20 September 2006

Part 2-Luke 3:1-20 "the one who goes before"

To make these more readable, I've made these big posts collapsible so go to it for the rest. Just a reminder, next week one of our missionaries in Germany named Jason Holm will be with us speaking in First and Next Worship. We'll continue our series in Luke on the following Sunday in Luke 3:21-4:13. By the way, if you ever lose or don't get one of the inserts from The Weekly but want to work through them during the week, they are available on the church website--waterfordwired. Just click the "Resources" link, then "Spirtual Life" in the drop-down window.


  • How many historical facts does Luke offer as context? Luke identifies seven leaders, the exact year of the emperor's reign, John's father, and the region of John's ministry. These ten facts formed a pretty solid starting point for anyone seeking to know beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  • Who was the last prophet to speak on God's behalf? How long ago? Zechariah is the last prophet mentioned in 2 Chronicles, the last book in the Jewish scriptures (which contain the same books we have today in our Old Testament though placed in a different order). Jesus references this in Luke 11:51. Opinion is deeply divided and impossible to settle on who Zechariah was.
  • What presumed basis for salvation does John challenge and warn against? John challenges those who are relying on their Jewish ethnicity to guarantee that they are saved as a part of God's chosen people that they are missing the point. God has chosen people to be a part of His covenant community to live a different kind of life (v.8a), not just to be part of a different gene pool (v.8b). If all God is looking for is a certain breed of people, he can get that out of rocks (v.8) just as He made the first man out of dirt. You can't manipulate God into saving you because you have Him cornered by nationality or anything else. A life that is changed from the inside-out is the person that's been saved (v.9).
  • How does John describe what "the Christ" will do? John tells the people that He would baptize them "with the Holy Spirit and with fire," not just water (v.16). The picture he paints to explain this is of man with a winnowing fork clearing his threshing floor to put the fruit of the harvest in the barn and destroy the dead chaff that has no value or use. The same action by the Christ, winnowing, results in separation--two totally different outcomes dependent on what the thing really is. The harvest is kept safe. The chaff is eliminated.


  • What do we learn about real repentance in this section? We learn that real repentance demonstrates itself in tangible actions that practice concern, generosity, contentment, and justice for others as a way of life.
  • Was John's ministry successful: in God's eyes? in the people's? in Herod's? John's ministry was successful in God's eyes because John had fulfilled the mission that God gave him (consider the angel's announcement in Luke 1:11-17 and the gospel account of John when this was completed in John 3:23-36).
  • Luke conveys John's end immediately, unlike Matthew (14:3-4) or Mark (6:17-18) who do so later in their accounts. What point is he making? Luke wants all attention to be on Jesus so that his readers can wrestle with understanding who He is and why He has come. So, he closes this thread of the story early so that no one is distracted.
  • What point does Luke continually make about John compared to Jesus, even in the earlier chapters when they were announced and born? Both Luke and John are always emphasizing Jesus' greatness so that people would not make the mistake of thinking that John was the Messiah (v.15). In the verses that follow, John points to three ways that Jesus is greater: (1) he's more powerful, (2) he's bringing a better baptism, (3) He is the judge. This had been the pattern ever since the beginning. It was shocking that an old woman like Elizabeth would have a baby at such an advanced age. It was miraculous that Mary would when she'd never been with a man! Make no mistake--Jesus tops every preacher, priest, or prophet ever.


  • Have you made the choice to repent--to turn in a direction that leads back to God.
  • If you have, are you really living that choice?
  • Is there someone else that you are "preparing the way for the Lord" to?
This week's text was one that really got to me. I look at my own life and wonder if I wouldn't be part of the stunned crowd that John addressed--thinking that I was the real deal and finding out I was actually still needing to turn and reorient the direction of my life. I live a "good" life, trying to be a good follower of Jesus. But if repentance lived-out has a specific lifestyle that expresses it, I have to really ask: Am I truly concerned about others? Do I live generosity? Contentment? Justice?

These things that John points to are not the first things that I typcially focus on to express a life in a new direction. I think of things that I should NOT be doing because they are bad--swearing, stealing, lying, coveting, etc.. When I do think of things that I should DO, they're usually about me...for me "I should have some down-time to regroup or go to church, I should pray more, I should read the Bible again..." All of these are critical elements of our spiritual life, but they do not represent the harvest of repentance. I wonder how many people sitting in churches, rather than relying on ethnicity, rely on their religiosity to force God's hand. "I prayed the prayer!" How about you?

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