JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PERSON AND PREACHING.
(In the wilderness of Judea, and on the banks of the Jordan,
occupying several months, probably A.D. 25 or 26.)
Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18
- Now in the fifteenth year of the reign. Tiberius Caesar, stepson of and successor to Augustus, began to reign as joint ruler with
Augustus in August, A.U.C. 765 (A.D. 11). On August 19, 767, Augustus
died and Tiberius became sole ruler. Luke counts from the beginning of
the joint rule, and his fifteen years bring us to 779. In August, 779,
Tiberius began his fifteenth year, and about December of that year
Jesus would have completed his thirtieth year.
- Of Tiberius Caesar. He was born B.C. 41, died March 16, A.D. 37. As a citizen he distinguished himself as orator, soldier, and public
official. But as emperor he was slothful, self-indulgent, indescribably
licentious, vindictive, and cruel. He was a master of dissimulation and
cunning, and was a veritable scourge to his people. But he still found
flatterers even in Palestine, Caesarea Philippi, and the town Tiberias
being named for him.
- Pontius Pilate. See mention of him in account of our Lord's trial.
- Being governor of Judaea. The province of Judea was subdued by Pompey and brought under Roman control in B.C. 63. Its history from
that date till the governorship of Pilate can be found in Josephus.
- And Herod. Also called Antipas. The ruler who murdered John the Baptist and who assisted at the trial of Jesus.
- Being tetrarch. This word means properly the ruler of a fourth part of a country, but was used loosely for any petty tributary prince.
- Of Galilee. This province lay north of Samaria, and measured about twenty-five miles from north to south, and twenty-seven miles from east
to west. It was a rich and fertile country.
- His brother. His half-brother.
- Philip. He was distinguished by justice and moderation, the one decent man in the Herodian family. He married Salome, who obtained John
the Baptist's head for a dance. He built Caesarea Philippi, and
transformed Bethsaida Julius from a village to a city, and died there
A.D. 44. After his death his domains became part of the Roman province
- Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea. A district thirty miles long by twenty-five broad, lying north of Batanea, east of Mt. Hermon, west
of Trachonitis. It received its name from Jetur, son of Ishmael
(Genesis 25:15). Its Ishmaelite inhabitants were conquered by Aristobulus,
king of Judea, B.C. 100, and forced by him to accept the Jewish faith.
They were marauders, and famous for the use of the bow.
- And Trachonitis. A district about twenty-two miles from north to south by fourteen from east to west. Its name means "rough" or "stony",
and it amply deserves it. It lies between Iturea and the desert, and
has been infested with robbers from the earliest ages. It is called the
Argob in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 3:4,13,14; 1 Kings 4:13; 2 Kings 15:25),
"an ocean of basaltic rock and boulders, tossed about in the wildest confusion, and intermingled with fissures and crevices in every direction."
- And Lysanias. Profane history gives us no account of this man. It tells of a Lysanias, king of Chalcis, under Mt. Lebanon, who was put to
death by Mark Antony, B.C. 36, or sixty-odd years before this, and
another who was tetrarch of Abilene in the reigns of Caligula and
Claudius twenty years after this. He probably was son of the first and
father of the second.
- Tetrarch of Abilene. The city of Abila (which comes from the word "abel", meaning "meadow") is eighteen miles from Damascus and thirty-
eight from Baalbec. The province laying about it is mentioned because
it subsequently formed part of the Jewish territory, being given to
Herod Agrippa I by Emperor Claudius about A.D. 41.
- In the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Annas had been high priest 7-14 A.D., when he was deposed by the procurator, Gratus.
Caiaphas was son-in-law of and successor to Annas. Luke gives both
names, one as the rightful and the other as the acting high priest.
Compare Acts 4:6. Gentile innovations had made sad havoc with the
Jewish law as to this office. In the last 107 years of the temple's
existence there were no less than twenty-eight high priests. Luke is
the only one who fixes the time when Jesus began his ministry. He
locates it by emperor and governor, tetrarch and high priest, as an
even of world-wide importance, and of concern to all the kingdoms of
men. He conceives of it as Paul did (Acts 26:26).
- The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias. The divine commission which bade John enter his career as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:2
Ezekiel 6:1). Prophets gave temporary and limited manifestations of God's
will (Hebrews 1:1,2). Jesus is the everlasting and unlimited manifestation
of the divine purpose and of the very Godhead (John 14:9; John 12:45; Colossians 1:15
Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
- In the wilderness. The wilderness of Judea is that almost uninhabitable mass of barren ridges extending the whole length of the
Dead Sea, and a few miles further north. It is from five to ten miles
- And he came. He made his public appearance, and, like that of Elijah, it was a sudden one (1 Kings 17:1).
- Into all the country about Jordan. The Jordan valley is called in the Old Testament the Arabah, and by the modern Arabs the Ghor. It is
the deepest valley in the world, its lowest part being about 1,300 feet
below the level of the ocean.
- Preaching the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins. As a change leading to remission or forgiveness of sins.
- Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah flourished from about 759 to 699 B.C.
- The voice, etc. See .
- Every valley shall be filled, etc. The literal meaning of this passage is expressed in Isaiah 2:12-17. See also Zechariah 4:7.
Commentators give detailed application of this prophecy, and, following
their example, we may regard the Pharisees and Sadducees as mountains
of self-righteousness, needing to be thrown down, and thereby brought
to meekness and humility; the outcasts and harlots as valleys of
humiliation, needing to be exalted and filled with hope; and the
publicans and soldiers as crooked and rough byways, needing to be
straightened and smoothed with proper details of righteousness. But the
application is general, and not to be limited to such details.
However, civil tyranny, and ecclesiastical pride must be leveled, and
the rights of the common people must be exalted before for kingdom of
God can enter in.
- And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. This last clause of the prophecy is added by Luke alone. He loves to dwell upon the universality of Christ's Gospel.
- He said therefore to the multitudes. See .
- Ye offspring of vipers. A metaphor for their "likeness" to vipers-- as like them as if they had been begotten of them. The viper was a
species of serpent from two to five feet in length, and about one inch
thick. Its head is flat, and its body a yellowish color, speckled with
long brown spots. It is extremely poisonous (Acts 28:6). John here
uses the word figuratively, and probably borrows the figure from
(Isaiah 59:5). It means that the Jewish rulers were full of guile
and malice, cunning and venom. With these words John gave them a
vigorous shaking, for only thus could he hope to waken their slumbering
consciences. But only one who has had a vision of "the King in his
beauty" should presume thus to address his fellow-men. The serpent is
an emblem of the devil (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9,14,15), and Jesus not only
repeated John's words (Matthew 12:35; Matthew 23:23,33), but he interpreted the
words, and told them plainly that they were "the children of the devil"
(John 8:44). The Jewish rulers well deserved this name, for they
poisoned the religious principles of the nation, and accomplished the
crucifixion of the Son of God.
- Who warned you to flee. John's baptism, like that of Moses at the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2), was a way of escape from destruction, of rightly
used. Christian baptism is also such a way, and whosoever will may
enter thereby into the safety of the kingdom of Christ, but baptism can
not be used as an easy bit of ritual to charm away evil. It must be
accompanied by all the spiritual changes which the ordinance implies.
- From the wrath to come? Prophecy foretold that Messiah's time would be accompanied with wrath (Isaiah 58:3-6; Daniel 7:10-26); but the Jews were
all of the opinion that this wrath would be meted out upon the Gentiles
and were not prepared to hear John apply the prophecy to themselves. To
all his hearers John preached the coming kingdom; to the impenitent, he
preached the coming wrath. Thus he prepared the way for the first
coming of the Messiah, and those who would prepare the people for his
second coming would do well to follow his example. The Bible has a
voice of warning and denunciation, as well as words of invitation and
love. Whosoever omits the warning of the judgment, speaks but half the
message which God would have him deliver. God's wrath is his resentment
against sin (Matthew 18:34; Matthew 22:7; Mark 3:5).
- Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, etc. See .
- And begin not to say within yourselves, etc. See .
- And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees, etc. See .
- What then must we do? This is the cry of the awakened conscience (Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30; Acts 22:10). John answered it by recommended them to do the
very reverse of what they were doing, which, in their case, was true
fruit of repentance.
