Luke 3 Continued
15. Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,
The people took note of all these things that John was doing, and this raised great expectation in their hearts. John’s popularity and his obvious status as a prophet would naturally have led them to ponder the question in their hearts: was John, then, their long-awaited Messiah? This beleaguered and oppressed people must have greatly longed for the coming of their Deliverer. We cannot blame them for wondering this. Indeed, it was very good that they were thinking about this. John, however, will immediately point their attention to where it belongs—not to himself, but to Christ.
16. John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John acknowledged that he baptized them with water. By this, he did not mean simply that he immersed them with water, but that he identified them with water as the submissive company in Israel. That is what John had done for them. Yet he points them to One even greater than he is, Who will baptize them with a greater baptism than John’s.
This coming One, John testifies, is so far above him that he is not worthy to loose His sandal strap. Of course, untying someone else’s shoes is a very lowly job, and we wouldn’t normally think of having to be worthy of doing such a lowly act, but rather quite the opposite, we would refuse to stoop to doing such a thing. Yet John, for all his greatness in the sight of God, does not consider himself worthy of loosing Christ’s shoe strap. This clearly explained to all that he was not the Messiah. We, too, need such an attitude before Christ. It is not right to come before this Mighty One as if we somehow were on the same level as He is. If John was not worthy to loose His sandal strap, how much less worthy are we?
John goes on to explain that this coming one will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. If baptism means immersion, as some claim, then it would be difficult to explain why Christ will immerse His people in fire. When we understand that “baptism” means “identification,” however, we understand that those baptized with fire are identified with fire, even as the 120 were on the day of Pentecost.
The Greek for “Holy Spirit” here is pneumati hagio without the article “the,” and so the power of the Spirit is meant, rather than the Person of the Spirit. These men would be identified with the Spirit’s power. That is, those who are baptized with holy spirit are identified with miraculous signs. This is what John is talking about here, and this is what happened on the day of Pentecost. These two elements, “holy spirit” and “fire,” and connected by the Greek word kai, and I believe that they are actually one and the same. That is, it is with those particular gifts of the Spirit having to do with fire that they would be identified. Since fire in the Bible symbolizes judgment, we would expect that it would be signs related to judgment with which these people would be baptized. As we examine the book of Acts, we will see that this is indeed what took place.
There will also be a future day when men will be identified with these two things, for, in the Kingdom of God, all those who rule in the Kingdom will have a pillar of cloud and of fire resting over their houses, a smaller version of the great pillar that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Isaiah 4:5.) These men will be identified with both these things…the Holy Spirit and fire. Yet this does not take place until the Kingdom is fully come upon earth.
17. “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The winnowing fan was really a type of winnowing shovel. This had to do with separating the wheat from the waste or chaff. After the wheat was thoroughly ground by oxen and a drag pulled over it, the farmers would wait for a windy day, which was quite common in Israel. Then, they would use this winnowing shovel to throw the wheat up into the air. The wind would catch the chaff and blow it away, whereas the heavier wheat would fall back to the ground. When they had repeated this process enough times, they could thoroughly clear out the threshing floor until only the wheat remained.
Now, John reveals, Christ is going to do the same thing to His people. Who are the wheat and who the chaff will soon be made known. The wheat will be gathered into his barn, which means they will be blessed. The chaff, however, will be burned with unquenchable fire. Notice that this does not mean a fire that is lit and burns for all eternity. Rather, once this fire has been lit, it burns until it consumes all the fuel available to it, and cannot be put out any time short of that. This is the meaning of unquenchable fire here, and I believe this is generally its meaning in the Word of God.
18. And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.
We are assured that there were many other things that John talked about in proclaiming the truth and exhorting the people. These were no doubt things that were appropriate for them then, though the Spirit did not think it necessary to record them for our learning today.
19. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,
It was actually commanded by the law that a man whose brother had died should take his brother’s wife as his own. Deuteronomy 25:5 sets this forth.
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.”
Clearly, this was not what Herod had done, or John would have been condemning him for doing what was right. Instead, I believe what he was doing was taking his brother’s wife while his brother was still alive. We can see that this was the case from the first verse of this very chapter, where we read, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.” So Philip was certainly still alive here, and yet his brother Herod has stolen his wife from him. This was specifically forbidden by the law. Leviticus 18:16 sets this forth.
