Please take the time to read the passage (Luke 3:21-38) before the post below.
In this passage Luke presents the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In order to properly understand this passage we need to be aware of certain features:
First, Jesus’ earthly ministry was within the context of His manifestation and service to the nation of Israel. What He taught and what He did must be understood in light of the fact that Jesus, being eternal God, was born as a Jew, He spoke to Jews (Israel), and He presented Himself to Israel as Israel’s Messiah.
Secondly, Jesus’ ministry to Israel involved the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as promised to Abraham and confirmed and expanded to David. It is explicitly stated in Matthew’s gospel that both John the Baptist and Jesus preached an offer of the Kingdom and the need for Israel to repent of their sins in order to enter the Kingdom (3:2; 4:7). In similar fashion, Luke presents Jesus as the Messiah who offered the Kingdom which God had promised to the nation. However, all of the Gospel records show that Israel was unwilling to meet the requirement of repentance.
Thirdly, entrance into God’s Kingdom which Jesus would establish on the earth was not only dependent upon repentance, but also upon proper reception. The offer of the Kingdom to the nation of Israel was dependent upon their reception of the Messiah. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the King whom God had promised Israel. But all Gospels show that Israel was unwilling to receive Him as Messiah, and therefore, the Kingdom was postponed.
As mentioned, this passage focuses upon the events which led up to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Before His actual ministry is described, His credentials are presented through three key events. The first event is His baptism by John, where the Spirit descended upon Him and the Father gave approval of Him (3:21-22). The second event is His genealogy where Jesus’ lineage is traced back to key historical persons (3:23-38). The third and last event is Jesus’ temptation by Satan, where he demonstrates supreme allegiance and obedience to the Father, regardless of the personal cost (4:1-13).
In this and the following post, we will turn our attention to the first two events. Verses 21-22 demonstrate that Jesus had…
Divine Approval (vv. 21-22).
God the Father demonstrated His approval of Jesus at…
Jesus’ Baptism (v. 21a, b).
Notice that Luke said, “When all the people were baptized…Jesus also was baptized.” This phrase connects the ministry of Jesus with that of His forerunner, John. John was baptizing those who were professing to have repented of their sins. As John the Baptist was baptizing the repentant, Jesus offered Himself for baptism.
Luke did not explain why Jesus was baptized (Matthew’s Gospel records why Jesus was baptized). In fact, the actual baptism is glossed over because Luke wanted to focus upon the event which followed His baptism. One thing is certain, Jesus was not baptized for the same reason as others. Jesus is God and cannot sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus did not need to repent of sin, and therefore, His baptism was not a visible testimony of inner repentance.
There are three possible reasons for Luke including a description of Jesus’ baptism. First, Jesus’ baptism shows endorsement for John’s baptism (20:1-8), and this links their ministries together. Secondly, Jesus’ baptism shows that He agreed with John’s message of repentance (1:76-77; 3:3), and thus endorsed the need for the people of Israel to repent. Lastly, and primarily, as can be determined from the context, through His baptism Jesus was identified as the Coming One of whom John prophesied (3:15-18; Acts 10:37-38).
It is Jesus’ identification as the Messiah which is emphasized at the end of verse 21.
Jesus’ Endorsement (vv. 21c-22).
Jesus attracted divine attention (v. 21c).
God’s interest in Jesus is announced with the phrase: “and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.” Jesus’ prayer marked the solemnity of the event. Luke used a literary device to show God’s intervention in the events. Luke said that the sky opened up. This indicates that God was “stepping out of His secret place” to announce a significant event.
Jesus received divine favour (v. 22).
Divine favour was demonstrated through Spirit enablement (v. 22a).
Though Luke said, “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him,” not everyone present was aware of this event. John the Baptist saw the Spirit descend. Jesus was aware of the Spirit’s presence. The Bible does not say whether others actually saw the Spirit.
