A Layman's Commentary on the Gospel of Luke - Lesson II Intro by T.O.D. Johnston
Luke 3:1-20 - Preaching of John the Baptist.
As Luke prepares to tell us about the public ministry of Jesus, he gives us a brief account of the public ministry of John, who served to prepare the way for Jesus. He therefore gives only a general outline of John's ministry as the forerunner of the Saviour.
Verses 1, 2. Luke gives us some historical indicators to record the time. Jesus began his ministry about 6 months later. John was told by God to begin in the 15th year of Tiberius - best reckoning that to be 27 A.D. He also mentions that Pilate was procurator of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Herod's brother Philip the tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias of Abilene.
Approximate dates: Pilate ruled 26 A.D. - 36 A.D., Herod 4 B.C. - 39 A.D., Philip from 4 B.C. - 34 A.D. Lysanias is not known. Luke then mentions the high priesthood - listing 2 names. Annas had been high priest from 6 - 15 A.D. when he was fired by the Roman governor. His son-in-law Caiaphas became high priest but Annas kept a large amount of influence - thus listing these two together showed the actual state of affairs.
Besides the time setting as 27 A.D. - listing all these important people gives a rather dark picture of the situation politically as well as religiously when John and then Jesus began their respective ministries. Much cruelty and corruption was part of Roman rule throughout the empire. The Holy Land was arbitrarily divided up and rulers appointed - most of whom were unscrupulous and immoral. In the religious life Rome had major influence by appointing, then deposing the high priests, if they displeased Roman authority. It was then that God gave word to John to begin.
Verse 3. After over 400 years without a prophet in Israel, John was called. Because part of his mandate was baptism - he was to be near water and most likely was on the banks of the river Jordan in the vicinity of Jericho. He preached the baptism of repentance for remission of sins. He called the people to repent. Those who confessed and desired to change their life were assured that God granted a pardon to them. Baptism was the public sign and seal of that pardon. Baptism is the symbol of the washing away of guilt through forgiveness.
In the past, only the non-Jew was baptized when accepted into the Jewish faith. To baptize those born Jewish was new - thus John became known by this right as "The Baptist". This also suggested that just being born as one of the chosen people was not enough - this was part of John's message.
Verses 4-6. The ministry of John fulfilled prophecy of the Old Testament especially Isaiah. John is the voice calling the people to prepare for the coming of God's Savior. The focus and desires of the people need to change in order to be ready and able to accept the redemption that Jesus was to bring. The crooked selfish ways must be left behind and the straight path followed. The path of righteousness to God leads to salvation.
This was absolutely necessary because the people were spiritually and morally bankrupt. Also John had to reshape their beliefs about the Messiah. Most Jews of those times looked for a Messiah to be political, to deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. John had to convince them that their greatest need was not a political solution, but a personal and spiritual deliverance from their own sinfulness. John had to show that this need would be met by God's true Messiah; this was His true mission. The people must be ready and expect Him. Everything prepared - He will surely come and all will see Him. All will make a decision. Not all will accept Him - but there is no middle ground. Those that are prepared He will redeem. Those that aren't are doomed.
The above lesson was excerpted from the author's online Holy Bible Commentaries. He now enjoys spending his time at his art studio on 118 Sauls St., Lake City, South Carolina.
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