“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.”
Leviticus 20:21 tells us that God would exact a penalty of the one who did this.
“If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.”
So this is clearly what Herod was doing. He had taken Philip’s wife while Philip yet lived.
20. Also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
Often those who indulge themselves in sin add to their crimes in this way, by attacking those who dare to speak out against them. In our day it is becoming more and more popular to despise those who stand up against sin. Even those who are not believers in Jesus Christ who stand up for morality open themselves up to much hatred and criticism. One only has to look at the outcry against Dr. Laura Schlessinger to see that those who stand up for Godly morals are not looked on with favor in our day.
Luke records the event that brought to a close the ministry of John, the faithful forerunner, before he presents the ministry of Jesus Christ to us. Though John’s work ended like this, still he did produce a people who were prepared for the Lord, and who heard Him gladly, as Luke 7:29 reveals to us.
21. When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
Now Luke moves on to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though it was John who performed the Lord’s baptism here, Luke does not mention his name in connection with it, for at this point he wants to turn our attention entirely from John to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those whose traditions wrongfully identify baptism with the washing away of sins have great difficulties explaining why the Lord Jesus would need to be baptized. Yet they have caused their own troubles, and then are troubled by the troubles they have caused. We know from studying Scripture that John’s baptism never was meant to wash away sins. Rather, it was meant to identify people as those who had the after-mind in Israel, and who were prepared to follow God no matter what. As such it was proper that Jesus be baptized with this baptism and throw His lot in with this company, since He in all things was ready to do the Father’s will.
While He prays, the heaven is opened. In this case, heaven refers to the sky, and to a vision they all saw coming from there.
22. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
The Holy Spirit here is in Greek to pneuma to hagion, and, since the article “the” (to) is there, this is a reference to the Person of the Spirit Himself. He is descending in bodily form like a dove. This was a visible representation of what is otherwise an invisible Spirit. God was identifying Himself with the Lord Jesus by this vision in the sight of all those who saw it.
This event is accompanied by a voice from heaven. We would call this “the miracle of the voice,” for this does not say that this was the voice of God. Indeed, God has no vocal cords, no throat, no tongue, and no other organs of speech, unless they be those of Jesus Christ. Thus, God does not speak as we do. Yet He can miraculously cause a voice to be heard that sets forth His thoughts exactly, and we call this the miracle of the voice. That is what speaks here.
The voice proclaims the Father’s love for the Lord Jesus, the fact that He is His Son or Representative, and the fact that He is well pleased with Him. Let us also be well pleased in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, He is our Savior, and He is a well-pleasing Savior to us. Yes, He is our Master, and a well-pleasing Master He is as well. Praise God indeed for this One Who means so much to us!
23. Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,
It is interesting and worthy to note that the Lord did not begin His ministry until He was about thirty years of age. How many sick people do you think He met before this time that He didn’t heal? How many times could He have used His miraculous power and didn’t? It seems likely that even His Own earthly foster-father Joseph had died sometime before this, and Christ did not use His healing power to stop it. Even when on earth Christ had to wait for God’s proper time to do the wonderful things that He did. And now that He sits in Heaven we can be assured that He will likewise wait for His Father’s command before bringing life and healing to the world.
This verse points out that Christ was supposed, no doubt by those who knew Him, to be the son of Joseph. Of course, we know from earlier in Luke that this was not the case, as in reality His Father was God.
Now begins Luke’s genealogy of Christ. This genealogy is quite different from that which we already studied in the book of Matthew. Matthew’s genealogy is given in accordance with the purpose of his book, which was to set forth Christ as the King. Matthew’s lineage traced the kingly line that Christ inherited through His legal father, Joseph. The lineage in Matthew was more along the lines of a kingly pedigree than what we think of as a genealogy. The various “branches” of the family tree represented various qualifications that the Lord had to claim His rightful place as King over Israel. Any parts of the lineage, therefore, which were dishonorable were left out, and so certain wicked men were cut from the line. Of course, such a thing would be dishonest in what we would consider a genealogy, but in a kingly pedigree, none who were unworthy would be included.