The significance of the Spirit descending in bodily (visible) form, is significant. The descent of the Spirit refers to Jesus’ anointing by the Spirit. This anointing is significant for two reasons.
First, Spirit anointing has messianic implications which can only be understood in light of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there were two types of anointings. Priests were anointed with water and kings were anointed with oil. Regarding the anointing of kings, we find that kings of Judah, who were anointed with oil where also anointed by the Spirit at the same time. The anointing with oil (by a prophet) was a demonstration to the public that the king was God’s choice. Saul was anointed with oil (1 Sm 15:1) and the Spirit came upon him to enable him to perform his kingly duties (11:6, 16:4). Likewise, David was anointed to be king with oil. 1 Samuel 16:13 says, “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.”
This background is pertinent to the discussion regarding Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus was baptized He had two corresponding anointings. His baptism may have functioned as an anointing with water – which might have demonstrated His priestly role.
Secondly, His anointing by the Spirit was parallel to the OT anointing by oil for Kings, since oil was sometimes used as a symbol of the Spirit. His anointing by the Spirit demonstrates His kingly role as the Messiah of the Millennial Kingdom.
This raises the second reason for the significance of Jesus’ Spirit-anointing (the first being messianic implications). Jesus’ the Spirit anointing can be described as a theocratic anointing – an anointing which enabled the one being anointed to fulfill kingly responsibilities given to him by God. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit descended upon various men such as: Moses (Numbers 11:17), the 70 elders (Numbers 11:17, 25), Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9; Joshua 1:5), various Judges (3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6; 15:14), and King Saul (1 Samuel 10:6, 9, 10), King David (1 Samuel 16:13-14) and King Solomon (1 Kings 3:7-12). The anointing by the Spirit was for the purpose of enabling those men to lead God’s people Israel. When David was anointed with oil to be king of Israel, the Holy Spirit came upon him in order to enable him to serve as King over God’s nation. Likewise, the Spirit-anointing of Jesus was not only to demonstrate Jesus’ unique messianic role but to empower Him to fulfill His responsibilities. That is why in Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1which says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings…”
The messianic and theocratic implications of Jesus’ anointing is confirmed in verse 22.
Divine favour was demonstrated through verbal approval (v. 22).
Luke said, “A voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’” None of the Gospels tell us how people responded to that message. In fact, the Gospels don’t even state whether other people actually heard the voice. At least John and Jesus heard the voice.
What is to be understood by the phrase “beloved Son” spoken by God the Father? From a heavenly perspective the phrase “beloved Son” carries the full implications of Jesus’ deity – obviously, God the Father knew of Jesus’ divine nature.
However, even if the Jews and John the Baptist heard God the Father’s description of Jesus as His “beloved Son,” being monotheistic, they would not have understood the implication of Jesus’ full deity. From a Jewish perspective, the word “Son,” when used in relation to God, was a term used to refer to men whom God had chosen for special tasks as His representatives. For instance, David was God’s son overseeing God’s kingdom (Psalm 89:1-4, 20-29). More specifically, the phrase “beloved Son” seems to be connected to Psalm 2:7-9 (and maybe Isaiah 42:1; 41:8). Psalm 2:7-9 reads:
7 “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”
Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm. It was born out of David’s experience of being king, God’s son over God’s nation Israel. However, the Psalm anticipates the greater King, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Psalm looks forward to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The phrase “Beloved Son” describes Jesus as the Perfect Son who is destined to oversee God’s Kingdom currently being offered to the Jewish nation.
Luke recorded two significant events which immediately followed Jesus’ baptism: Spirit anointing and the Father’s approving voice from heaven.
These signs confirm Jesus as the promised Messiah. He is the One through whom God will accomplish His plan of salvation (cf. Acts 10:36–38). Only through Jesus Christ can men have the forgiveness of sins and spend eternity with God. What His task will be, how He will rule, and how He will deliver are all questions to be answered further in the Gospel. At this point, the emphasis is upon the fact that God had spoken and had revealed His choice.
To be continued in next post…