Grace For The Journey
Several weeks ago, we began a series of messages through the Gospel of Luke. Today we finish chapter 3 as we pick up where we left off at verse 21 and then go to the end of the chapter. As we look at the passage you will note that the first couple of verses concern the baptism of Jesus and then verses 23-38 give us the genealogy of Jesus. In the latter portion of Scripture, you will notice certain names that bring up memories about how God worked in and through those persons.
You may wonder what is the benefit of actually reading the some 75 names in the genealogy? Someone might ask, “Can’t we just skip over them?” And that is not uncommon as many people endeavor to read through their Bibles. They come to a list like this and say, “Oh, this is too much. Let’s just skip these names!” But I would like to suggest that you might feel differently about the genealogy if your name were listed there; if somewhere in the list of “who was the son of whom” you could point there and say, “Look, there is our family name! There is my grandfather; there is my great-grandfather.” Many people, I among them, are increasingly interested in tracing out our family lines. Websites like ancestry.com provide large networks of information helpful to us in discovering our family tree and roots. Imagine if everyone in our families kept records like those we read in the Bible!
Perhaps the greatest spiritual reason for reading a genealogy is to remind us of the truth that one day our names will be in a list. The Bible says in Job 7:6, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.” Isaiah 40:6-7 says, “All men are like grass…the grass withers and the flower fades.” We do not like to talk about it much, but we are all dying people in a dying world. There is a better than even chance that one day someone will be searching for our name to fill the gap in their family tree. Genealogies remind us of the truth that we need to learn in Psalm 90:12, “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” and to be encouraged that while we find ourselves in this dying world, we live each day to know and serve the living Savior, the one who says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
Our study today is entitled, “A Very Unique Son.” The word “unique” suggests one-of-a-kind. Jesus Christ was and is one-of-a-kind. This is the true meaning of the word “begotten” often found in the King James Version of the Bible. Many of us know it from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son – so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus is God’s only begotten – His unique, one-of-a-kind Son.
As we study the uniqueness of the Son of God, I want to take something of an inductive approach and ask two very simple questions of the text. The questions are . . .
1) Why the Baptism? (Verses 21-22) Why the baptism of Jesus? Why was He baptized?
2) Why the Background? (Verses 23-38) Why does Luke provide this genealogy here? What is especially unique about his list?
By the end of our time together we will have the answers to those two questions. Why the baptism and why the background? First, let’s study the baptism of our Lord Jesus. Look again at verses 21-22, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”
We could talk about a number of things here in these verses.
- We could talk about the fact that Jesus prays during his baptism.
Only Luke has this detail in his Gospel. Prayer is important to Luke. He will point out for us that Jesus often prayed before and during significant events, such as, the selection of the 12 disciples, and the Transfiguration.
Or . . .
- We could talk about the doctrine of the Trinity.
It is interesting to note here in these two verses, verse 21 and 22, that we have all three Persons of the Holy Trinity revealed to us. God is One is essence, three in Person. God is One in substance and essence with no division of His nature and yet, at the same time, He is three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You have the voice of the Father from heaven, the Son in the water, and the Spirit of God descending upon Him. All three are equally concerned about man’s redemption.
1) Why the Baptism? Why was Jesus Baptized?
A common answer is that Jesus was baptized to set an example for us: “Jesus was baptized and so should we be baptized.” There is something about our wanting to follow the example of Jesus, but that answer glosses over the theological questions we have about a sinless Savior submitting to a “baptism of repentance” when this same Savior had no sins from which to repent. Remember that John the Baptist’s baptism was called back in verse 3 a “baptism of repentance.” Multitudes of people came to be baptized by John to indicate that they were “turning from” their sins and “turning to” the One True God of the Bible. So why does Jesus get into the water?
Jesus had not sinned. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that He “knew no sin” and inHebrews 4:15 that Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” This is why Matthew records in chapter 3 and verse for us in his Gospel the startled statement by John the Baptist. Jesus comes to John to be baptized and John says, “You’re coming to me to be baptized?! I need to be baptized by you.” And Jesus replies in verse 15, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Whatever else the phrase “to fulfill all righteousness” means, it surely must include that what Jesus was doing was the right thing to do. He Himself was not a sinner so He did not need to repent of any sin. What He is doing here He is placing Himself among these sinners so that He might identify with them. His whole life and death revolved around His identifying with sinners. He places Himself in solidarity with these people without participating in their actions, much as an athlete who is not playing in the game because of an injury dresses out and sits on the bench or stands with his team. He does not participate in the activity of the team, but he stands in solidarity with the team.
Jesus places Himself in solidarity with sinners,
Agreeing with them about the importance
Of turning away from sin and turning
To the One True God.
He does not stand among them
As One who commits sin with them.
He stands among them as
One who bears their sin.
That is why He got in the water. He identifies with us.
This is why Jesus left the wonder, splendor, and glory of heaven to dwell among us in this sin-cursed world. This is why He was not born in a golden palace and raised in a wealthy city. Why would he do that? He had better than that in heaven! However beautiful a palace of gold may be to our eyes we see only an imperfect copy or shadow of glorious things unseen in the heavenly realm. That Jesus was born in a humble, smelly feed trough in a small obscure town makes sense only if the Supreme God of the Universe really wanted to identify with us. That is why He got in the water. A heavenly King’s choosing to be born among common shepherds of the hills makes sense only if this King really wanted to “rub shoulders” with us, “to walk with us and talk with us, along life’s narrow way.”
