Grace Emerges

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chapter 3: Revolutionary Adventures in the Gospel of Luke

Revolutionary Adventures in the Gospel of Luke

Luke Chapter 3 (Luke 3:1-38)
by Brad Duncan

Join me on this adventure through the Gospel of Luke as I explore the revolution of God's grace poured out to us, and how it can lead to our fulfilling God's greatest plan to build his kingdom on Earth.

Key points from Luke 3:1-38:
  • John's message from God
    • At a certain age (and point in history) John heard from God.
    • He shared what he heard with all the people around the country and near the Jordan river
    • After sharing he used the symbol of baptism in the Jordan river for people to declare their intent to follow God's message.
    • What was this message?  As foretold in Luke 1, the message was 
      • 1) God's deep compassion and forgiveness, 
      • 2) people should immediately turn their hearts toward God (away from disobedience and toward righteousness) so they can see God's salvation, and 
      • 3) God's salvation is coming and is nearly here!
  • John's fulfillment of prophecy
    • John was the one who was predicted to come before the Christ and prepare the way for him
    • The implication is that when people turn their hearts toward God, it will be easy for them to walk the road that leads toward salvation.  They will see God's kingdom.  When people are self-focused instead, their road will be full of mountains and valleys.  They will have a hard time accepting the salvation that is right in front of them
  • Practical terms
    • John's message was practical and simple and helped people to see their own motivations
    • He told people to turn toward God, abandoning selfishness and treating others well
    • He told people that declaring their intent to serve God through baptist was a way to wash away their old life and start a new one
    • However he told people clearly that outward, external religious behavior, even baptism, was in no way a replacement for turning your heart toward God.  Religious pedigree or rituals would in no way help people see God's salvation!  And it was obvious that people who tried to please God or appear righteous in this way, but did not treat others with kindness, were actually evil and rejecting God while trying to appear righteous.  Their road to salvation would be like the "mountains and valleys".  Those that turn their hearts toward God would have a straight road to see God.
  • John talks about Jesus
    • John helped prepare people for the message of Jesus, by letting them know that getting their hearts in order (turning toward God) was just the beginning and not the end goal.  Jesus was going to bring something completely new and different.  John hinted at revolution!
    • The hallmark of this revolution would be the Holy Spirit:
      • Amazingly the Holy Spirit would begin to have a different relationship with respect to believers.  This was going to be huge!  When people followed Jesus to life change, they would receive the Holy Spirit living in them, much like John himself heard from God.  
      • The effect of the Holy Spirit would be a radical transformation of people from the inside out, putting everything in its proper place, and weeding out all falsehood and artificial righteousness.
      • The Holy Spirit is equated with the kingdom of God and the salvation from the promised Messiah.  Everything would change, and this changed state would be the kingdom.
  • John baptizes Jesus
    • When Jesus appears at the Jordan river, John points out who he is and prepares to step back out of the limelight (see the other gospels for some of the story details).  
    • Jesus is baptized.  Baptism means that the person's heart is ready to see God's kingdom.  The significance of Jesus being ready to see God's kingdom is amazing!
    • Then God shows up.  He declares that Jesus is indeed his Son, and that he is extremely pleased with him.  Now that's an endorsement!  
    • The Holy Spirit also makes an appearance, further speaking to the radical change that Jesus would bring to the relationship between God and man 
    • Combined with the messages of angels, prophets and John, the stage is fully set for Jesus to start his ministry and to declare the new message about the kingdom of God.  Imagine the anticipation and excitement in the air, that all of these declarations would herald - God's salvation is now HERE!
This chapter summarizes the life of John.  How I wish there were more words and chapters to describe his life, but we can get important glimpses from these passages.  How would I sum up his life? "Preparation for Revolution!"  When you prepare for a trip, you perform mundane tasks to get ready for the big event.  You make the arrangements for where you will go, what you will see.  You review your checklist and priorities, you gather supplies, you pack your bags, you get your affairs in order to be left behind for a while.  There's nothing revolutionary happening yet, just the preparations.  In many ways John's ministry was like this.  He helped his listeners get their affairs in order, sorting through priorities, preparing their field of vision to see what was coming.  When he spoke of repentance, demonstrated through baptism, he was calling the people back to an authentic relationship with God like their ancestors (like king David) had experienced.  One where their hearts were turned toward God, and he was their God, and they were his people.  He prompted them to change on the inside, leading to changes in how they treat others.

By contrast, he informed the religious elite that they were doing the opposite and were hypocritical.  They trusted in their religious pedigree and rituals to point them toward God, while their hearts were not in it.  In fact they cared more about external appearance than loving God or treating others well.  John's criticism of these leaders just reinforces his basic message of repentance.

This was the Preparation. And preparation is not The Trip.  It is the safe and well-known.  It is not the purpose or end in itself.  People knew they were not right with God.  With John's poignant reminder, they repented and turned back toward him.

What about Revolution?  When John talked about Jesus, his eyes lit up.  He spoke with passion about the one who would come.  The one declared by prophets and angels.  The Incarnation.  Christ the Lord.  When Jesus would come, everything would change.  The reason people needed to prepare is that if their hearts were oriented toward God, they would have a Straight Path to seeing God, joining his kingdom, and being a part of the new revolution.  If they continued to believe in pedigree and ritual and their own self-sufficiency, their road toward God would be all mountains and valleys: it would be nearly impossible for them to see God.  They would miss it!

This is the point of Jesus. He is not more of the mundane, offering us a chance to repent and turn toward God.  He is doing something amazing and new that we don't want to miss!  He is taking over the throne of king David and beginning a revolution, and his kingdom will never end!  The key difference?  The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would come, similar to how it came to John himself, and would create a kingdom of people who were more intimately connected to God.

They would experience radical transformation.  Repentance and turning toward God was the preparation.  A radical transformation coming from God's spirit was the revolution!

The incarnation, the collision between heaven and Earth, is heavily emphasized in this passage.  When Jesus as a man comes to be baptized, declaring his intention to turn his heart toward God, God announces his pleasure, proclaims the true origin of Jesus, and sends the Holy Spirit.  The Revolution has begun!

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