Luke 3:1-37 ~ Clearing the Way
So when the desert voice of John the Baptist called out for repentance in the wilderness (verses 2 and 4), he recognized that Israel was still a nation in exile. Theologically and spiritually, God's people were still in Babylon and not "home" despite the great physical exodus through the desert. The baptism of repentance (verse 3) is more than just an issue of heritage - it is not merely for the Jews alone, as implied in verse 8. Everyone is called to bear good fruit (verse 9) as the concrete evidence of the change in one's life, through various deeds including the act of sharing and generosity (verses 10-11). Even the tax collectors and soldiers were instructed on how they were to apply this in their profession (verses 12-14).
Question is, what is the motivation for this repentance? The answer lies in God's righteous anger and just condemnation and punishment. Verse 9 warns us that every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Wouldn't you do anything to flee or escape this wrath to come?
While John is the forerunner of Jesus (think of how the bridesmaid marches down the aisle before the bride does - and when she does, all eyes are on her now, not the bridesmaid!), verse 16 explains a different kind of baptism that Jesus will bring: a baptism of Spirit and fire. This paints a picture of judgment itself where the one baptizing will also be the one bringing in the judgment day.
More than just a baptist or a judge, Jesus is also heralded as God's Son in verse 22, when the Holy Spirit descended on Him. Psalm 2 reveals the wisdom of being on Jesus' side, who is the anointed Messiah. He is also the suffering servant (Isaiah 42:1, 52:13, 53:1-6, 53:11-12) who needs to suffer first before attaining victory. The way to kingship is through the people's rejection but He is going to win in the end. The genealogy recorded for us also implies that Jesus was not conceived as a natural conception with the tag "as was supposed" in verse 23. We can tell that He descended from the line of the great King David (verse 31) and father Abraham (verse 34) but Luke, unlike other gospel authors, went back further to point out that Jesus also descended from Adam himself (verse 38), illustrating that salvation is not just for the Jews but for everyone whom Jesus represents.
Genuine repentance is then a change of mind and will that bears fruit in one's life in one's actions. We are called to know the times where both salvation and judgment are certain, to know the Saviour King and change from "self-government" to "Jesus-government", and to know real baptism where baptism is the outward sign of the inward repentance that leads to bearing real fruit.
Who drives your life? Will you let Jesus take the wheel?