Luke’s lineage contrasts sharply with the lineage of Matthew. Luke writes about Christ as the perfect Man, and so he is much more concerned with Christ’s physical lineage through Miriam than he is with His kingly qualifications. Thus, the lineage given here is Mary’s, not Joseph’s. This might also be looked at as Christ’s legal line. Joseph is called here the “son of Heli,” and yet we know from Matthew 1:16 that Joseph’s father’s name was Jacob. We understand, therefore, that Heli was the actual father of Mary, and that Joseph was his son-in-law. Yet I believe that Joseph was legally Heli’s son as well.
Remember, having a male heir to carry on your family line was extremely important in the system God had set up in Israel. As such, He had made provisions for a man who died with only female heirs. In Numbers 27:8, the Lord commanded:
“And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.’”
When the tribe of Manasseh complained that the daughter could marry outside her tribe and thus the inheritance that belonged to the tribe would pass to another tribe, God listened to their complaint and commanded that daughters that inherit should marry within their own tribe. We read this command in Numbers 36:8.
“And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers.”
Thus, we could say that the man who married a woman whose father had only daughters would become the legal son of his father-in-law, as well as of his father. His sons, then, would legally be the offspring of both his own family and his wife’s family, and would represent both families in obtaining the inheritance.
I believe that Heli, Miriam’s father, had died with no sons, but only daughters. Mary may have been his only daughter, in fact. In accordance with the law in Numbers 36, she had married within her own tribe, and even within her own tribal family, the house of David. Thus, Joseph legally became the son of Heli by marriage with Heli’s inheriting daughter. He was the legal representative of Heli, which was what the Hebrews thought of when they spoke of a “son.” The Lord Jesus then was the heir of both the line of Jacob and the line of Heli.
24. The son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph,
These are not names we are familiar with from anywhere else. Who these men were, what they were like, whether or not they served the Lord as they should have…these are questions that are simply not answered by Scripture. Yet they are honored by being in the line of Christ, and every one of them is known and remembered by God. For those who do indeed have eternal life, what a privilege it will be for them to be able to point to the Scriptures and to say that their names are recorded in It!
25. The son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
We recognize many names here from other Biblical characters, such as Amos and Nahum. Just as we name our children after men and women of the Bible, it may well be that these men were named after the famous prophets who bore these names before them. Of course, these names could have a long history, and could have been used long before the calling of God made one who bore that name famous.
26. The son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah,
We notice the repetition of several names from earlier here: Mattathiah from verse 25, and Joseph from verse 24 (and, of course, from Mary’s husband Joseph, though he entered this line through marriage.) We can see being acted out here the principle we saw back in Luke 1:61, where Zacharias and Elizabeth’s neighbors did not want them to call their son John because: “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” There were names that were used as family names among the Israelites, and that would be repeated throughout the generations. This is one of the things that can make these ancient genealogies difficult to decipher.
27. The son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,
Here Mary’s line and Joseph’s line cross with Zerubbabel and Shealtiel. It seems that Shealtiel was the actual son of Jeconiah, but the woman he married, who was the daughter of Neri, had no brothers just like Mary, so Shealtiel legally became the son of Neri her father as well as of his own father. Notice that through this entire lineage in Luke the word “son” is put in by ellipsis, which means that it did not occur in the original Greek. The Greek for this verse then would literally read, “the of Ioanna, the of Rhesa, the of Zorobabel, the of Salathiel, the of Neri.” Thus Joseph is listed instead of Mary and Shealtiel is listed instead of his wife. So the lineages combine at this point, until they split again when Miriam’s line follows Zerubbabel’s son Rhesa whereas Joseph’s follows Zerubbabel’s son Abiud.
This is interesting since from this point, it is by God’s choice which branch the lineage follows, since they cross at Shealtiel. One could just as well trace Mary’s line through the kings of Judah because of this. Yet the line of Mary is chosen to be much more lowly, at least in the world’s estimation, running not through the kings of Israel, but rather through David’s son Nathan (named, no doubt, after the prophet of the same name, who was David’s advisor and friend.) On the other hand, Joseph’s line could just as easily be traced through Nathan rather than Solomon. Yet again these lineages are meant to show what God wanted them to show. Matthew’s lineage was the royal pedigree of our Lord, and thus had to pass through the kings of David’s line. Luke’s lineage is a legal line, and thus passes through Shealtiel’s legal father rather than his physical father. These are choices God made, and they were made to teach us something, and to fulfill the purpose for which God was setting these lineages forth in the first place.
