THE LIFE OF CHRIST
Today in our life of Christ series, we will begin looking at John the Baptist. Luke 3 will be our main text because it covers most of what Matthew 3 and Mark 1 covers. However, I will be using some verses from these other accounts that are not found in Luke. Letís begin with:
Mark 1:1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark tells us that the gospel of Jesus Christ began with John the Baptist because he was the forerunner of Christ. He starts off recognizing the Deity of Jesus and that He was the anointed one. The Jews certainly understood that calling Jesus the Son of God was making Him equal with God.
John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Luke gives us some great detail of when John the Baptist began his ministry.
Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea (iht you REE ah) and the region of Trachonitis (trak uh NIGH tuhs) , and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,† 2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
We have already established an approximate date of Jesusí birth, but Luke is giving us an approximate time frame for when John begins his ministry, and we know Jesus started his ministry shortly after that. I realize it is not all that important if we know the exact year all this took place, but I do think it is interesting. I could go into great depth from the verses but instead, I will just summarize to get the point across.
Luke gives us seven different rulers during that time. Here is a quick overview of who they were and the time of their reign.
∑ Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor of Judaea (26 A.D. to 36 A.D.).
∑ Herod (Antipas), tetrarch of Galilee (4 B.C. to 39 A.D.). This is the Herod that would Johnís head put on a platter. †
∑ Philip, tetrarch of Iturea (iht you REE ah) (4 B.C. to 34 A.D.).
∑ Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene (not certainly known).
∑ Annas and Caiaphas, high priests in Jerusalem: Annas was high priest from 7 B.C., and although deposed in 15 A.D., continued to be recognized by the Jews as the true high priest. Caiaphas was only one of five sons and sons-in-law of Annas, among whom the high priesthood was rotated during New Testament times. Caiaphas was named high priest, perhaps briefly, in 18 A.D.; and Dummelow stated that he was appointed "before 26 A.D., being deposed in 37 A.D." Significantly, Luke regarded Annas and Caiaphas as joint-high priests, corresponding exactly with statements in John. (Coffman Commentaries)
This gives us a time span in which John and Jesus began than ministries. Since we know that Jesusí ministry was about three and half years, we can know with certainty that John and Jesus had to have begun their ministries starting in A.D. 26 to A.D. 32 based on the Pilateís reign as governor.
Now the tricky part comes from the 7th ruler Luke mentions who is Tiberius Caesar because he †points out that Johnís ministry began in the 15th year of his reign. It is well known that Tiberius began his reign on Sep. 17 A.D. 14. Luke 3:23 tells us that Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. This is what most believe caused the sixth century monk known as Dennis the Small to miscalculate the A.D. calendar. He added 15 years to 14. A.D., which would put the beginning of Johnís and Jesusís ministry around A.D. 29. Since Jesus was about 30, he counted backwards 30 years starting at A.D. 30 and made that the beginning of the A.D. calendar, which is supposed to correspond to Jesusí birth. If you add three and half years to A.D. 30, then you have the church being established in A.D. 33. There are still many today that hold to this timeline.
While it is true that Tiberius began his official reign in A.D. 14, it was just the beginning of his reign by himself. What this six century monk and others miss is the fact that Tiberius began his joint reign with Augustus Caesar in A.D. 11. As the Encyclopedia Britannica points out:
From the beginning of 11, when he celebrated a magnificent triumph, to the time of the emperor's death in 14, Tiberius remained almost entirely in Italy, and held rather the position of joint-emperor than that of expectant heir.
I have already shown in previous lessons that Jesus had to be born before 4. B.C., which would make impossible for John and Jesus to begin their ministry in A.D. 29. Instead, when we use Jesusí approximate birth year along with Luke counting Tiberiusí reign starting from A.D. 11, we arrive at the approximate date of A.D. 26, which means that the church was established in A.D. 30 instead of A.D. 33. Also, in John 2:20, Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry, when the Jews make the statement that the temple has been under construction for 46 years. According to Josephus and other historians, Herod began the construction around 20-19 B.C. If you add 46 years to that, you end up at A.D. 26-27. †
There are more details I could give you, but I think these are enough to harmonize our timeline with Jesus being born before 4 B.C. Of course, knowing the exact year is not something that we have to know, what is important is that John and Jesus began their ministry. We learn that John was in the wilderness and the word the Lord came to him because it was time for him to start his ministry.
