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Luke 3

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 The preaching and baptism of John:

15 his testimony of Christ.

20 Herod imprisoneth John.

21 Christ, baptized, receiveth testimony from heaven.

23 The age and genealogy of Christ from Joseph upward.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar.

Reckoning from his being made colleague with Augustus in the empire, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea. After the death of Herod the Great. Archelaus succeeded to Judea; but he was deposed by Augustus, and thenceforth Judea was governed by his procurators. Pilate was the fourth procurator in succession, and held that office about ten years. He was appointed about a year before John the Baptist began his ministry.

Herod being tetrarch of Galilee. — See the note on Matthew 2:1. This was Herod Antipas, the same that married Herodias, slew John the Baptist, and to whom our Lord was sent by Pilate to be examined, Luke 23:6-7 . Philip, the tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, countries which lay between the land of Israel and Syria, was the brother of Herod, and rightful husband of Herodias, and father of the daughter of Herodias, who danced before Herod, and pleased him so as to draw from him the rash vow which led to the murder of the holy John. Abilene, in Cœlo-Syria, was a part of the domains of Herod the Great, and was, on the death of Herod, given to Lysanias, a descendant of a former proprietor, from whom it had been taken away by Antony.

Verse 2

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Annas and Caiaphas being high priests. — Annas was made high priest and deposed by the Romans. Three of his sons were put into that office in succession, and then his son-in-law Caiaphas, who continued high priest throughout the administration of Pilate. But Annas had still the honorary title of “high priest,” though deposed, and was a man of great rank and influence among the Jews.

The word of the Lord came unto John. — Having been trained up by communion with God, in the solitudes of the wilderness, the word of the Lord came to him, the command of God was laid upon him, by voice or vision, or some other mode of Divine manifestation, to commence his mission; and with that commenced the doctrine he was to preach, and the testimony he was to bear to the Christ, which were fully revealed to him; together with other particulars which suppose a very distinct and explicit communication.

The account which St. Luke gives of the preaching of John differs not from that in St. Matthew, chap. iii, on which see the notes. In the tenth and following verses this evangelist introduces some new circumstances.

Verse 11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

What shall we do then? — These were probably the truly penitent, who asked advice as to their conduct, especially as to bringing forth “fruits meet for repentance;” and he commends to them the cultivation of a benevolent and liberal spirit; which would be most unequivocally expressed by giving clothing to the naked, and bread to the hungry: for the precept is not to be taken literally, as though it were a crime to have two coats; but as teaching that from our abundance the wants of others are to be supplied, and that there can be no true repentance where there is no renunciation of a selfish and unfeeling covetousness.

Verses 12-13

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The publicans. — Many of those had been wrought upon by his preaching, and naturally ask his advice also, as to their particular conduct. He does not in his reply affirm the occupation to be unlawful, as many of the Jews thought, for governments must be upheld by tribute, and that must be collected: but they were exposed to great temptations from the practices of their fellows, from the low standard of rectitude which existed among them, and from favourable opportunities to practise injustice; and he therefore made it the test of their sincerity, the “fruit meet for repentance” in their case, that they should exact no more than was appointed them; that is, appointed by law, or fixed by the authority of the supreme power.

Verse 14

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The soldiers. — These were most probably the soldiers of Herod; for the Roman soldiers were little likely to go to his baptism. Many of these also had been touched with a sense of their sins under his preaching, and, like the publicans, came to be baptized. They also asked for practical direction in that new state and profession into which the baptism of John had introduced them; and here it has been often justly remarked that he does not exhort them to abandon a military life, as inconsistent with piety and godliness, but simply prohibits those vices which the licentiousness of the soldiery in those days most encouraged. They were therefore to do violence to no man; that is, to put no man in fear, as the word signifies, either from wanton cruelty, or in order to extort property by threats of violence; nor accuse any falsely, in order to obtain reward for a seeming zeal in the discharge of duty, or to share in the fines and confiscations inflicted upon suspected persons; and be content with your wages οψωνια , which includes meat, money, and all lawful perquisites.

