Read Luke 3 here or click on the speaker icon to listen to it.
Luke shares details about the specific year, along with the political and religious leaders reigning. This isn’t a made-up story; the account is about real people during real times in history. John is in the wilderness and hears from God. Obediently, John goes throughout the region and proclaims a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as written about in Isaiah hundreds of years earlier. And John doesn’t mess around. He calls them out as “brood of vipers” and telling them that every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. Being Jewish - a descendant of Abraham - isn’t enough. They must ALL repent.
The question upon hearing these words from John is the same, “What then shall we do?” From the ordinary crowds, the wealthy tax collectors, the military men…all had the same question.
Repentance puts us all on the same playing field. Three vastly different backgrounds and social statuses, one unifying question upon repentance: what then shall we do? The responses differ for the different groups, but they all relate to possessions. How we covet our possessions and possessions of others; how we use our power; how we use our influence; how we treat those around us and the less fortunate.
To the poor among the crowds: if you have an extra tunic, share it with one who has none. Likewise, if you have food. What little you have, share even that. To the wealthy tax collectors: collect no more than is authorized. Don’t cheat. Deal fairly in business. To the soldiers: don’t extort money by threats and false accusations; be content with what you have. Use your power wisely.
Real repentance – real faith – leads to action. Loving our neighbor where we are with what we have. Treating people fairly. Contentment over coveting. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” John tells the newly baptized.
What then shall we do? The specific answer will differ for all of us, but will also likely relate to how we use our possessions, power, and influence, and how we pursue loving God and loving our neighbor.
The people begin to wonder among themselves who John is, asking if he is the Christ they have been waiting for. Humbly, John replies that he is not. There is another coming who is mightier than he is; one who he is unworthy to even untie the strap of his sandal. One who will baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire. John’s preaching lands him in prison at the hand of Herod. John had called out Herod for having a relationship with Herod’s brother’s wife and other evil things.
Before John’s imprisonment, Jesus is also baptized by him. The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came down and descended on Jesus as a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – together.
Luke continues with the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man. Again demonstrating this isn’t a story; it is an accurate historical account. Luke wants us to know these things he is telling us are trustworthy and true.
What then shall we do? In the places you hang out, your circles of influence, and opportunities that present themselves…how do you think God is asking you to respond?
What do you think bystanders are thinking as they see the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus, and God speak?
What do you think about John’s bold approach to preaching? Do you think he was concerned about turning people off?
Why do you think it is so important for Luke to include genealogies, along with current political and religious leaders in his account?