04 October 2006

Part 3-Luke 3:21-4:13 "the father of a son"


Note the three distinct sections: Jeusus' Baptism (3:21-22), Genealogy (3:23-28), and Temptation (4:1-13) All three sections join together to make a big point. God has committed Himself to Jesus because Jesus carries the fate of humanity and is the only one able to withstand evil and offer a new start.
Read the other writers' accounts to see how they relate this event differently (Mt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Jn 1:29-34). Matthew and Mark point-out that Jesus was a local boy--one of the Jews. Matthew relates John's hesitation and Jesus' reasoned insistence. John emphasizes Jesus as the One who takes away sin in a revelation from God. Luke emphasizes that Jesus was praying and places focus on God's statement after the baptism.

Compare a different order of the temptations by looking at Mt. 4:1-11. Matthew's account starts like Luke, but places the the test of God's protection at the temple second and the offer of the kingdoms of the world last. Luke's account reverses these last two to place the emphasis on the showdown in Jerusalem.


Thinking back through the first chapters, how has the revelation of who Jesus is grown more direct and authoritative? Jesus was first revealed to His parents through an angel. This was a revelation they mostly kept to themselves. Next came an angelic announcement to strangers with no status--shepherds outside Bethlehem. Next, Godly people in the temple publicly declare that He is something special (Simeon and Anna). Jesus is next revealed in the Temple by the relgious leaders and by His own first statements. The prophet specifically sent with the mission of proclaiming Him and getting people ready is the next revelation of Jesus. This progression is completed as God Himself reveals Jesus as a loved son that He is pleased with.
Why was Jesus baptized when it was a baptism "for repentance?" In Matthew's account (
Mat 3:1-17) as John the baptizer insists that he should be baptized by Jesus and wonders why Jesus is coming to him, Jesus replies: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Church tradition says that Jesus was baptized at the insistence of His family. More substantive reasons than that seem likely. Jesus participates in John's baptism because:

  1. it is an endorsment of John's ministry and message.
  2. it allows John to identify and endorse Jesus' ministry.
  3. it demonstrates Jesus identifying Himself with humanity as He begins His ministry.
  4. in the Spirit's descending, Jesus emerges as the Coming One to who John pointed and who brings a greater baptism of "spirit and fire."

Compare Adam's interaction with the serpent (Gen 3:1-7) and Jesus' with the devil. How is the Word of God used to avoid or give-in to sin? Luke makes it clear that while Adam was at his strongest in the most ideal environment, Jesus is at His weakest (no food for 40 days) in a hostile environment (the wilderness). Yet, both have words of instruction that God had given. Eve, Adam's wife, is careless and exaggerates what God has said. Adam is not even recorded as referencing what God has said. Both act contrary to that word as they reason for themselves and decide that there is advantage to be gained by acting in this way. Jesus quotes God directly and does not seem to give further consideration to any other course of action--insisting on accepting what God had said as true.

How do we understand Jesus being tempted as someone fully human and fully God? Was He able to sin? Was He not able to sin? What guidance does Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16; 5:7-9 offer? As the Bible later makes clear, Jesus has two natures (theologically referred to as the "hypostatic union"). He is at once fully human and fully deity--both coexisting in harmony without subtracting from each other. Out of this two-natured identity flows the question of ability. Some scholars have said that Jesus was capable of sinning (theological term: "peccable" from the Latin "to sin") but did not. Others say that was was not capable of sinning (theological term: "impeccable") and did not. These two natures carry two different abilities. His divine nature was/is not able to sin--it is contrary to the substance of who God is. His human nature was theoreticallyable to sin, since humankind as demonstrated in Adam and Eve could make that choice. This is a choice, however, that has to be actively made and not an inherent part of human nature. Human beings were not created with a fallen nature. So, being human did not necessarily include having a fallen nature that inclines a person to sin. Jesus could thus be fully human without that necessitating an attraction to sin that we have. Evangelical scholars agree thatJesus did not sin--the important point. But, there is much disagreement about exactly how to settle the peccability/impeccability issue. One scholar (Millard Erickson) puts it best:

"We must not say that christ was not fully human because He did not sin; rather, we must say that our humanity is questionable because it is impure--if anything, we are not fully human, and He is."

The Hebrews passages are notoriously difficult to deal with. Hebrews 2:18 reveals that temptation was something that caused Jesus to "suffer." In some way, it was a hard, painful thing for Jesus. This leaves open the question of whether He suffered because someone sinless was being confronted with sin, or whether the suffering comes in trying to resist it.

Hebrews 4:15-16 is at the heart of this question. What does it mean that Jesus is able to "sympathize with our weaknesses?" What does it mean that He's been "tempted in every way, just as we are" though maintaining that He "was without sin?" Good questions, unfortunately without good answers. What this says for certain (that He can understand what we go through because He's experienced it Himself without sinning and so is a great go-between humans and God) is all that it says for certain. The point is, questions aside, that's all we need to know.

Hebrews 5:7-9 adds that Jesus "learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." The point of the passage is that the suffering Jesus endured were the necessary price of obedience. Going through that suffering to obey God's will was how He could be "learn" and be "made perfect" by having experienced these in accepting the cost of remaining faithful to God.


It is helpful to me to remember how big and how wonderful a thing Jesus came to do. It isn't just about me and other individuals being saved from our sin. It isn't just about all who are saved--the church. It is about the fate of the entirety of humanity. Jesus comes to make a new start possible and offer it to us. In very real terms, for the first time, we have the opportunity to be who we were created to be, but never were because of the effect of our sin nature. He can withstand everything that tries to compel Him to rebellion against God. If I follow Him, that is a possibility for me too. While sin has been a part of my life, Jesus demonstrates that it need not continue to be.

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