Friend, have you ever needed to call a big business, and found yourself interacting with a machine with a recorded voice for several minutes at a time? I've experienced that it might work if I have a VERY simple or standard request. But if things get difficult or if anything goes wrong, I just naturally wish to speak to a real person. Don't you agree? That's the most efficient way to deal with issues that arise and is often more comforting, too. Well, that's sort of what our little study in Luke today is all about. God has sent, in these latter times, a REAL Person to the earth to settle some all-important matters with His Creation. And, amazingly, He didn't just send an employee. He sent us His own Son. You couldn't dream of better access. The Golden Opportunity to approach the Father is upon us all!
God sent another real person to introduce His Son. This is the person the
people back then needed to meet before they could meet THE Person. That
man's name was John the Baptist. And he is someone that you should meet
too, if you haven't, beloved. He was Jesus's cousin. Chapter 3 begins with
an interesting look at John's role in the Kingdom of God:
Verses 1-2-"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilot being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness."
Jesus and John were REAL people. They had an address on this earth, and a place and time in history, just like all of us. Notice that John, who was going to preach, got some real help with his messages. The WORD OF GOD came to him. Before any of us try to minister, we need to be informed by the Word. It's not about being clever. It is about getting God's message right and THEN getting it out to others. The only place to find that message today is in the Bible (with the help of His Holy Spirit).
Many around us are being turned off by Christian messages and ministry that really aren't Biblical to begin with. These are confusing days we live in. The only way to be truly well informed is to look into the Scriptures for yourself, if at all possible. And, I've found that even then you mustn't trust your own interpretation, but yield to the Father, and let Him teach you through His Word.
Verse 3-"And he came into
all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the
remission of sins;"
Early on I thought repentance just meant giving up a lot of things in your life, but I now look at it somewhat differently, and I'm certain I have still more to learn. It means, I believe, becoming ready to change for the better, and having an open mind towards Christ. Getting ready for Christ to change you. John's Baptism symbolized this preparation. Baptism bathes the outside. Repentance bathes the inside. We have far too many people being baptized on the outside only in recent times. John's message to the people was: Get ready. Prepare yourself. Get ready to meet with the King!
Verse 4-6-"As it is written
in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one
crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths
straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall
be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways
shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Not only is Christ's authority established by the foretelling of prophesy, as we have seen in previous studies, but so is John's. And a careful study of the Scriptures will reveal that we who believe and minister for Jesus in our Day were, amazingly, foretold also (see, for instance, John 17: 20-23).
Verse 7-"Then said he to
the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers,
who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
We can see that John was not overtly concerned about being popular. He probably would be rejected in today's climate of public ministry (and that's NOT a criticism of John, beloved). There is a harsh side to what he is telling: Humanity is about to be "caught in the act" by Christ Who has come down to His Father's world to visit Man! It's hard to fool a single, skillful, focused person. It is sometimes easier to get around the rules of a large group, especially if it lacks strong or clear leadership. We can see how Jesus saw Himself in this regard in and around the verses of John 15:22.
Also, John is telling them that physical Israel, the bearers of the Old Covenant, are no longer going to represent God on earth. God is moving away from committee work to a single, all-powerful Person to represent Him. Now all matters concerning the Creation are to be brought to a final and just conclusion by Jesus, alone:
Verses 8-9-"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."
the people are starting to understand, and some, who were out of the reach
of the religious traditions of that day, sense something hopeful and new
in John's message. They draw near to ask for some practical advice:
Verse 10-"And the people asked him, saying, what shall we do then?"
Notice, please, how DIRECT John is with his answers. By this time the Old Covenant had become a sterile ritual and distant from the average person. But John cuts right through all the religious jargon. The New Covenant was meant to be very direct from the beginning, though many have tried from the beginning and are still trying very tragically to ritualize it. Our Covenant with God was meant to be be vital and individual, meeting each man or woman right down where, to quote and old friend: "the rubber meets the road."
Verses 11-14-"He answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans (largely crooked tax collectors) to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers (today we would call many of them crooked cops) also demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."
They were going to be delivered from dead traditions and empty religion. John knew that he couldn't do that for them. He knew that Jesus was the only Man Who could deliver them. And only Jesus can deliver a cold, dead-end Church today, beloved.
It has been amazing for me over the years to witness just who responds to the ministry done in Christ's name. It seems, still to my amazement, to most often be the hurting, the outwardly sinful, or the poor. Jesus put it something like this, "It's the sick that need a doctor." If you don't feel you need Jesus today, it's not because you're cured. You just haven't realized yet how spiritually ill you are. But I can't hate you for that, because there was a time when I felt that exact same way. But then, in 1980, my diagnosis came through, and I understood it fully for the first time. O, how distraught I became! You could say I was baptized with my own tears. Believe me, you can change, beloved. And, more importantly, be changed.
John also shows us that true ministry requires humility and awe for Christ:
Verses 15-18-"And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people."
I discovered as a child that my parents had named me after John the Baptist. As an adult Christian I am always a little unsettled by this. John gave everything to fulfill his purpose on earth. I try to think of John often as I go through life bearing his name. We ALL need to remember John and his humility, for to find and fulfill our purpose in the Kingdom will cost us everything, in its own way, even as it was with John.
Sometimes we start to view our faith as a Cosmic slot machine full of blessings. You just throw in a few prayers, pull that arm down and wait for the big payoff. But the life of John says, no that's not right. He reminds us that the honor goes to Christ. Let Jesus be blessed, not me. I'll seek purpose instead of pleasure. I'll tell you a secret, beloved: if I live to be a hundred, I'll never live up to that name I bear. Never.
Well, though some were finding hope in John's message, not everybody was
ready to accept it:
Verses 19-20-"But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him (John) for Herodias his brother Philips wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison."
John's time of public ministry is over. Herod thought if he could silence John, that might quickly end things. He didn't want to hear about God being a REAL Person. He didn't want God to be vital, breathing, involved, and available in his life. He could excuse religions, but not a REAL and direct visit from God. He would prove this later on in the way he would treat Jesus, also.
Can you see how very important it is to John that Jesus is the REAL Christ? And if we are ever going to find and fulfill our purpose in God's Kingdom, it should matter very much to us, also. This chapter closes with certification of Christ. Yes, that's right, God has certified Christ in many ways. It still takes faith to believe in Him, but there are proofs. Here's the first given here:
Verses 21-22-"Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."
Now the dove (a bodily shape of the Holy Spirit) and the heavenly voice were not meant to prove anything to Christ, or to the Father, or His Spirit. The Trinity already believes in Itself and has since way before those people standing there that day or we, for that matter, ever came along. No, these proofs are for our sake. For all those who are choosing to believe and serve the Lord. This is our assurance, if we will listen, that Jesus IS the Christ.
But that's not all that's here. Starting in verse 23 to the end we have Christ's genealogy. Or one of His genealogies. This one appears to be different from the one in Matthew's Gospel that forms the very opening of the New Testament. It almost looks like, when you compare the two, that Joseph, Christ's step-father, had two different dads! Look for yourself at Matthew 1:16 and our current verse below, Luke 3:23. But scholars have settled this by pointing out that while Matthew is giving the genealogy of Joseph, here in Luke we are presented, praise God, with the genealogy of Jesus's mother, Mary.
And there is a confirmation in Mary's line, not only of Mary being a virgin mother, but of Jesus being THE Messiah.
Verse 23-"And Jesus himself began to be about 30 years of age being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli..."
If you follow the lineage back to King David both in Matthew 1:6 and here in Luke 3:31, you can readily see that Mary and Joseph each descended from David. Mary through a son of David named Nathan, and Joseph through King Soloman. Stay with this for a moment, please. Soloman (and Joseph's) line leads through a man named Jeconiah (see Matthew 1:11). Jeconiah was an evil and spiritually ambivalent King who was cursed by God. God not only cursed him, but all his descendants. Check this out, it's found in Jeremiah 22:28-30. Note that God is so displeased with him that he refers to him here as "Coniah." God removed the part of his name that referred to Jehovah, and would no longer call him that!