Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 5, 2017
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 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.”
23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
— Luke 3:21-38, ESV
Luke's cast of characters, in order of their appearance so far, include Theophilus, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel, Mary and Joseph, the babies John and Jesus, Simeon and Anna, Jesus as an adolescent, and big bad John the Baptist as an adult. Now it is time for the Star of stars, the King of Kings, and the Lord of lords to take center stage. Jesus, “at about thirty years of age,” walks in and never leaves the Gospel spotlight again, except for a carefully calculated three days near the grand finale.
Jesus’ entrance is epic, with a big baptismal service, the sky splitting open, a dove falling down, and a holy voice from Heaven. After recording this tremendous excitement, Luke goes on to give us a not so thrilling genealogy containing seventy-seven names, most of which are hard to pronounce. What began with a terrific bang ends a bit tedious, but in the telling of baptisms and bloodlines we find the greatest story ever told about the greatest person who ever lived. He is Jesus, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth of Galilee, baptized by John in Judaea, Savior of the world, Son of God, Son of Man.
Prelude: Baptism and Prayer
The grand introduction of Jesus Christ begins with the simple services of baptism and prayer. Baptism is the beginning of the Christian experience and prayer sustains it. Since nothing is accidental or incidental with God, it is neither an accident nor an unimportant incident that Jesus begins His public ministry in this way.
Christianity is much more than a religion but it is not less. Religions have rituals that are important, and baptism is our rite and responsibility. If it is important to the Jesus story, it should be a part of our story. Baptism is a beginning, whether it is parents practicing paedobaptism on their newborn child or a newly reborn child of God walking through the waters of credobaptism. We all wonder which one God prefers, but the fact of the matter is that Jesus experienced both. He was circumcised as a child, according to the Old Covenant ritual, of which paedobaptism is the New Covenant replacement. Then, as a fully cognizant adult about to publicly confess God before man, He demonstrated His faith in baptism. That ought to be enough to make every denomination happy! But, whatever your method or mode of baptism, no practice of Christianity is proper without baptism at the beginning.
Furthermore, as Luke begins to tell the Jesus story in earnest, he begins with Jesus earnestly in prayer. Luke will capture many such moments as he majors on the prayer life of the Lord. Like the principal of baptism, if Jesus felt the need to do it, so must we. If Jesus disciplined Himself to pray often and unceasingly, how much more do we need to consciously and constantly commune with God in prayer. Prayer communicates with headquarters, prayer calls for help, prayer listens for instructions. It keeps the church and the Christian, as it did the Christ and the Almighty God, in step with the blessings and orders of the Lord.
Now the spotlight shines on this baptized, praying person. Who is Jesus? The answer is given in a two-act play. Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus is the Son of Man.
Act 1: Jesus is the Son of God
The first act revealing the very nature of Jesus includes a divine cast of three persons who is a solo artist. This is totally contradictory but absolutely true. Of the three-in-one, there is one you can hear but cannot see, one you can see but cannot hear, and one you can see, hear, feel, follow, and love beyond measure. Further revelation identifies the voice you hear but cannot see is God the Father. The dove-like being you can see but has no voice is God the Spirit. And, the man from Galilee who walks and talks among us is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Apocalyptic Jews rightly believed that the manifestation of the Messiah, or Christ, would be something exactly like this scene. The heavens are ripped open and the anointing of God’s Spirit falls on the man marked as the Messiah, son of King David and son of Father Abraham, come to set God’s people free. Jesus is all of this and much, much more. The voice from Heaven and the witness of Scripture tells us Jesus is the beloved and only begotten Son of God.
The identification of Jesus as the Son of God means at least two things crucial to Christianity: God is triune and Jesus Christ is God. Teaching on the Trinity is a little like talking to your child about sex, it is the most wonderful thing in the world but it is a bit awkward to explain. How can one God be three persons? How can a historical person be the everlasting God?
Embracing the Trinity takes into account the Bible’s testimony about God. It is fully monotheistic, establishing the fact that there is only one true and living God. The great “Shema” of the Old Testament is absolutely affirmed in the New Testament. Yet biblical teaching also reveals God on stage acting in three distinct persons, sometimes simultaneously, as in this text in Luke. Systematically and theologically put, “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God” (Wayne Grudem).
Perhaps the primary purposes of God’s triune nature are creation and recreation, both of which are ordained by the Father, carried out by the Son, empowered by the Spirit. Perhaps it is embodied by redeemed humanity made in and restored to God’s image, as body and soul and spirit. Perhaps the perfect God enjoys spending time with Himself, as every healthy human should. Perhaps it is an enigma wrapped in a mystery to be beholden by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Certainly it is part and parcel of the gospel, for there is no Christianity apart from belief in the Trinity, and the related subject of the deity of Jesus Christ.
If God is triune, and if the Son of God is God, then Jesus is Lord. No one can be saved apart from this confession. The far right and the far left are all wrong. The gospel is not the God Jesus plus good works, and the gospel is not a merely human Jesus followed in faith. The proper response to the gospel is calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ, God and Savior, in repentance and faith. Luke gives us the opportunity in this wonderful testimony of the baptism of Jesus, which proves Him to be the Son of God.
And, Luke writes out a genealogy of the Son of God to prove Jesus is also the Son of Man.
Act 2: Jesus is the Son of Man
As high and lofty as the baptism scene is, the genealogy that follows can get mired deeply in the mud. It is long and unfamiliar, except for the names of a few superstars. It is inconsistent when compared with the genealogy given in the Gospel of Matthew, giving higher critics of the Bible some usable but misfiring ammunition. So why is it here?
It is written to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ, God of very God, is also man from very man, and very woman. Many believe this is Mary’s genealogy, while Matthew gives Joseph’s. We know from extra-biblical sources that Mary's father was Eli (which makes “Heli” Joseph’s father, in-law). But most importantly, it shows Jesus descended from these human beings, as if He were not God at all. Yet He was born of a virgin, perfect and without sin as other men, as if He were not a man at all.
Jesus is the Creator, God, who so loved the apex of His creation that He stepped down into creation to become on of us. He was not a slob like some of us, nor a stranger on a bus, but indeed, God became one of us. Why? For the sake of the gospel. For only God could be who Jesus is, and only a man who is God could do what Jesus did.
Postlude: The Gospel
The gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ. The first three chapters of the Gospel of Luke are devoted to showing us who Jesus is, and in the rest of the Gospel we will read about what Jesus has done. The spotlight will shine on Jesus and follow Him from the river to the wilderness to the world and beyond.
The spotlight shines upon Christianity, too. Christianity is the only way to worship God, for a person cannot worship a God he does not know. Christianity is the only way to know God, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Christianity is the only way to serve God, for spiritual service requires the Holy Spirit. Hence the Trinity is on display again.
But for now, just focus on the Son. Walk with Jesus through the rest of this Gospel and for the rest of your life. Put your spotlight on Him and never take it off. Christ will save you and use you to lead others to salvation. When all is said and done, we will bask in the spotlight of Jesus forever and ever.
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