Formations lesson for Jan. 21
January 5 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 3:15-22

Formations lesson for Jan. 21 | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Formations lesson for Jan. 21

By Ken Vandergriff Luke 3:15-22 Just as there are many different angles from which to view a work of art or a fine diamond, each angle having its own distinctive beauty, so there are many perspectives from which to view a single biblical text. Today's text overflows with notable theological themes such as repentance, baptism, eschatological judgment and salvation, but our lesson chooses the theme of identity as an entrance into the text. The question "May I introduce you to a friend?" immediately focuses our attention on identity, the identity of the unique Jesus child now beginning His adult mission. Luke has set a tone of expectancy already in chapter 3. With John's fiery preaching about God's imminent inbreaking, his demand that repentance be evidenced in specific actions (vv. 10-14), and his baptism, it's no wonder that many suspected he might be the Messiah (v. 15). The careful reader of Luke's gospel knows that John can't be the Messiah. Already Luke has identified John as one who will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with the power of Elijah, who will turn many hearts to God and will make ready a people prepared for the Lord (1:15-17). Jesus, on the other hand, is the Son of the Most High Who will reign on David's throne in a kingdom without end (1:31-33), Who is, in fact, "a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord" (2:11).

But John's audience did not know all that. So the speculation of the crowds led John to distinguish himself from the Messiah in three ways. First, John baptized with water, but said the Coming One would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (3:16). Interpreters have struggled to define the relationship between the Spirit and fire, with little agreement. Some believe John characterizes the Spirit's work as fire ("He will baptize with the Holy Spirit, which is like fire"); others hold that the repentant will receive the Spirit, while the unrepentant receive the fire of judgment; still others see a foreshadowing of Pentecost here. Given the ambiguity of the phrase, which is absent in Mark 1:8, and the variety of scholarly interpretations, it is wise not to press any one view; in any case, John's baptism is inferior to that of the Coming One.

Second, John admits that the Coming One is so great that he is unworthy even to untie His sandals, a task so menial that only slaves did it. Third, the Messiah will be the eschatological judge. Verse 17 uses the imagery of the threshing floor and winnowing (separating wheat from chaff), an Old Testament metaphor for judgment (Isaiah 41:15-16; Jer. 15:7; 51:2). Although John has stridently demanded repentance, he in no way has identified himself as the judge of persons. The Coming One, on the other hand, will judge in an ultimate way.

The first scene of this lesson's text, then, highlights the identity of the One who is greater than John. The second scene, verses 21-22, highlights the divine identity of Jesus. Luke mentions the baptism itself only in passing, and he does not explain why Jesus was baptized. Certainly it indicates that Jesus agreed with the message John preached. We are left with a sense of wonder that the Sinless One would submit to a baptism specifically "of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (v. 3; see 2 Cor. 5:21).

What concerns Luke is the aftermath of the baptism. Only Luke among the gospels says that Jesus was praying after the baptism, foreshadowing the interest Luke will show, more than the other gospels, in prayer (6:12; 9:18, 28; 22:41-42). The voice of God quotes Psalm 2:7, a coronation psalm originally applied to the ruling Davidic king in Jerusalem, and Isaiah 42:1, a text originally identifying Israel as God's servant (see Isaiah 41:8-9). By quoting these texts, God affirms that Jesus' identity cannot be separated from the promises to David (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2) and the mission of Israel as God's people.

May we never lose a healthy sense of wonder over the Jesus whom we worship and proclaim.

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1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 3:15-22 | with 0 comments
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