Luke 3:21-38 – Jesus' Baptism & Genealogy

Plug for upcoming Christianity Explored class
Christianity Explored is a FREE seven session course which explores basic concepts of Christianity including:  Humanity, Jesus’ Identity, Sin, The Cross, Resurrection, Grace and Following Jesus.  These concepts are explored by studying and reflecting on the Gospel of Mark together.  The study will include dinner, a brief lecture, time of discussion and material for personal reflection.

The course will start on June 19th at The Sage Events Venue 22 N. Fort Harrison Clearwater, FL.
Dinner starts at 6:30pm | Study starts at 7:15pm | Study ends at 8:30pm

You don’t need to know anything about the Bible.
You won’t be asked to read aloud, pray or sing.
You can ask any question you want.

Please RSVP here so we can arrange for dinner and study materials.
We look forward to meeting you and exploring Christianity together.

Luke 3:21-22 – Jesus was baptized too
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened  22 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.”

If Jesus is born of God and lives a sinless life, why does He participate in John’s baptism of repentance?  Surely he has no sin to repent of, right?  Only Matthew’s gospel gives us any explicit insight into the reason that Jesus was baptized too.  He records Jesus’ statement to John, “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  I believe Jesus’ participation in John’s baptism has a couple of important aspects to it which are not explicitly stated:

  1. Heaven’s Approval – Jesus’ baptism demonstrates Heaven’s approval of John’s ministry.   John’s baptism was a new experience for the people of Israel, and the language seems to indicate that droves of people were coming out to hear what he had to say and participate in the baptism he was performing.  It’s not that his message was in competition with the teachers of the law, he was calling for a very simple righteousness, but he was in a word…radical.  According to Matthew & Mark, John wore clothes made of camel’s hair and he ate locusts & honey (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).  And according to Luke’s account the things he was saying were very bold (JtB’s Ministry).  The fact that Jesus participates in this baptism indicates the seemingly eccentric ministry of John the Baptist was met with Heaven’s approval.  We see this more clearly in Luke 20:1-8 where the chief priests & teachers of the law come to ask Jesus where He gets the authority to teach in the way He does.  It is in this moment Jesus asks them whether they think John’s baptism was from Heaven or man (Luke 20:1-8).  They are stumped, but it is clear that Jesus believes John’s baptism is from Heaven; He participated in it.
  2. Symbolic Act of Faith – The fact that Jesus is baptized by John shows that John’s baptism was symbolic.  It demonstrates baptism as a symbol of a heart set on God.  For anyone but Jesus that meant turning from selfishness and living a righteous life.  For Jesus it simply meant continuing in righteousness, “fulfilling all righteousness” as it is put in Matthew.  It should not be surprising to us that this action would be symbolic.  The Temple construction itself was symbolic of a spiritual reality, which we discussed in detail with the foretelling of John’s birth.
  3. The Importance of Baptism – Just because baptism is symbolic, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.  In fact, Jesus’ baptism demonstrates the importance of participating in baptism for Christians today.  This may seem obvious, but as a Christian, I consider myself a follower of Jesus.  As a result I think it important to follow in Jesus’ example as much as I am able.  If baptism was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me too.  The fact is, Jesus doesn’t just demonstrate the importance of baptism by participating in it.  He also demonstrates it’s importance by commanding its continuance as a practice of the Church in the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20.

Jesus is baptized and immediately we are presented with a Trinitarian event.  After Jesus is baptized, he is praying and as he prays, Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove.  Simultaneously, the Father’s voice from heaven speaks saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  It is instances like this which persuade readers of the Bible that there is one God in three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  Obviously, this is a large topic which we don’t have space to tackle right here, but if you have questions, I would be happy to discuss it further with you…just shoot me an email.

An interesting thing I noticed while studying this passage was a literary connection between the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts which I had not seen before.  After Jesus is baptized the Holy Spirit descends on Him and soon after Luke records the beginning of Jesus’ ministry which is the focus of the remainder of Luke’s gospel.  We see a similar event in Acts.  The book of Acts opens with the disciples waiting for the promised arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-5).  They are together praying as Jesus was (Acts 1:14; 2:1), and the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 2:2-5).  Immediately after this, they begin their ministry preaching the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the crowds that come to hear what is going on (Acts 2:6ff).  The remainder of the book of Acts is about the ministry of the church as they rely on the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:23-38 – The Genealogy of Jesus
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,  24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,  25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,  26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,  27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,  28 the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,  29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,  30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,  31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,  32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,  33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,  34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,  35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,  36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,  37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan,  38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Aside from the statement that Jesus starts his ministry at the age of thirty, the rest of this passage is a genealogy.  It can be very easy to skip over genealogies as they come up throughout the Bible.  This is probably because many of the names are unfamiliar to us and we don’t see the importance of the genealogy.  Luke does not include this genealogy without a purpose; it tells us some very important things.

