Luke: John the Baptist and Jesus

Read: Luke 3

We fast-forward to somewhere between A.D. 25 and A.D. 26, when John the Baptist, and his cousin Jesus, were about 30 years old. John preaches the need for repentance through baptism and even baptizes Jesus. Luke covers the story of John the Baptist differently than the other Gospel accounts. His intentional process of identifying key moments and details gives us some interesting insight into John’s ministry, then shifts to Jesus for the rest of the writing. We also get a snapshot of the genealogy of Jesus to affirm His position in history.

John the Baptist

After all, he was born for this role! John announces something the people have been waiting for, someone they have long talk about. This baptism leads to salvation — not just a temporary fix.

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:3

Jews were quite accustomed to repeated acts of sacrifice, but John is pointing to the Messiah. This baptism is part of the preparation for the coming King, the hope that “all people will see God’s salvation” (Luke 3:6; Isaiah 52:10).

John’s ministry is revealed in some detail here. To begin with, John explains that you can’t rely on your ancestry for salvation:

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Luke 3:8

Just because your father’s father, etc., and you, follow the ordinances of Judaism, you are not guaranteed salvation, your heart must change. We must change our ways and produce fruit.

Tax collectors and soldiers, notoriously wicked people, heard the message and were moved. Their response wasn’t merely to agree, they wanted to know what to do next. John didn’t shy away from giving them direction:

  • Tax Collectors: don’t collect more than required
  • Soldiers: don’t extort money or accuse falsely
  • Herod: you are a sinner.

In these two examples, John calls them out–their actions are visible to God and they will be held accountable. The third bullet will eventually get him beheaded.

The thrust of the message is clear: Jesus, the Messiah, is coming. Get ready!

It’s no surprise that the people think John is the Messiah. His message is unique and fresh, his resolve is unprecedented. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and people can discern the difference in his preaching versus the typical Levitical homilies. John is quick to let them know he is not the One.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Luke 3:16

Jesus Baptized

Luke quickly covers the baptism of Jesus by John. Though He was baptized “when all the people were being baptized,” Luke doesn’t record any reaction from the crowd or John. From Luke’s perspective, it seems there are two main points: Jesus acknowledges John’s ministry and God announces this is indeed His Son.

and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22

Jesus’ ministry on earth will now begin!


Luke takes us all the way back to Adam in his recording of the lineage of Jesus. I love the idea here:

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, Luke 3:23

Luke makes a special note: “so it was thought.” In other words, here’s the Jewish lineage for all those who want to affirm the bloodline of Jesus, but make no mistake, Joseph is not the one who participated in conception of Jesus. The miracle of Jesus’ birth is hard to wrap my mind around and I’m sure it was helpful for the Jews of Luke’s day to have an account through genealogy.

Matthew’s account was quite different (see: Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus — The Women). The differences are in conflict with one another, but it’s interesting to see how each addresses a different audience in an effort to include as many people as possible.

Luke’s orderly process of covering events and details prepares us for the rest of the story. I especially appreciate the call to action, not just hearing the message. John the Baptist is unafraid to say that something needs to happen, that we need to do something. It’s not about sitting and listening in agreement, though that’s a good start, we actually need to do something in response.

Lord, help us to hear your word and respond appropriately as you have uniquely called us to do. Help us to hear and know what our next steps need to be. Jesus, we want to be walking in your will, doing that which best serves you today. The world would prefer that we get wrapped up in trivial pursuits, but I pray we would hear Your voice beyond the noise!

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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