- He that hath two coats. By coats is meant the tunic, or inner garment, worn next to the skin. It reached to the knees, and sometimes
to the ankles, and generally had sleeves. Two tunics were a luxury in a
land where thousands were too poor to own even one. Wrath was coming,
and he that would obtain mercy from it must show mercy (Matthew 5:7).
- Let him impart to him that hath none. For a like precept given to Christians, see 2 Corinthians 8:13-15; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17.
- And there came also publicans to be baptized. The Roman government did not collect its own taxes. Instead of doing so, it divided the
empire into districts, and sold the privilege of collecting the taxes
in these districts to certain capitalists and men of rank. The
capitalists employed agents to do the actual collecting. These agents
were usually native of the districts in which they lived, and those in
Palestine were called publicans. Their masters urged and encouraged
them to make the most fraudulent and vexatious exactions. They
systematically overcharged the people and often brought false
accusation to obtain money by blackmail. These publicans were justly
regarded by the Jews as apostates and traitors, and were classed with
the lowest and most abandoned characters. The system was bad, but its
practitioners were worse. The Greeks regarded the word "publican" as
synonymous with "plunderer". Suidas pictures the life of a publican as
"unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed, unreasonable pettifogging, shameless business."
The Turks today collect by this Roman method. Being publicly condemned, and therefore continually kept conscious of their sin, the publicans repented more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees. Conscience is one of God's greatest gifts, and he that destroys it must answer for it. On publicans, also see .
- And they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? The publicans, though lowest down, gave John the highest title. Self-abnegation is
full of the virtue of reverence, but self-righteousness utterly lacks
- Extort no more than that which is appointed you. Such was their habitual, universal sin. No man should make his calling an excuse for evil-doing.
- And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? These soldiers were probably Jewish troops in the employ of Herod. Had they been Romans, John would doubtless have told them to worship God.
- And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence. The soldiers, poorly paid, often found it convenient to extort money by intimidation. Strong in their organization, they terrified the weak and enforced gratuities by acts of violence.
- Neither accuse [any one] wrongfully. John here condemns the custom of blackmailing the rich by acting as informers and false accusers against them.
- And be content with your wages. The term "wages" included rations and money. The soldiers were not to add to their receipts by pillage or extortion. Soldiers' wages were about three cents a day, so they were exposed to strong temptation. Yet John did not bid them abandon their profession, and become ascetics like himself. His teachings was practical. He allowed war as an act of government. Whether Christianity sanctions it or not, is another question.
- And as the people were in expectation. Expecting the Christ. See John 1:19-28.
- And all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John. Prophecy induced a Messianic expectation. The scepter had departed from Judah,
and Caesar's deputies ruled. Tetrarchs and procurators held the whole
civil government. In their hands lay the power of life, and death from
which only Roman citizens could appeal (Acts 25:11). The power of the
Jewish courts was limited to excommunication or scourging. The seventy
weeks of Daniel were now expiring, and other prophecies indicated the
fullness of time. But distress, rather than prophecy, enhanced their
expectation. Tiberius, the most infamous of men, governed the world.
Pontius Pilate, insolent, cruel, was making life irksome and maddening
the people. Herod Antipas, by a course of reckless apostasy and
unbridled lust, grieved even the religious sense of the hypocrite.
Annas and Caiaphas, impersonators of materialism, sat in the chief seat
of spiritual power. Men might well look for a deliverer, and hasten
with joy to hear of a coming King.
- Whether haply he were the Christ. But, nevertheless, we could have no more forceful statement of the deep impression made by John's
ministry than that the people were disposed to take him for the Christ.
- The latchet. The lace or strap. See .
- He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. See .
- And [in] fire. See .
- Whose fan is in his hand, etc. See .
- With many other exhortations. The sermon here given is in the nature of a summary. It embodies the substance of John's preaching. Afterwards
John preached Christ more directly (John 1:29-36).
- Therefore preached he good tidings unto the people. But, like the good tidings of the angel at Bethlehem, it was good only tot hose who,
by repentance, made themselves well pleasing to God.
JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE.
A. REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE.
Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:19,20; John 4:1-4
- But Herod the tetrarch. The son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch, or governor, of Galilee.
