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Bible Commentaries
Luke 3

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Luk 3:1-20

Commentary On Luke 3:1-20

Galen Doughty

Luke 3:1-3 - The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar would have been 29AD. That is when John begins his ministry. Luke is more Greek than the other gospel writers in that he gives more historical detail about when things took place. At the same time he preserves carefully details of Jewish culture unlike the other gospels.

Luke places John’s ministry at a particular point in history. He does the same with Jesus. The point being they lived. They were real people who had a specific place and time in history when they fulfilled their ministry calling from God, John as the Elijah prophet and Jesus as the Messiah. Their impact in history is based on what they said and did during that particular time. If the gospels could be proven to be made up stories then Christianity would collapse. But they are not made up. John and Jesus really lived. The gospel is grounded in history unlike any other religious message. Luke is helping Theophilus understand that.

Luke 3:4-6 - Luke quotes from Isaiah to help his readers understand who John is. He came out of the desert preaching and offering a baptism of repentance to prepare for Messiah’s coming. His baptism is related to forgiveness just as Jesus’ baptism, but it is looking forward to what will be done, whereas Jesus’ baptism looks back at the cross and resurrection, what has been accomplished for us.

The Isaiah passage does not refer to the Elijah prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah, but both John and Jesus refer to this passage when trying to explain who John is and what his mission was. The image of the prophet is of the land being prepared for the coming of the king, the roads being fixed and straightened. Luke quotes the passage as pointing to people’s lives being prepared for the coming of the Messiah. We need to straighten out what is crooked and smooth the rough places in our lives. All people will see God’s salvation, not just the Jews when God comes, when Messiah comes. Luke often highlights the universal appeal of the gospel since he is writing to a Gentile audience.

Luke 3:7-9 - John preaches repentance and a change of heart and life. He sees the Messiah as bringing judgment and fire. The cold legalistic religion of the Pharisees he rejects. He desires hearts that are on fire for God and waiting for him. True faith and deeds are what count for John not Jewish heritage.

Luke 3:10-14 - People came to him and asked what they should do. John’s counsel is remarkably simple. Nowhere does he say leave everything and follow him. He calls people to repent, love others, don’t cheat, share what they have with those in need. John does not reject anyone who genuinely wants to repent and be baptized, even tax collectors, which the Pharisees said could not repent. John defines repentance quite differently than the Pharisees. In many ways John’s teaching is remarkably similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount or Sermon on the Plain.

Luke 3:15-18 - People kept questioning John as to whether he was the Messiah. Consistently he denied it saying there was another who was coming greater than he was. He would baptize with the Holy Spirit which was one of the great prophecies of the Messiah, that the time of the Messiah would be the time of the Holy Spirit on all God’s people. John also adds fire to his picture of the Messiah and sees him as bringing his judgment on a sinful people. God is going to gather his remnant and judge the rest so repent so you are not judged.

Clearly his message caused a great stir among the people. Paul in Acts 19 in Ephesus even finds some disciples of John, so his message had spread all the way to Asia among the Jews. He captured people’s imaginations and their longings for the Messiah’s coming. He framed Jesus’ coming as one of judgment and salvation. He emphasized the coming of the Holy Spirit which meant the age to come; the age of the Messiah was coming soon. The implication of his preaching is that the Messiah is almost here. The time of waiting is over. The kingdom of God is at hand!

Luke 3:19-20 - John, like the Old Testament prophets was not a respecter of persons. He rebuked tax collectors, Pharisees and even Herod Antipas for taking his brother’s wife as his own. Herod could not allow the insult to go unpunished so he threw John into prison. It was that incident that signaled Jesus to begin his ministry.

Verses 21-22

Luk 3:21-22

Commentary On Luke 3:21-22

Galen Doughty

Luke 3:21-22 - When John is baptizing people in the Jordan Jesus comes to be baptized too. This was before he was arrested by Herod. His arrest is like a handoff in football or a pass in basketball. The focus shifts from John to Jesus once Herod puts John in prison.