28. The son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er,
Again these are names that are otherwise unfamiliar to us. We must be careful in studying this that we do not get too caught up in endless genealogies, as Paul warns us not to do in I Timothy 1:4. These things are important, since they are in the Word of God, but ultimately we will learn who these men are when we meet them in the resurrection, and until then we must not let such things distract us too much from the greater truths of God’s Word.
29. The son of Jose, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
More names, again some of them repeated from earlier verses in the genealogy.
30. The son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim,
Again the name of Joseph is repeated in the genealogy. Notice the tribal names of Simeon, Judah, and Joseph. One would wonder if perhaps these men of Judah married women from these tribes when they named their sons after these names? Of course, we have no way of knowing this.
31. The son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David,
Finally the lineage recombines with that of Matthew at the man David. As we said above, the lineage in Matthew follows David’s son Solomon, whereas this one follows his son Nathan. The lineages of Matthew and Luke remain combined from this point back to Abraham, where Matthew’s lineage stops, whereas Luke’s goes on back to Adam. I believe that this is because the kingly line in Matthew ends with Abraham, since he was the first patriarch of the nation of Israel and thus its first real “king.” The line in Luke, however, goes back to Adam, since it is the natural line and, per the subject of Luke, is tracing out His human lineage to show that He was in every way a man descended from the first man Adam.
32. The son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
Notice that none of the notable women are listed here, as they are in Matthew. Luke is just interested in the legal genealogy, which involves the paternal line. Matthew, however, is listing Christ’s kingly pedigree, so notable women who served the Lord are considered worthy of being mentioned in that context.
33. The son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
This still is paralleling Matthew, (although it is in reverse order from Matthew,) and takes us back to Judah, one of the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.
34. The son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
At this point, the lineage in Luke reaches Abraham, and continues back beyond what Matthew’s lineage did to take us back to Adam.
35. The son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,
These names are all familiar from the Biblical record given to us in the book of Genesis.
36. The son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
This verse presents a generation that appears nowhere in the Old Testament. Both in Genesis 10:24 and 11:12, Arphaxad is said to have begotten Salah, here called Shelah. (The Hebrew name is actually Shelach, so why the New King James transliterates it two different ways is beyond me. In Greek, the name is Sala.) In I Chronicles 1:18 and 24, it is also recorded that Arphaxad begot Shelah. Here, however, it is revealed that Arphaxad is Shelah’s grandfather, and his son is actually Cainan. This presents for us a principle that we must remember in studying all these genealogies, and that is that a grandchild is often looked at as being produced by his grandfather just as much as he is produced by his father. In writing these genealogies, then, the Lord has no compunction about skipping a generation and presenting a grandchild as having been produced by his grandfather. This is often done when a generation does not please the Lord, and so He cuts it out of the line by not including it in the genealogy. Why Cainan was never included in the Old Testament, and yet is included here, it is difficult to say. However, we can be thankful that he is, as this gives us a clear example of this principle.
This truth helps us when, for example, we have to explain how so few generations are listed between when Israel entered Egypt and when they left, or how few generations covered the entire period of the book of Judges. It is highly unlikely that these few generations were actually all that passed during these time periods. However, once we understand that generations could be cut out of the lineage, it becomes clear to us that this must have taken place in both these cases, and grandchildren must be listed as springing from their grandfathers.
37. The son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan,
We can learn more about these men, including how long they lived and how old they were when their son was born, if we study the genealogy given in Genesis 5.
38. The son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
This verse completes the lineage, and takes us all the way back to Adam, the very first man. Notice that Adam is not listed without a progenitor, but rather is listed as the son of God. Many wonder how Adam could be called the son of God, yet remember that this word “son” has been added in by our translators throughout this passage, as I pointed out above. Thus in Greek this would actually read as Luke has it throughout, “the of God.”
So Adam was produced by God. Christ, however, was the God Who created the universe and Adam himself, as we learn in John 1:3. Thus Christ could be rightfully called His Own Father, justifying His statement that He and the Father are one (John 10:30.) He truly was His Own Father. He and the Father truly are one. Praise God that such a One is our Savior!