Verse 15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The people were in expectation, &c. — St. Luke hastens to conclude his account of John, that he may without interruption pursue that of Christ. He expresses here, in few words, what St. John has dwelt more largely upon in the beginning of his gospel. The impression of John’s appearance and ministry was so great, that for some time the minds of men were in expectation, — they looked out for some farther developement of John’s character, being in suspense whether he might not be the Christ. On this point they mused, or reasoned in their hearts, until John answered, made an explicit declaration in answer to the priests sent from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who art thou?” St. Luke omits this circumstance, but gives the material part of John’s disclaimer, and his testimony to Jesus.

Verse 16

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

I indeed baptize you with water, &c. — See the note on Matthew 3:11.

Whose fan is in his hand, &c. — See the note on Matthew 3:12.

Verses 19-20

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Herod the tetrarch being reproved. — See note on Matthew 14:3-4. St. Luke adds that the faithful John reproved Herod, not merely for marrying Herodias, but for all the evils he had done. That is, he had habitually reproved him, as often probably as he had access to him, which appears not to have been unfrequent. And for a time his reproofs were not wholly lost, nor were they malignantly resented till the darling sin, the choice and favourite lust was touched, till the incestuous marriage with his brother Philip’s wife was denounced. Then indeed Herod added this evil above all, that he shut up John in prison; which was a sin, not only of injustice against man, but a crime against God, whose prophet John was; and it proved the occasion of a still greater sin than even this; for the imprisonment led finally to his murder, which Herod does not appear at first to have the least intended. Thus sin draws on sin, in rapid and frightful increase!

Verse 21

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Now when all the people, &c. — Not that our Lord was baptized publicly when others were baptized. That was private between him and John; but the meaning is, that at the period when John’s ministry excited the most attention, when multitudes were coming to him to be baptized in Jordan, that is, in the early period of it, Christ went and submitted to that ordinance also. On our Lord’s baptism, see the notes on Matthew 3:13-17.

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, &c. — It has been much disputed by critics, whether these words, which are somewhat indefinite, indicate that our Lord was then entering his thirtieth year, or had completed it. Grotius contends that ωσει often expresses excess as well as deficiency, and that it here implies that Christ came to his baptism a few days after the birthday of thirty complete years. — Lightfoot, on the contrary, observes that the current year, however lately begun, was reckoned as a year in a person’s age, and that αρχομενος , joined with ωσει , shows that he was beginning to be as it were thirty, or just past his twenty-ninth year. Many more recent critics take the sense to be, “And Jesus himself beginning, or when beginning (to teach) was about thirty years of age,” which assumes an ellipsis of διδασκειν . The notion that the period of admission into the Jewish priesthood, which was thirty years complete, was respected at the time in which our Lord began his public ministry, has perhaps no foundation; and the principal reason of recording the age of Christ was to show that he was in the vigour of life; that he neither commenced his ministry when inexperienced, nor when his faculties had begun to suffer from age. Still it is likely that Jewish notions were not altogether disregarded, and that, as they thought thirty years to be the most fitting period for entering upon public offices, this was conformed to both in the case of John and Jesus; and with reference to this impression it was recorded. The words, after all the criticism expended upon them, appear simply to mean that our Lord, at the time of his baptism, was just entering upon the completion of thirty years, ειναι merely being supplied after αρχομενος .

As was supposed. — This was the general belief; the account of the miraculous conception not being made public, but reserved in the breasts of Joseph and Mary. When it was first declared does not appear. The absence of all allusion to it in the subsequent history of the Gospel makes it probable that it was not declared even to the disciples themselves, so that they as well as others supposed him to be the son of Joseph as well as Mary, and that it was one of those things which Mary kept in her heart, under Divine direction, till after the resurrection from the dead. The previous publication of it must have exposed her to numerous and often captious interrogatories after Christ had entered upon his ministry; and when there was so much division of opinion respecting him with his enemies, it might have exposed her to some danger, or placed her, at least, in very trying circumstances. These considerations make it strongly probable that this fact was not made known to any during the life of Christ. St. Luke, however, by his qualifying clause, being AS WAS SUPPOSED the son of Joseph, shows that it had been among the earliest facts made known to the first disciples after the ascension, and was, without doubt, received. Hence it makes a part of two of the gospels, St. Matthew’s and St. Luke’s. On the genealogy of our Lord, see the notes on Matthew 1:2.

Verse 38

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Which was the son of God. — Adam is so called, as having no human father, and not being begotten, but created immediately by the Divine power.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 3". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/luke-3.html.
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