew He expresses His pleasure in His Son as a testimony to others: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). God gives this testimony when there is a danger that He will be put on an equal footing with sinful people. We see this also on the mountain of transfiguration (Luke 9:35). Christ takes His place as Man, but God ensures that we continue to see Him as the unique Man.

Verses 23-38

Genealogy of the Lord Jesus

Luke mentions that the Lord Jesus is about thirty years old when He begins His public service. In the Old Testament this is the age at which the Levites were allowed to start their public service (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:23Numbers 4:30; Numbers 4:35Numbers 4:39; Numbers 4:43Numbers 4:47).

Then Luke gives the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. He starts this genealogy with the remark that it is supposed that He is the Son of Joseph. Joseph is His father, that is, His lawful father. This is important for the legal rights of the Lord Jesus to the throne of David. These rights are shown in the genealogy of Joseph that Matthew gives (Matthew 1:1-Esther :). If Luke then is giving the genealogy, this differs completely from the genealogy we have in the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 1:6-Esther :) up to David in Luke 3:31. This can only mean that we have here the genealogy that runs through Mary, as is generally accepted.

He is Man by His birth from Mary. This did not have to be proven by a genealogy. Why then this genealogy? Because this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam who in turn came forth from the hand of God. This emphasizes that the Lord Jesus also as Man is the Son of God. In this reasoning Paul could also say to the Athenians that we are the “offspring of God” as men (Acts 17:29 Darby Translation; Genesis 1:27).

Furthermore, we see in all the names mentioned here how God has determined and maintained the line through the ages that led to His ultimate goal: the birth of His Son. God has worked through all these ancestors to bring this Man into the world at just the right time. The whole history before Him is a preparation for His coming.

Mary is a blessed woman among women, but also all these ancestors are favored to stand in the direct line through which the grace of God in His Son will take full shape.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/luke-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.