Jesus is baptized not because he needs to repent but because he wants to identify with people who are repenting and getting ready for the Messiah, who are looking for the Kingdom of God. Jesus in Matthew adds he is baptized to fulfill all righteousness.

As Jesus is praying, presumably while in the water or coming up out of the water based on the other gospel accounts, the heavens are opened. Isaiah had hoped God would rend the heavens and come down in Isaiah 64, now he does come down but not in judgment and wrath, but gently with his Spirit like a dove. The Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus in bodily form Luke says. Was there an actual dove that comes? Or is this just a metaphor? The other gospels also mention the figure of the dove. In Genesis it is the dove that comes back with the olive branch in its mouth to signify that there is dry land after the flood. In Leviticus a dove is allowed as a sacrifice for those too poor to purchase or offer a lamb. The shepherd describes his bride as a dove in Song of Solomon. It is a figure of gentleness and beauty in the Old Testament. Here at Jesus’ baptism it is a sign of love, gentleness and grace coming upon the Son. John said Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire a figure of judgment. The Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus but with peace, gentleness and love. The fire is for another time. In that sense John did not fully understand God’s already-not yet plan for his Messiah. The fire of judgment would be cast upon his Son rather than outward to the nations and to the wicked.

When the Spirit comes so does a voice from heaven, the Father’s voice. It affirms Jesus as who he is, the Son of God, the beloved, in whom he is well pleased. The Trinity is present at Jesus’ baptism. The Son comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus from heaven like a dove and the voice of God the Father comes from heaven speaking words of approval and love. Jesus’ baptism represents the beginning of his ministry, the confirmation of his identity as God’s Son and Messiah, and his endowing with the Holy Spirit to carry out his mission. He was still without sin all this time but now he takes up his ministry and mission on a much greater plane. Luke will emphasize Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit to a much greater extent than the other gospels. Part of that is a matter of continuity with Acts and to show Theophilus that the same Spirit that filled Jesus is the same Spirit that filled the apostles and fills us.

Verses 23-38

Luk 3:23-38

Commentary On Luke 3:23-38

Galen Doughty

Luke 3:23-37 - Luke gives his genealogy of Jesus after his baptism, which goes all the way to the end of chapter 3. He begins by saying Jesus is about thirty years old when he began his ministry. Traditionally scholars have said Jesus was 30 and died at 33. If however, John began his ministry in 29AD, and Jesus was born sometime before 4BC when Herod died then Jesus was in his early thirties but 30 is only an approximation and not an absolute age. This is one of those places where Luke shows an ambiguous attitude about the historical details of Jesus’ life. On the one hand he is very careful with much of his narrative, including very precise details of Jewish cultural life and how Jesus interacted with people. On the other hand he can be loose with details that modern people would have though very important, like the precise age of Jesus when he began his ministry. This ambiguity shows us that Luke is not writing a simple history like we would write or even other Greek historians of his day would write. He is writing a gospel to help Theophilus and his readers understand the truth of what they have believed. Luke focuses on the details of Jesus’ story that help him meet that goal, and not on all the historical details upon which we would focus. The gospels are written to lead to faith and encourage faith not as journalistic reporting or what we would call scientific history. That does not mean Luke is not historical, on the contrary he is a very careful historian. It simply means we need to come to his gospel on his terms and not ours and not judge his writing by our standards or expectations but instead let Jesus speak as himself from the pages of Luke’s gospel.

He begins his genealogy with the cryptic phrase; he was the son, so it was thought of Joseph. Matthew gives us Joseph’s genealogy and shows how Joseph is the direct ancestor in an unbroken line, from father to son of the ancient kings of Judah all the way back to Solomon and David. Luke’s genealogy is different and contains no king of Judah or Israel until he gets to David. He traces Jesus’ line through Nathan, another son of David by one of David’s other wives or concubines. After David Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies converge. They both cannot be literally true genealogies of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. The solution of many scholars which I accept is that Luke gives us Mary’s genealogy and that Mary was also descended from David through Nathan, another son of David. Jesus’ human genes therefore are from David as were Joseph’s, his earthly father. Perhaps historical or cultural difficulties prevented Luke from saying this is Mary’s genealogy and Jesus’ human descent through his mother. It is impossible to know. One must deal with the differences in the two gospel genealogies. Since Luke focuses much of his early narrative on Mary it makes sense to see his genealogy as Mary’s. The phrase so it was thought is a clue that what follows is not really about Joseph but about Jesus’ mother. That is my best guess. If that is true then the only reasonable source for Jesus’ genealogy is Mary or one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters who preserved their mother’s bloodline.

Luke 3:38 - Matthew takes Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham to show that Jesus is a true Jew and son of Abraham. Luke takes his genealogy all the way back through Seth to Adam to show that he is both truly human and is the second Adam, the true human who will bring us back to God. The second Adam is a Pauline insight into Jesus and Luke probably learned the concept from Paul his friend and missionary companion.

Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy from Adam back through Seth and not Cain. Cain represents sinful humanity who rebel and reject God and who was cursed with a mark because of the murder of his brother. Seth represents those who follow in the footsteps of Able and who seek God and want to follow him.

Questions by E.M. Zerr For Luke Chapter Three

1. What important man is about to be introduced?

2. Who was governor of Judea?

3. At what place did he rule?

4. What position did Philip hold?

6. Who were priests at this time?

6. In what section did John work ?

7. What did he preach?

8. What was it for?

9. State what prophet wrote concerning this.

10. What did he call John?

11. Tell what he was to prepare.

12. How were valleys and mountains to be affected

13. What other effects were to be accomplished?

14. Tell what all were to see.

15. State John’s question to multitudes who came.

16. What did he command them to produce?

17. Tell what boast he headed off.

18. God was able to do what?

19. Where is the ax applied?

20. Which tree is to be felled?

21. What done with it then?

22. State the question the people asked.

23. And his answer.

24. State his answer to the publicans.

25. Why had they come to John?

26. What other class asked for instructions?

27. Tell his reply.

28. What were the people expecting?

29. Tell what they were musing in their hearts.

30. Who was able to read their thoughts?

31. With what element did John baptize?

32. How did this contrast with the one to come?

33. How much was he to be mightier than John ?

34. What will be in his hand?

35. Tell the use of this instrument.

36. How will the wheat be disposed of?

37. And how the chaff?

38. Was this John’s only subject in preaching?

39. Why was Herod angry with John?

40. How did he show his anger?

41. What noted person did John baptize?

42. Tell what he was doing at time of his baptism.

43. What opened up to him?

44. Tell what descended.

45. In what form?

46. What else came from heaven?

47. Repeat its words.

48. How old was Jesus at this time?

49. Whose son was he supposed to be?

50. To what man does Joseph’s pedigree reach?

Luke Chapter Three

By Ralph L. Starling

Years have passed and now it is John’s time

To announce the news he had been assigned.

He came to Jordan preaching repentance for sin.

“Prepare the way strait and make way for Him!”

Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.

Just being children of Abraham “won’t get it!”

Even Publicans were baptized asking, “What must we do?”

John said, “Don’t exact more than is due.”

Sokdiers also asked John what they should do.

“Be honest with everyone and accept the pay due.”

Many wondered, “Is this John really the Christ?”

John said, “His shoes I’m not worthy to untie.”

John’s preaching made Herod aware of his evils

And he added another by putting John in prison.

Jesus had now been baptized and was praying.

When a voice was heard from heaven saying,

“This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was now 30, about ready for His ministry.

It was important that He knew His family’s history.

So, generation after generation it was opened to all.

He was then ready to answer God’s call.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 3". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/luke-3.html.
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