Luke 3:3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,† 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.† 5 Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth;† 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' "
John was making his rounds into all the regions around the Jordan, which was around 65 miles in length as a crow flies. This covered the area between the Dead Sea and †the Sea of Galilee. The baptism John was preaching came from God (Jn. 1:33). This was not the same baptism the Jews were used to in which they dipped themselves in water to clean their bodies, it was a baptism in which John would plunge the person under the water who had confessed their sins. Notice, this baptism was for the forgiveness of sins. †
Verses 4 Ė 6 contains two quotes from Isa.40:3-4 and 52:10. These prophecies point to the work of John. John began his ministry in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord. This idea of making the path straight and smooth is what the people would do for the kings when they would go on a journey. His people would go before him and cut down trees and smooth things out for him. John was doing this in a spiritual way. He was preparing the hearts of the people for Jesus.
One thing Luke does not point out about John is the following:
Matthew 3:4 And John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.† 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him† 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
John was dressed in the way someone living in the wilderness would look like. He ate those kinds of food that would be available in the wilderness. As verse 5 shows, John was successful in his ministry and he used the Jordan river to baptize people in because there was plenty of water there to immerse people in because that is what baptism is, immersion. John did not sprinkle or pour water on people.
Luke 3:7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?† 8 "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.† 9 "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
Matthewís account tells us that John directs his rebuke against the Pharisees and Sadducees and calls them a Brood of vipers! These men thought that every circumcised Jew would be saved, but John is telling them this is not so. Those who are not willing to repent and be baptized would face the wrath of God. Those who rejected Johnís baptism were rejecting God. As Luke writes:
Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
In a similar way, those who reject the water baptism that Jesus instituted, which is also for the forgiveness of sins, are rejecting the will of God.
Johnís teaching would have been a big blow to these Pharisees and Sadducees because he was saying, they could not rely on their birth right. Instead, they would be judged by their hearts and lives. The same is true for us today as:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
As the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.† 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Unfortunately, many of these Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Johnís baptism and Jesus. I can see a dual meaning with the ax cutting down the tree, but in general it speaks of people who reject the will of God will face the wrath of God. This could point to the wrath of God against the Jews when He allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but I believe its complete meaning is that every person who does not obey Godís will, will face eternal punishment in hell.
Luke 3:10 So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?"† 11 He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."† 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"† 13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."† 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?" So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."
This reminds me of Acts 2 because there were many Jews there who were pricked in their hearts, but there were also many there who rejected the message preached. Those who had a fertile heart who heard Johnís message asked the right question, ďWhat shall we do then?Ē John tells them †that they must show they have repented by changing their ways.
First, he teaches them not† to be stingy with what God has blessed them with. So, if they see people in need, help them out.
Second, the despised tax collectors were taught to be honest in their jobs. One reason tax collectors were despised was because they would ask for more taxes than were due for their own benefit. Zacchaeus is a great example of this in Luke 19. Notice, John did not tell him to quit his job, but to stop ripping people off.
Third, the soldiers are told not to abuse their power, bully people, make false accusations against them. They are to be content with their wages. Again, he did not tell them to stop being soldiers.
These same principles apply to us as well. We are not to be stingy with those things God has blessed us with. We are not to be dishonest as we deal with people in our jobs or in life in general. We are not to abuse positions of power, and we are to learn to be content with our wages because this world is not our home, and our true treasure is in heaven.
Luke 3:15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,† 16 John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.† 17 "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."
You can imagine the anticipation these Jews had about John. They had been waiting for the Messiah to come, and some thought John might be Him. If John had not been a humble man, he could have allowed his popularity to go to his head and falsely claim he was the Christ, but he did not. Instead, he said there would be another who is mightier than him, and John says, he is not even worthy to loose† Jesusí sandal strap.
John talks about three different baptisms.
First, is water baptism, which is referring to the baptism he was administering that came from heaven. A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.