The religious people could not understand that! When Jesus says to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5, “Come down out, for today I must stay at your house!”” The religious people complained, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner!” Dah! That is the point . . .
This God wants to identify with His creation.
He Himself is not a sinner.
He is a sin-bearer.
He will bear their sins on Calvary’s Cross.
His baptism portrays His desire to identify with us. And this encourages us! It means that our God knows what it is like to walk in our shoes.
- Having “no place to lay his head,” He knows what it is like to be poor.
- Having put in long sweaty hours in the carpenter’s shop, He knows what it is like to work.
- He knows what it is like to be ridiculed.
- He knows what it is like to be in a storm.
- He knows what it is like to experience profound hunger, to be tired, to become emotionally drained.
- He knows what it is like to be in pain.
- He knows what it is like to suffer.
- He knows what it is like to be rejected and betrayed.
- He knows what it is like to lose a loved one.
- He knows what it is like to die.
This is the kind of God we want, isn’t it? We do not want a god somewhere “out there,” far away removed and immunized from our everyday problems. We want a God who can identify with us. That is why He got in the water. And that is why we today get into the water through Christian baptism . . .
He identifies with us,
May identify with Him.
That is why we get into the water. When we are baptized we are identifying with the One who identified with us. So, as the Bible says in Romans 6:3-5, we were, “… baptized into His death. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”
Baptism pictures our identification with Christ and celebrates our permanent union with Christ. Baptism pictures what Jesus did for us – death, burial, and resurrection – and what is consequently true for us – we have died, our sins buried, and we have been raised to walk in a new way of life. We are now permanently united together with Christ Jesus. Baptism pictures this.
- Union with Christ means that all of our sin has been forever forgiven.
- Union with Christ means that whatever is true of Christ is true of the believer.
- Union with Christ means that God forever regards us as covered in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Writing of the blessing of our union with Christ, Jerry Bridges in The Gospel for Real Life asks, “Have you ever thought about the wonderful truth that Christ lived His perfect life in your place and on your behalf? Has it yet gripped you that when God looks at you today, He sees you clothed in the perfect, sinless obedience of His Son? And that when He says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,’ He includes you in that warm embrace? The extent to which we truly understand this is the extent to which we will begin to enjoy those unsearchable riches that are found in Christ.” Christians live a guilt-free life because God forever regards them “in” His Son Christ Jesus. If we are saved, He sees us “in Christ,” united together in glorious, permanent union with His Son.
We will never truly understand the love of God until we understand this! So many Christians live in fear and guilt. “I am such a sinner,” a Christian says. “I just feel like I keep on failing God and I feel horrible!” That ought to be how we feel when we sin. But, do not stop there, look quickly to Calvary, Christian! Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Know that God forever regards you safely “in Christ Jesus.” You will forever be clothed in His righteousness and all of your sins paid for in Him. Remember what the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Union with Christ!
So why the baptism? Identification. We understand God’s love for identification.
2) Why the Background? What is especially unique about this genealogy?
Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew, chapter 1, goes back only to Abraham. Matthew was addressing primarily a Jewish audience. Luke’s genealogy, however, goes back all the way to Adam. Luke is addressing primarily a Gentile audience. Remember in the opening verses of his Gospel he is addressing a man named Theophilus, a Gentile. He says, “I am writing this Gospel so that you may know the certainty of the things in which you were instructed.” Luke is addressing a Gentile audience. Do you remember what Simeon said in his prophecy back in chapter 2 when he held baby Jesus in his arms? In Luke 2:32, Simeon says that this baby was not only “the glory of Israel,” but is also, “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”
Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus
All the way back to Adam because
Adam is the representative of the
Entire human race, Jewish and Gentile.
So, in the words of one commentator, we are reminded that “Jesus is the fulfillment not only of Jewish hopes and aspirations but of the hopes of the entire world.” The Bible says in Acts 17:26 that “from one man (Adam) God has made every nation of men.” Adam is our representative, the head of the human race. The Bible says in Romans 5:19, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” This is why we may refer to Jesus Christ as the “second Adam.” He is the new representative of humanity. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” As the poet puts it . . .
“Christ the Son of God
Became a Son of Adam
That we sons of Adam
Might become sons of God”
All of humanity, then, is joined either to Adam or to Christ. We are either lost or we are saved. Luke’s point in giving this particular background is to highlight the importance of sharing and receiving the Gospel, the Good News that sons of Adam may become – through Christ – sons of God, children of God.
So why the background? What is especially unique about this genealogy? Well . . .
If the first key word was Identification,
The second key word is Evangelization.
In tracing the genealogy of Christ all the way back to Adam, we understand God’s love for evangelization, for sharing the Good News of the Gospel. And this comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. From the start we see that Jesus has come not only to rescue Jewish lost people, but Gentile lost people. As Luke records later in Luke 19:10, what many see as the key verse to the entire Gospel, Jesus came “to seek and save those who are lost.”
Apart from Jesus Christ, all are lost.
Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will
Hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.”
God is not pleased with our spiritual performance
Or good deeds or charitable giving.
None of those things earn for us
The right to enter heaven.
There is only one way to escape
Hell and the judgment to come.
We must be “in Christ Jesus.”
We must identify with the One who identified with us.
Apart from Jesus Christ, no one will hear God say, “With you I am well pleased.” But if we have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, God sees us differently. In the words of a favorite hymn . . .
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”