Reposted from Pastor McKinley
(38 verses, 5:15 to read)
What I am about to READ
- St. Luke, the historian, sets the ministry of John the Baptizer into historical context.
- Then he goes about setting Jesus in His own historical context of the life of Israel and in the life of all humanity.
- vv. 1-2 St. Luke asserts that the events he describes took place in a real place in a real time in history.
- vv. 3-6 establish John the Baptizer as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 40.
- vv. 7-9 is a record of the harsh Law preaching of John.
- This leads into a discussion about how to bear fruits in keeping with repentance in vv. 10-14.
- vv. 15-17 record that there was confusion about the identity of John. Some thought him to be the Christ.
- vv. 18-20 record the arrest of John.
- vv. 21-22 record Jesus’ baptism.
- vv. 23-38 trace Jesus’ lineage through Joseph, his stepfather.
- One thing that sets Christianity apart from most other religions is fact that our claims are made in the context of real history. This means that our claims can be engaged on a historical level. Because of this, Christianity is falsifiable. Other religions don’t hold this distinction. This strengthens our claims, because they could be tested by living people. When the Evangelists published the Gospels, it would have been easy enough for almost anyone in Jerusalem to test the claims of Christianity. If the claims were false, it is highly unlikely Christianity would have survived as long as it has.
- John begins his ministry by Baptizing and teaching. This foreshadows the work of the Church following the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. This is the means by which our Lord has promised to bring growth to the Church. Everything else is created by man and lacks any sort of promise from Christ (and should thus be avoided).
- By bringing in the quote from Isaiah, St. Luke reminds us that the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) are driving at this moment: the coming of Christ to redeem fallen humanity. John serves as the final Old Testament prophet and the one who has come to announce that the Christ has come.
- John warns against sin with an urgency that is rarely matched. Sin must be purged, because the Christ has come. This signals that the end times are soon to come. The first Christians believed that Christ would return at any time. This is a reminder, then, to remain sober in the face of temptation and not to let the delay in our Lord’s coming cause us to lose faith.
- vv. 10-14 are an interesting excursus on Christian vocation. Each group bears fruit in keeping with repentance according to their stations in life. Of course, this also reminds us that we are to examine our lives and vocations in light of the Ten Commandments to see where we have failed to love the neighbor God Himself has placed next to us. For example, as a father, have I taught my children to fear, love, and trust in God above all things? Have I taught them how to call upon God in prayer? Have I taken them to the Divine Service? Good works are not aimless acts of kindness. God has prepared good works for us to do according to our vocation (Ephesians 2:10). Any works we do outside of that that we think are better or more God-pleasing are nothing more than a 21st century form of monasticism.
- The people were confused about the identity of John. The Apostle St. John records a more detailed account of this conversation in his gospel (1:19-28). Though tempting to claim that title as his own, John makes the good confession that he is simply the one to announce the coming Christ.
- John is arrested by Herod after John condemns Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his own. This event appears later Matthew and Mark. St. Luke places it here to show that John must give way to the Christ. Once Jesus begins His public ministry, John’s task is completed. This is especially reflected in the arrangement of the text here, as it almost seems like John didn’t baptize Jesus. However, we know from the other Gospels that John did, in fact, baptize Jesus in the Jordan.
- The Baptism of Jesus appears in all four Gospels. Notice how all three persons of the Trinity are present. The Father’s voice comes from heaven and the Spirit descends in bodily form upon the Son. This is a picture of what happened at your baptism. God proclaimed You to be His beloved child, and you received the Holy Spirit.
- Matthew’s Gospel opens with a genealogy, but Luke’s appears here. Luke also differs from Matthew in that he traces his genealogy through Joseph back to Adam (Matthew goes through Mary back to Abraham). Luke’s purpose in doing this is likely to show that the Christ is from the Hebrew people, but is also related to all mankind through Adam. Christ is the savior of all mankind. He is also true man, able to die for the sins of the world.
- Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, through John, You announced the arrival of Christ our Savior from sin, death, and hell. As true man, Christ was able to die in our stead; as true God, He was able to atone for the sins of the whole world. By our Baptism into His death and resurrection, bring us into Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN