Reading for Wednesday, March 7: Luke 3
This chapter focuses in on the ministry of John the Baptist. John’s central message: “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” (v8). Luke associates John’s ministry with the fulfillment of Isaiah 40, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
The repentance John calls Israel to is a ministry of compassion and social justice. “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise,” (v11); to the tax collectors, “collect no more than you are authorized to do,” (v13); to the soldiers, “do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages,” (v14). This is what repentance looks like: love for others grounded firmly in love for God.
To repent is to change direction, to turn. Luke’s Gospel, more than any other, links repentance with forgiveness. Luke stresses God’s gracious acceptance of the sinner; however, Luke also emphasizes repentance as a core element in the teaching of Jesus. As we’ll see in our study of Acts, the early church continues to preach repentance as well (Acts 2.38; 3.19-20).
Luke gives us an interesting little detail with regard to the baptism of Jesus: he says that Jesus was praying immediately after his baptism as the Spirit descended upon him. Luke is going to underscore the importance of prayer at every point in Jesus’ life: at his baptism, before he chose his disciples, at the great confession, at the transfiguration, Gethsemane, and on the cross). Of course, this is a thread that he’ll carry over in Vol. II, as we’ll see next in our study. “What regularly happens in Luke-Acts when Jesus and his followers pray is that God reveals his will and gives courage and comfort.” (Mark Black, “Luke: The College Press NIV Commentary Series). Jesus, now anointed with the Spirit, is prepared to move forward in his ministry as God’s Messiah. This sets the stage for everything that follows in Luke’s Gospel.