First, there is one other place where we find Jesus’ genealogy, in Matthew 1.  We should start by noting the differences between Matthew’s account and Luke’s.

  • In Luke the genealogy goes from present to past whereas Matthew goes from past to present.  Luke’s version is not typical for a genealogy, and we will talk about why he may have done that later.
  • Luke’s genealogy extends back to Adam, whereas Matthews stops at Abraham.
  • In the stretch which they both cover, Abraham to Jesus, Matthew includes 41 names and Luke includes 57.
  • The genealogies are identical from Abraham to David.
  • Between David & Joseph only two names match, those being Shealtiel and Zerubbabel.

How do we explain the differences?  The main questions seem to be why does Luke take his genealogy through Nathan rather than Solomon?  Why does Luke take 16 more names to get from David to Joseph than Matthew?  Why is Joseph said to be the son of Heli in Luke and the son of Jacob in Matthew?  These are the sort of questions which people write doctoral theses about.  So, I will not pretend to fully comprehend the theories in this post, but here is a brief summary of some popular theories:

  • Some believe the difference is that one genealogy represents Mary’s line and the other Joseph’s line.  This is easy enough to understand, under these theories, one genealogy represents Mary and one Joseph.  I don’t think this is the best approach.
  • Some think one is a “natural” line and the other is a “royal” line.  This set of theories is also easy to understand, one genealogy represents the natural genealogy of Jesus whereas the other gives the royal ancestry.  You can see how this theory comes about when you compare the genealogies to the Old Testament history.  Matthew clearly records the kings of Israel (royal line) and Luke does not (natural line).  So, as I understand it Matthew’s genealogy would be the royal line whereas Luke’s would be the natural line.  This would mean Joseph’s ancestry could be split after David and still return to Joseph by both lines.  This helps, but it still doesn’t explain why Joseph has two dads.
  • Finally, some think one is a “natural/royal” line and one is a “legal” line.  This set of theories proposes the idea of a “legal” line.  As I understand it, Matthew would become both the “natural and royal” line, whereas Luke would be designated the “legal” line.  This approach explains the split after David, and potentially the two dads of Joseph.  The theory being that perhaps Joseph’s “natural” father, Jacob, died while Joseph was young and his “legal” father is Heli.

If you have more questions, which I’m sure you do if you read this far, feel free to email me.  I would love to hear your questions.

Okay…enough of that.  Why does Luke include this genealogy?

As we have discussed before, the gospel writers all write with purpose and with emphasis.  They all share the purpose of recording their perspective of the good news which came through the life of Jesus Christ.  They all testify to Jesus’ divinity, His humanity, His life, His teachings, His death, His burial and His resurrection.  That said, each of them have their own distinct emphasis.  Matthew is often thought to be written to a community of Jews some of whom have come to believe Jesus is the Messiah and some who have not.  This is why Matthew’s genealogy stops at Abraham, the patriarch of Israel.  Luke on the other hand is written to gentiles like Theophilus who have questions about the faith they have received given the amount of persecution Christians are enduring.  Therefore, his genealogy goes back to the first human created, Adam.  Luke includes this genealogy to show Jesus’ connection to humanity (through Adam), to Israel (through Abraham) and to the Messianic line (through David).

There is another interesting thing about Luke’s genealogy, he lists it backwards.  Most genealogies go from past to present.  Luke’s goes present to past ending with Adam.  This too is done with purpose because as we will see next time, the following passage is Luke’s record of Jesus being tempted in the desert.  This connection seems to communicate, “Where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed!”  Jesus did not give in to the temptations offered by Satan.  Though tempted, he resisted with the power of the Holy Spirit and a clear understanding of the Word of God.

I pray that you have been encouraged by the reading of this blog.  As always we would love to have you join us as we continue to study through the book of Luke.  For more information about when and where we meet, email me.

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