- Being reproved by him. That is, by John the Baptist.
- For Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done. A full account of the sin of Herod and persecution
of John will be found at Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-29. John had spoken the
truth to Herod as fearlessly as to the Pharisees, publicans, and
- Added this also to them all. The sins of Herod, as a ruler, already outweighed his virtues; compare Daniel 5:27. But, with reckless abandon,
Herod went on, adding to the weighty reasons which justified his
- That he shut up John in prison. In the fortress at Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, as we learn from Josephus. The duration of the
ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen to
JESUS BAPTIZED BY JOHN IN THE JORDAN.
(Jordan east of Jericho, Spring of A.D. 27.)
Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22
- Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized. This may mean that, on the day of his
baptism, Jesus was the last candidate, and hence his baptism was the
most conspicuous of all; but it more probably means that Jesus was
baptized in the midst of John's work--at the period when his baptism
was in greatest favor.
- And praying. All divine ordinances should be accompanied by prayer. Luke frequently notes the times when Jesus prayed. Here, at the
entrance of his ministry, he prayed, and at the last moment of it he
also prayed (Luke 23:46). In his highest exultation at the
transfiguration (Luke 9:29), and in the lowest depths of humiliation
in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41), he prayed. He prayed for his apostles
whom he chose (Luke 6:12), and for his murderers by whom he was
rejected (Luke 23:34), He prayed before Peter confessed him
(Luke 9:18), and also before Peter denied him (Luke 22:32).
- The heaven was opened. See Luke 22:32.
- And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form. Lightfoot suggests that the Spirit thus descended that he might be revealed to be a
personal substance and not merely an operation of the Godhead, and
might thus make a sensible demonstration as to his proper place in the
- As a dove. The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was in accordance with prophecy (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 41:1). The dove shape suggests purity,
gentleness, peace, etc. Jesus makes the dove a symbol of harmlessness
(Matthew 10:15). In fact, the nature of this bird makes it a fit emblem
of the Spirit, for it comports well with the fruits of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22,23). The nations of the earth emblazon eagles upon their
banners and lions upon their shields, but He who shall gather all
nations into his kingdom, appeared as a Lamb, and his Spirit appeared
under the symbol of a dove. Verily his kingdom is not of this world. It
is a kingdom of peace and love, not of bloodshed and ambition. Noah's
dove bore the olive branch, the symbol of peace, and the Holy Spirit
manifested Jesus, God's olive branch of peace sent into this world
(Psalms 72:7; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Ephesians 2:11-18).
- And a voice came out of heaven, etc. See Ephesians 2:11-18.
GENEALOGY ACCORDING TO LUKE.
- And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach]. Luke has been speaking about John the Baptist, he now turns to speak of Jesus himself.
- Was about thirty years of age, About thirty years of age
- . The age when a Levite entered upon God's service (Numbers 4:46,47); at which
Joseph stood before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46); at which David began to
reign (2 Samuel 5:4). Canon Cook fixes the date of Christ's baptism in
the spring A.U.C. 780. Wiseler in the summer of that year, and Ellicott
in the winter of that year.
- Being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli. This may mean that Jesus was grandson of Heli, or that Joseph was counted as
a son of Heli because he was his son-in-law.
(2 Samuel 5:4
- Shealtiel, the [son] of Neri. Matthew called Shealtiel the son of Jechoniah. Jechoniah may have been the natural, and Neri the father of
Shealtiel (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Matthew 22:24).
- Salmon. He was probably one of the two spies who were sent to Jericho by Joshua (Judges 2:1-4).
- Nahshon. He was prince of the tribe of Judah during the wanderings in the wilderness (Numbers 1:4-7; Numbers 10:14).
- Eber. It is thought that the name "Hebrew" comes from this name (Genesis 10:21; Genesis 40:15; Exodus 2:6).
- Noah. The hero of the flood (Genesis 7:6).
- Methuselah. Who lived to be the oldest man on record, dying when 969 years old (Genesis 5:27).
- Seth. The third son of Adam (Genesis 4:25).
- Adam, the son of God. Adam was the son of God, being not merely a creature, but a creature made in God's image and likeness
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 3". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter