LUKE CHAPTER 3
Intent on making sure his readers understand that what he writes is indeed historical, Luke begins chapter three with a flurry of names of people in authority at the time of John’s ministry. At this point they didn’t have a calendar based on Jesus, so they went by ruler – it’d be the equivalent of saying, “During the presidency of Barack Obama, just after President Bush’s second term, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California governor’s seat…” Again, Luke acquires credibility and looks to legitimize the events.
John’s purpose is to baptize and encourage repentance, for Christ would be coming very soon. John already understood what his mission was – it doesn’t seem like John questioned what he was to do; he just did it. Do we understand our role on this earth, or are we just wandering around hoping something is going to happen to us, some moment of profound enlightenment?
The order in which John professed Christ should be emulated in every church: repent, and then accept Christ. I think a lot of churches have it backwards, like Christ is supposed to fix all of your problems with sin and make everything all better. Surely, you are a new creation as soon as you make Christ your Lord, but it makes no difference if you are unwilling to accept the change, to turn from who you once were. What use is the old, dead and decaying self that you denied once the new self has been born? Why would a man continue to drag the stinking corpse behind him? First, drop off the old self; then, accept the new self. You cannot have both.
John calls the crowd a “brood of vipers,” (v. 7) which sounds like he was calling the onlookers a group of blood-sucking poisoners. I’m convinced he was making a point that the people were showing up to be entertained and to take away from the ministry of John, or they were merely there to chastise him. Matthew 3:7 states that the group is comprised of religious teachers, so it’s likely this is the latter. John was not baptizing and being his very brash self to garner attention; he was not there to make friends, but to fulfill what the Lord had called him to do.
Verses 8 through 14 are a series of instructions, many of which are very similar to what Jesus would be teaching later. Two groups in particular are addressed: tax collectors and soldiers, both hated by society at large. They came desperate for salvation. Verse 8 is poignant: produce fruit, John says. We can’t come to Christ and then just sit there and rot. We must be proactive and produce something (see the parable of the talents).
John makes it clear that he is NOT the Christ in verse 15. He refuses to accredit himself for anything, demonstrating the humility of a prophet of the Lord.
John also makes it clear that Jesus was not coming to unify and create this huge society of peace and harmony: terms like ‘fire’, ‘winnowing fork’, and ‘burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire’ hardly sound welcoming. Jesus did not come to make a political stand nor create a utopia on earth, but to separate the forgiven (those who would accept His teaching) and the condemned (those who would not).
The remainder of Luke contains a massive genealogy, which differs pretty dramatically to the one offered up in Matthew’s gospel. Plenty of intelligent scholars have done their homework on this topic.