By Andrew E. Courtis
Over the years there has been an increasing interest in family ancestry. Some people spend a lot of time learning about their lineage and many love to talk about their heritage as they find out some special relative. However, some become silent when they discover a dodgy relative! For many people there have been all sorts of surprises found when they delve into the history of their heritage. Depending on the information, this can be a fascinating, frustrating, or even fruitful investigation. As Jesus entered the public scene, Luke provides his readers with the ancestry of Jesus. The mention of this is not designed to entertain the curious, but to make plain the mission of Jesus and the majesty of His heritage.
In this passage we will consider three great themes in relation to the person of Jesus Christ. These themes ought to cause us to see that Jesus Christ is greater than the best the world can offer. He is truly soul satisfying and worth making much of! The three themes are Holiness (3:21a), Honour (3:21b-22), and Hope (3:23-38).
1. HOLINESS (3:21a)
Many people responded to John’s faithful and fervent preaching of repentance. By coming forward to be baptised, they were publically demonstrating their need to be washed clean from their sin and turn to God for forgiveness. The baptism itself did not save anybody, but it was an outward representation of an inward reality. Luke records that when the people had been baptised, Jesus also got baptised. Luke doesn’t provide any more details than that, but in Matthew’s account we learn that as Jesus approached John to be baptised, John was reluctant to immerse Jesus in the waters of baptism (Matt. 3:14). This hesitancy happened because He knew that Jesus was greater than he. In-fact, John stated that Jesus should be baptising him! Because we know that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, it appears strange that He would do this. So why did Jesus get baptised? We know that it wasn’t because He needed to repent. Jesus responded to John by saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). In other words, this is the right thing to do, because in so doing He is identifying with sinners by becoming the substitute fir sinners. Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Before He goes to the cross as the substitute for sinners, He must also qualify by living as a man under the Law so that He can redeem those under the Law (cf. Gal. 4:4-5). In His life Jesus took our place by keeping the Law that we broke, and in His death He took our place by receiving God’s wrath and atoning for our sin. R. C. Sproul sums this up well, “Jesus came not only to die for us, but He came to live for us. He came to be our substitute under the Law.”
So by being baptised Jesus was demonstrating His identification with sinners. The sinless Son of God was baptised signifying that He in our place will keep the Law of God that we broke so that He will take our place at the cross as the sinless substitute. Luke also adds that during this time Jesus “was praying”. Prayer was an essential element in His life and ministry.
So the first thing we learn from this passage is that the holiness of Christ reminds us that He is the sinless Son of God.
2. HONOUR (3:21b-22)
We now move to the second great theme in this passage and that is Honour. After Jesus was baptised we are told,
“the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (3:21b-22)
This clearly shows that Jesus’ baptism was on a different level to everyone who went before Him and after Him in the waters of baptism. Powerful imagery is used to describe how magnificent this event was. The sky tears open, the Holy Spirit descends, and the Father speaks. This is a regal moment! What is the importance of this? Many testified concerning the identity of Jesus, but what we have in this verse is the greatest endorsement. The Father and the Holy Spirit publically affirmed the ministry of Jesus. Here we see the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – together.
The words from heaven “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” publically reveal the honour of His person and ministry. Jesus is the Son of God and He has come as the Sovereign King. A part of His mission is to rescue lost sinners from the domain of darkness and transfer them to His kingdom (cf. Col. 1:13). Jesus is the coming King who will rule and reign (cf. Psalm 2).
Notice also the declaration from the Father. He announces that He is well pleased with Him. We are sinners and therefore we are not pleasing to God. The blessed reality in this verse is that Jesus, who is the sinless Son of God, came to take our place. If we come to Christ for salvation, we become clothed in His righteousness. A great exchange occurs. He takes our sin for His righteousness (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Now we are still sinful, but in Him the Father sees us clothed in His righteousness. By ourselves we cannot please God, but in Christ we are found pleasing to Him. He is alone is our righteousness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30)
So to hear the words “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” ought to cause all who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to rejoice! Jesus is the Son of God and He alone can please the Father. Therefore we are to find our refuge in Him.
3. HOPE (3:23-38)
The final great theme in this passage is Hope. This theme is found in the genealogy that spans from verses 23-38. This genealogy provides for us the Son of God’s family tree. It is interesting that it begins by informing us that when Jesus began His public ministry He was “about thirty years of age” (3:23). It is noteworthy that at the age of thirty Joseph entered the service of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:46). At the age of thirty a Levite could enter into priestly duties (Numbers 4:3). At the age of thirty David began his reign (2 Samuel 5:4). At the age of thirty Ezekiel entered into his prophetic ministry (Ezekiel 1:1). This appears to be an age of accepted maturity and clearly is associated with some significant events and individuals. In God’s perfect timing, Jesus arrives on the public scene and one can’t help but think about prophets, priests, and kings. Jesus arrives on the scene and in a way those individuals couldn’t, He is going to be the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King for us!
Unlike the genealogy in Matthew (1:1-17), Luke’s genealogy works backwards and extends past Abraham and ends with Adam. Matthew’s clearly is designed to show that Jesus is the legal heir of David’s throne and that His linage goes back to the beginning of Israel, whereas Luke’s genealogy is designed to identify Jesus with all humanity. Why is this significant? Luke’s goal is to show that Jesus is the Sovereign Seeking Saviour of Sinners, and this includes Gentiles as well as Jews. Also, the mention of Adam at the end of the list (3:38) highlights an important Biblical theme. Adam was a real historical person. He was not only the first human, but he was the representative of all humanity. Adam rebelled and failed. With a domino effect, he brought all mankind down with him. When Adam sinned we all sinned (Rom. 5:12). Jesus has arrived as the second Adam. However, where the first Adam failed, the Last Adam will be found faithful. The first Adam led the human race into ruin; the Last Adam will bring His people into redemption. Jesus came into this world as the Saviour of sinners, and He will restore what was ruined.
As Jesus entered the public stage to formally begin His ministry, the words Holy, Honoured, and Hope were boldly booming in the background. This is who Jesus is and this is why He is the Sovereign Seeking Saviour of Sinners.
This passage of Scripture reminds us that though we are sinners and are unable to save ourselves, Jesus came into this world to save us. He alone is qualified for this mission and we are to praise and prize Him for it. He is greater than the best the world can offer. He is truly soul satisfying and worth making much of!