Second, is Holy Spirit baptism that Jesus would administer, which was a promise and not a command. Though John said this to this mixed group of believers and haters, we learn later that this baptism of the Holy Spirit is promised to the apostles (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8). We see this baptism of the Holy Spirit happen on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 1:26 Ė 2:4. However, the gift of† the Holy Spirit is promised to all who obey the gospel as can be seen in Acts 2:38-39, which is not Holy Spirit baptism.
Third, is the baptism of fire, which is also a promise, but is something different than Holy Spirit baptism because it is referring to the unbeliever and unfaithful that would be immersed in the unquenchable fire of hell, which is also administered by Jesus as can be seen in Mt.25:41-46.
Verse 17 shows that John is talking about two different classes of people, namely those who will be saved and those who will be lost. Jesus separates the wheat (the righteous) from the chaff (the wicked). The wheat (righteous) will be brought into His barn (heaven), and the chaff (wicked) will burn with unquenchable fire (hell). Though it is clear that baptism of fire is not a good thing, there are some religious groups that are confused because they think that Holy Spirit baptism and the baptism of fire are the same thing. They actually tell their followers that they need to have the baptism of fire. That makes me cringe because I do not want even a sprinkling of hell, much less being immersed in it.
Luke 3:18 And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.† 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,† 20 also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
There are many things John preached about that we do not† have recorded, but we have what we need. John gives us a great example to follow in that He preached the truth to all. He did not water down his message to royalty or anyone. He even rebuked Herod Antipas for the many evils he had committed, including taking his brotherís wife as his own because he was committing adultery.
Since John spoke the truth about Herod, he did not like it one bit and had John shut up in prison and would later behead him. Many faithful men have suffered and been killed for preaching truth, but they would all do it again because they love God and are more interested in preaching the truth than appeasing to man. We should be the same way. I know it is not fun to be persecuted or ostracized because of the truth, but we must never forget who we serve. We serve a† living God and His truth must be proclaimed to all. If we suffer for the cause of Christ, we can rejoice in it as the apostles did after they were beaten by the Jewish council:
Acts 5:41† So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
As Jesus said:
Matthew 10:28 ††"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Though most of this lesson has been focused on John, next we learn some more about Jesus.
Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.† 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?"† 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him.
We will be talking about Jesus being baptized more in a future lesson from John 1, but for now, I want to briefly point out a few things. Though Jesus was sinless and did not need to repent or be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, He did it to fulfill all righteousness because the baptism John was teaching was from heaven. As we will learn from John 1, His baptism would lead to the confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. In essence, Jesus was validating Johnís baptism and was putting His stamp of approval on it. It also teaches the principle that Jesus is not going to neglect to keep the same commands that are given to Godís people. In other words, He is not going to ask us to do what He is not willing to do. Jesus is also teaching us the importance of keeping Godís commands. As I pointed out earlier, to reject Johnís baptism, is to reject God. The baptism Jesus commanded took the place of† the one John preached. Yet, many people in religious world teach that the baptism Jesus commanded is not necessary for salvation, and with the same breath will say that we should follow the example of Jesus. Jesus submitted to will of the Father by being baptized, so should we. Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission and said that it saves. When people reject the necessity of water baptism as Jesus commanded, they reject the will of God.
We also learn that John was reluctant to baptize Jesus, but Jesus talked him into it. Lukeís account teaches us:
Luke 3:21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.† 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased."
So, Jesus was fully immersed in water by John. After He came up out of the water, He prayed. While He was still praying, heaven was open, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the bodily form like a dove. This was something that could be seen because John saw it and it was the sign he was looking for that God said would prove who the Son of God was (Jn. 1:33). Then God the Father speaks from Heaven acknowledging that Jesus is His beloved Son and that He is pleased with Him because He was keeping the will of the Father. God will be pleased with us when we do the same. Not only will He be pleased with us, we can know that heaven will be our home we faithfully keep Godís will. As Jesus said:
Matthew 7:21 †" Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Revelation 2:10 †Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Jesusí baptism also shows the three members of the Godhead. Jesus is on the earth, the Holy Spirit is descending, and the Father is speaking from heaven.
Luke 3:23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli,
Jesusí baptism would mark the beginning of His ministry when He was almost 30 years old. Then Luke goes on to give the genealogy of Jesus through Mary all the way back to Adam. Next time, we will look at the temptation of Jesus and examine Johnís testimony about Jesus being the Son of God.