The Gospel of Luke ~ Chapter 3:21-38 ~ Unique Aspects of Jesus’ Baptism, the Symbol of a Dove & the Importance of the Lineage of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke

Vol. 18, No. 21 – June 2, 2019

6 2 19 - Eph 3 vs 21-38 - Unique Aspects of Jesus’ Baptism, the Symbol of a Dove - The Importance of the Lineage of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke - The WordThe Gospel of Luke
Chapter 3

Jesus’ Baptism by John, vs. 21-22.

These two verses are one single sentence in Greek. Here, Luke sees Jesus’ baptism as the climax and culmination of John’s ministry of baptism, yet he does not say directly that John baptized Jesus, although it is more than highly likely given the context of this chapter.

Luke 3:21, “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened.”

A better translation of this verse reads: “Now at the time all the people came to be baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and while praying, heaven was opened.”

Luke 3:22, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’.”

Why was Jesus baptized? Neither John nor Jesus saw in Jesus’ baptism an acknowledgment of a need for Jesus to personally repent. John, for his part, recognized his own unworthiness to carry out such a sacred duty, but Jesus said in Mat 3:15, “‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him.” In this statement, the Lord Jesus Christ says that He came into the world to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law. We have broken all those righteous requirements, so Jesus stands in our place not just as our sin bearer but also as our righteousness. All the active and positive obedience we owe God as his creatures, the Lord Jesus provides perfectly, even down to His willingness to be baptized by John for the remission of sins he had not committed.

In addition, as our High Priest, Heb 2:17; 4:14, Jesus consecrated Himself in the likeness of the OT high Priest in fulfillment of the Law, who would ceremonially be purified by washing with water to be consecrated before entering into the special service before God, which in Lev 6:14 was the “scape goat” ceremony. Jesus, prior to entering into His ministry and special service before God, (to bring righteousness to all of mankind through the Cross giving us escape or pardon of our sins and condemnation), underwent the washing of water Baptism by John to be consecrated and prepared. And, just after Jesus’ baptism we see a unique consecration and enabling to perform His special work for God. Likewise, as the Scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness, so too was our Lord immediately following His baptism. As you read Lev 6, you will see many types of our Lord and His ministry before the Father.

Jesus’ baptism is noted in more detail in Mat 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34. Luke’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ sonship manifests itself quite clearly in how his Gospel recounts the story of John’s baptism in contrast to the other Synoptic Gospels.

a. Mark shows how the baptism confirmed Jesus’ Messiahship, already asserted in Mark 1:1, 7, by recording the voice from heaven, Mark 1:11.

b. Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus over John in its exclusive recounting of John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus, Mat 3:14-15.

c. Like John’s Gospel, Luke concentrates on the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, John 1:33. The Holy Spirit inspired each of the four to bring out distinctive aspects of Jesus’ ministry.

Nevertheless, Luke adds a couple of interesting points:

1. Jesus was baptized while others were being baptized. His baptism was like everyone else’s. It shows us that Jesus was numbered amongst the people. He did not have a special or private baptism. He did not have a unique baptism, until it was completed, which too demonstrated the coming baptism of the Church Age believer that is without water. His baptism had many witnesses of the occasion. It was a public baptism to demonstrate His faith in God’s Plan and provision of salvation, even though He would be the provider of that salvation through His Cross. As noted above, Jesus explains to John the reason for His baptism, that He must be baptized because “this is the way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Mat 3:15. Therefore, His water baptism was a foreshadowing of His future Baptism of the Cross, His future suffering on the Cross, Luke 12:50.

As such, Jesus put Himself on the same level as the worst of sinners. He stood in place of the sinner when He allowed Himself to undergo baptism. He represented not only Israel, but all of mankind. He was the substitute for all their sins. The baptism in the Jordan anticipated His death and burial and foreshadowed the agony in the garden and the judgment He bore on the Cross. John apparently realized this as he later described Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” John 1:29. Cf. Luke 22:37; Isa 53:12.

Luke 22:37, “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”

Isa 53:12, “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”

2. Heaven opening up and the descending of the dove, which was a visible manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to the humanity of Jesus Christ, occurred, “while He was praying.” The point here is the importance and power of prayer.

As you know, prayer represents our most intimate time of personal relationship with God. We are not told what Jesus was praying for or about, but we do see He was in a time of intimacy with God the Father. During this time of intimacy God the Father sent His Holy Spirit to indwell the humanity of Jesus Christ to empower and enable Him for His upcoming ministry. This being just prior to our Lord beginning His ministry, which began with His journey into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights, indicates that intimacy with God in our prayers and petitions is vitally necessary. Likewise, when we do enter into intimate prayer, God will answer our prayers, giving us what we need to accomplish His plan for our lives.

Only Luke relates that Jesus was in prayer when the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Luke is showing us Jesus’ common practice before entering into the work and service of God, as this scenario was duplicated by our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to our Lord being entered into the temptations of His trials culminating in the Cross, when He took on the sins of the entire world. Elsewhere, only Luke notes Jesus at prayer before momentous events, e.g., Luke 6:12; 9:18, 29; 11:1. Luke also notes that Jesus prayed when His work upon the Cross was completed, Luke 23:46. Therefore, we see a faithful habit demonstrated by our Lord that we too should follow, especially before entering into a seemingly tasking or tempting situation. If the perfect Son of Man had to pray in order to serve the Father, how much more do we His people need to pray!

In vs. 22, Luke’s emphasis is clearly on the events which immediately followed Jesus’ baptism rather than on the baptism itself. This is seen in the way in which Luke records the fact that Jesus was baptized, using a simple participial clause. The three main clauses, and obviously Luke’s emphases, are:

  1. That heaven was opened.
  2. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.
  3. The voice came from heaven identifying Jesus as God’s Son.

In that moment, we see the Trinity, three distinct persons, (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), each eternally and fully God, interacting with one another. As the Son prayed, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Father affirmed the Christ.

1. “Heaven,” OURANOS, οὐρανός can represent any of the three heavens noted in the Bible: 1st, our atmosphere, 2nd, the stellar universe, 3rd, God’s Throne room. Here, it is God’s throne room piercing through the 2nd and 1st heavens to bring about and show the descent of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling ministry.

The opening of heaven indicated that Divine revelation was about to take place. Nevertheless, it was an answer to Isaiah’s ancient prayer, Isa 64:1, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.” The phrase also commonly refers to an extraordinarily special moment in time when earth and heaven are not separated, Ezek 1:1; John 1:51; Acts 7:56; 10:11; Rev 19:11.

2. The “descent of the Dove,” was the manifestation of the empowerment of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, which enabled Him to launch His ministry,

Luke 4:1, 14, 18, and sustain Him throughout His mission of suffering, as the Suffering Servant, to which He was destined, Isa 53.

3. The Father’s proclamation, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased,” is identical in Mark’s account, but Matthew reads, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew uses the close proximity 3rd Person while Luke and Mark the intimate 2nd person. Most scholars see a direct allusion to Psa 2:7; Isa 42:1. This is the first line in the first of the “Servant Songs” in the book of Isaiah 42.

Isa 42:1, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”

As in the birth narratives, there is at Jesus’ baptism a supernatural attestation. As such, the voice from heaven was once again the declaration of Jesus’ sonship and the Father’s propitiation, which was also affirmed by the bodily descent of the Dove, cf. Psa 2:7.

Psa 2:7, “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’.”

“The voice from heaven clearly reveals a unique relationship between Jesus and God and refers to Jesus’ past as well as present status with God. The voice did not confer upon Jesus a new status, so we should not see here some kind of adoptionist Christology. Rather, the voice confirmed what the readers read already in Luke 1:32–35 and 2:49, i.e., that Jesus was the Son of God before his baptism.” (New American Commentary)

“”You are my Son, whom I love” designates Jesus as the unique Son of God. Present scholarly opinion holds that the concept of divine sonship in Jewish thought was not only applicable to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1) and to the nation of Israel and her kings (Exod 4:22; 2Sam 7:14; Hos 11:1) but was coming into use, at least at Qumran, as a designation for the Messiah (4QFlor 10-14). At the Annunciation Jesus was designated the “Son of the Most High” (1:32). On his sonship and OT passages, see the comments on the Transfiguration (9:35) for a full discussion of the wording common to both passages. Here we may simply observe that the words “love” and “well pleased” convey the idea of choice and special relationship.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

In the thunderous proclamation of God the Father just after Jesus’ Baptism, Jesus’ Messianic mission was announced from heaven, as though it were already completed. The Father, by saying He was “well pleased,” notes the already completed mission of Jesus Christ in His eyes. This demonstrates the eternal nature of God, and His predesigned plan from eternity past.

Well pleased,” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb EUDOKEO, εὐδοκέω that means, “be well pleased, delight in, approve, or consent (from a legal standpoint).”  All of these are in view regarding our Father’s attitude towards Jesus and His work. It means that God the Father was perfectly satisfied in the work His Son has performed and will perform, right through to His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. It shows us the propitiation of God the Father regarding His plan of Salvation for mankind through His Son upon the Cross

God the Father also made this statement about His Son at the Transfiguration in Mat 17:5, which was a type and precursor of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indecently, Luke 9:29, records Jesus praying to the Father just prior to the Transfiguration.

Mat 17:5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’”

Peter also noted the delight of the Father in His Son after Jesus’ actual resurrection in 2 Peter 1:17, which resurrection stamps the completion of God’s Plan for Salvation through Christ’s victory upon the Cross.

2 Peter 1:17, “For when He (Jesus Christ) received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’.”

Therefore, we see the Father being propitiated, “well pleased with His Son,” at the beginning and at the conclusion of His earthly ministry that established Jesus’ Messiahship by winning the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict through His death, resurrection, and ascension. God the Father is well pleased with Jesus because He perfectly performed and completed God’s Plan of Salvation for the entire world. The Baptism announcement sent a thunderous and bone shacking acknowledgement and approval throughout the universe.

In Conclusion:

In vs. 21a, we see Jesus being numbered amongst the people, representing the taking on of the sins of the entire world through His death and burial. In vs. 21b-22a, we see God’s provision of the enabling power the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus could complete God’s plan for our salvation. In vs. 22b, we see the completed plan of God for our salvation demonstrated in the victory of resurrection, which pleased God the Father to no end.

1. When our Lord went down into the Jordan, we see His promise to go to the Cross and die for our sins.

2. When He comes forth from the waters, and the Spirit descended like a dove upon Him, we see our Lord’s victory demonstrated by His resurrection that is given to all who believe. It was through His death, burial, and resurrection that He “fulfilled all righteousness,” Mat 3:15.

3. When we hear God our Father say about Him, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased,” we see the propitiation of God the Father’s Plan of Salvation from eternity past being completed once and for all time in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Next, we will see the reasons and importance of the symbol of the “dove” representing God the Holy Spirit indwelling Jesus after His baptism, as it notes in vs. 22a, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.”

Luke alone added, “in bodily form,” which intensifies the reality of the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus. This tells us that the “dove like,” image was an actual appearance, visible to people who were there at the time of Jesus’ baptism, especially John the Baptist, as proof of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in Jesus. This image was an actual thing, which we call a manifestation; an appearance in visible form of the Holy Spirit.

Like a dove,” is a simile and does not mean that the Spirit actually took the form of a dove to descend upon Jesus. All four Gospels are careful to inform us that it was not an actual dove, but some form that showed the visible manifestation of the indwelling ministry of God the Holy Spirt in the humanity of Jesus Christ.

This is important because some in the early church developed a false doctrine about this account, in that it was the being of the Incarnation of Christ, rather than at His birth, as the Cerinthian Gnostics held. Therefore, God was cautious with His word choice here, so that this would not represent the indwelling of the Deity of the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, into the humanity of Jesus Christ, but rather it was the manifestation of the empowering and enabling ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity, into the humanity of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus should not be confused with the “Baptism with the Spirit” spoken of by John the Baptist, vs. 16, as we have noted above, for the “Baptism with the Spirit” is something Jesus Himself does for the believer, whereas the descent of the Spirit was something that happened to Jesus.

Like Matthew and John, Luke also had the Spirit coming “upon,” EPI, Jesus rather than “into,” EIS, Him, as in Mark 1:10. This is used to draw our attention back to the prophecy of the Spirit coming to Jesus in Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18.

This was the act of the Holy Spirit taking up His residence in the Messiah. The descent of the Spirit “upon” Jesus is also reminiscent of Gen 1:2, when the Spirit hovered over the earth ready to bring forth new life. Jesus’ ministry was given to man through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to bring new spiritual life to all.

2 Cor 3:6, “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Notice in Gen 1:3, the first thing created was light, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Jesus Christ was the “light of the world,” John 8:12; 9:5.

The giving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus was a symbol of Jesus’ anointing with the Spirit for His three-fold ministry of Prophet, Priest, and King. It was the dynamic equipment which would enable the Messiah to discharge the duties connected with these offices, Luke 4:16-19.

Jesus was the Messiah, that means, “the anointed One,” and this demonstrated that to the people; He was the Anointed Messiah. This visible manifestation of anointing was given to show God’s appointing, acceptance, and approval of Jesus and His entrance into His ministry. As does the last phrase of vs. 22, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” The apostle John also indicated that the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus proved to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, John 1:33. So, this indicates that for Luke and the other gospel writers, Jesus’ sonship and anointing go hand in hand, cf. Luke 4:41; 22:67, 70; Acts 9:20, 22.

Now, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus also expresses the reality of the Spirit’s equipping, empowering, and enabling of Jesus for His ministry. Before Jesus began His ministry, He was anointed by the Spirit. The importance of this for Luke is evident from Luke 4:1, 14 and especially vv. 18–21; cf. also Acts 4:26–27; 10:37–38. Therefore, Jesus was “anointed” for His ministry as the “Anointed-Messiah-Christ.” There is a clear allusion here to Isa 61:1, as noted above, which Luke would develop in Luke 4:18–19, cf. Acts 10:38.

As Jesus received this Divine enablement for His ministry, the disciples would also be equipped in the future, Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–8, just as all Church Age believers are.

In the NT, “Dove,” is the Noun PERISTERA περιστερά, “dove or pigeon,” that is used for this narrative in all four gospels, Mat 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32, and for doves to be used as sacrifices in the Temple when our Lord over turned the money changing tables, Mat 10:16; 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14, 16, and for the sacrifice of Joseph and Mary’s purification and Jesus’ dedication at the Temple, Luke 2:24.

Because of the fact that outside of the Baptism of Jesus narrative, the “dove” is only used in the NT regarding the sacrificial animal, we see that symbolism in this narrative as well. In other words, the dove represents the preparation of the true sacrifice for our sins, our Lord Jesus Christ. We also see this usage in the OT as the “dove,” was a sacrificial animal, especially of the poor people, as we will note below. Therefore, in the NT, “dove” is only used for sacrificial animals for the poor, and in the narrative of Jesus’ baptism that concludes with the descending of the Holy Spirit who appears like a dove.

In the OT, we have several additional symbols that are relevant to Jesus’ Baptism narrative. In the OT, “Dove” is the Hebrew Noun YONAH, יוֹנָה and is translated “dove, pigeon, or turtledove.”

Both “dove” and YONAH are first mentioned or used in the OT, in the Bible, in Gen 8, the flood narrative. Here we see Noah sending out a dove to see if the land had yet dried up. In this narrative, the Dove comes back with an olive leaf or branch. The emphasis here is on the “resting place,” of vs. 9, which the dove finally brought evidence to Noah in the form of the olive leaf. So, here the dove is an analogy of refuge and rest, which our Lord would provide through His sacrifice, while sustained by the Holy Spirit.

Peter, later linked the flood with baptism; therefore, we connect the use of the dove and the ark, and the Dove and Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:19-22. In that, we also see the branch the flood dove returned with, as Jesus Christ, the Branch, is also symbolized, Zech 3:8; 6:12. Therefore, though some cultures view doves as a symbol of death and evil, the Bible uses the dove to symbolize sacrifice, rest, peace, gentleness, and virtue. L.S. Chafer noted C.H. Mackintosh’s note on this.

“As for the character of a dove, C. H. Mackintosh in his Notes on Genesis writes of the dove which Noah released from the ark: “And it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: and he sent forth a raven, which went forth, to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” The unclean bird made its escape, and found, no doubt, a resting-place on some floating carcass. It sought not the ark again. Not so the dove,—”She found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark … and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark: and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf, plucked off.” Sweet emblem of the renewed mind, which, amid the surrounding desolation, seeks and finds its rest and portion in Christ; and not only so, but also lays hold of the earnest of the inheritance, and furnishes the blessed proof that judgment has passed away, and that a renewed earth is coming fully into view. The carnal mind, on the contrary, can rest in anything and everything but Christ. It can feed upon all uncleanness. “The olive leaf” has no attraction for it. It can find all it needs in a scene of death, and hence is not occupied with the thought of a new world and its glories; but the heart that is taught and exercised by the Spirit of God, can only rest and rejoice in that in which He rests and rejoices. It rests in the Ark of His salvation “until the times of the restitution of all things.” May it be thus with you and me, beloved reader,—may Jesus be the abiding rest and portion of our hearts, that so we may not seek them in a world which is under the judgment of God. The dove went back to Noah, and waited for his time of rest: and we should ever find our place with Christ, until the time of His exaltation and glory in the ages to come. “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” All we want, as to this, is a little patience. May God direct our hearts into His love, and into “the patience of Christ.”—4th ed., pp. 104-5.” (Chafer’s Systematic Theology – Systematic Theology – Volume 6)

We can compare this analogy with others OT passages that link the “dove” with “rest,” Psa 55:6; 68:13; Jer 48:28; Hosea 11:11.

This rest comes from the sacrificial analogy of the Dove in the OT, Lev 1:14; 5:7, 11; 12:6, 8; 14:22, 30; 15:14, 29; Num 6:10. As we have noted in the NT application, the “dove” was used as the sacrifice for the poor for purification after giving birth, the dedication of the newborn, (which we noted above regarding Joseph, Mary, and Jesus), and for those under the Nazirite vow, if they touched a dead body.

Being the sacrifice of the poor, it was most likely abused by those who were trying to keep their finances for their own pleasures, rather than offerings for God. It speaks of the abuse of the cosmic Christian who is grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit. As noted in the temple cleansing incidents of Jesus, the dove was certainly being abused by the sellers, Mark 11:15; Mat 21:12; John 2:14, 16, which Jesus would bring about cleansing thereto.

Other OT allusions to the “Dove” include the beauty and wonder of the Holy Spirit’s words that strengthen and empower us, cf. Song of Solomon 2:12, 14; 5:2; 6:9.

And for those who reject God, be it Israel or Gentiles, the Dove is used to indicate the suffering or insufficiency man has without the true dove in their life, plus the exhortation to return to the true Dove or sacrifice, Isa 38:14; 59:11; 60:8; Jer 48:28; Ezek 7:16; Hosea 7:11; 11:11; Nahum 2:7, as the Dove is used in analogy because of its mournful and sorrowful cooing.

Therefore, when we understand “the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove,” we see the anointing of the Messiah by God the Father; the enabling and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit to sustain Jesus throughout His ministry, including the Cross and Resurrection; and the rest and refuge we find in Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the poor sinner who accepts Him as their Savior.

H. The Genealogy of the Son of Man, Luke 3:23-38.
       1. Jesus’ genealogy through His mother Mary’s family tree.

We have heard the testimony of John and the testimony of God the Father. Now, in vs. 23-38, we come to the testimony of the genealogy. The genealogy is the evidence proving that only Jesus is the Christ.

What is the purpose of the genealogy in Israel? Scattered throughout the OT, e.g., Gen 4; 5; 10; 1 Chron 1-9, are various tracings of family trees and relationships. Genealogies have a three-fold purpose:

1. They proved who was Jewish and who was not. Such proof of Jewish ancestry was important because God’s covenants were made with Israel. The promise of a Deliverer was a promise made to Israel, and He would come from Israel, Deut 18:15, 18.

2. The genealogies proved who could or could not serve as priests. Only Levites could serve before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple. When Israel left captivity and exile during the days of Nehemiah, they turned almost immediately to the genealogies to register the people returning from exile. Neh 7:64, tells us there were some who sought to be registered but were not found in the genealogies, “so they were disqualified from the priesthood.” The entire priesthood prefigured the coming Savior who would be the Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:1, 5, 10; 6:20; 7:1; 8:1, etc.

3. The genealogies proved who was or was not a “son of David.” They are needed to fulfill the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7, when God promised to establish David’s throne forever. In other words, David’s son would be ruler over Israel and the Messiah. But not just any son or descendant of David could fill that role. The genealogy had to prove that anyone claiming to be Messiah was not descended from David through Jeconiah, Jer 22:24-30; 36:30-31. God declared that no one from Jeconiah’s house would sit on David’s throne. This is called the “Coniah curse.” So, the lineage of the Messiah could not come through Jeconiah.

Only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, record the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Matthew began his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. In vs. 1, Chapter 1, he states that Jesus was the son of David and Abraham to prove His royal lineage and Jewish heritage. Matthew associated Jesus with Abraham who was the father of the Jews and of their faith, and with David whose descendants had the right to the Jewish throne. Matthew’s original audience was Jewish; as such he wanted to show Jesus’ origins in the fulfillment of prophecy. In His Gospel, he frequently presents Jesus as the King of the Jews. Therefore, Matthew’s genealogy emphasizes this view.

Matthew also used the lineage of Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph and begins his lineage account with Abraham and ends with Joseph’s father Jacob. Matthew then names Joseph and Jesus, vs. 16, “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”

Luke, on the other hand, gives the lineage through the line of Jesus’ mother Mary. He begins with Joseph, and then gives Mary’s father next, Eli or Heli. In the Jewish Talmud, written just a few years after the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are told that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary of Bethlehem, the daughter of Heli. That clears the mystery for us here. Luke then runs the lineage up through Eli’s line all the way to Adam, “the son of God,” vs. 38. As we stated in our outline of the book, Luke is showing that Jesus is the Son of Man. As such, he runs the lineage all the way through to Adam, the first man.

As a son of Adam, Jesus was qualified to redeem the sons of Adam, which means the entire human race. This is necessary because according to the Law, a redeemer had to be related to the ones in need of redemption, Lev 25:25, 47-49; cf. Ruth 4:4-6; Jer 32:6-12, (i.e., the kinsman redeemer). Furthermore, a redeemer could not be in need of redemption himself. Jesus, our sinless Kinsman, paid the price of our redemption, 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18-19. Yet, He was more than a mere human. Jesus is wholly God and wholly man in hypostatic union. Therefore, Luke’s universalistic perspective is seen here. Jesus is the fulfillment not just of Jewish hopes but of the hopes of all people, both Jew and Gentile. For out of Adam the whole human family has come, cf. Acts 17:26, and Jesus is the son of Adam.

In addition, Adam was a type of Jesus in that he did not have a human father, for the one who gave him life was God himself. Similarly God through His Spirit was the creative power who gave life to His Son, Jesus.

Nevertheless, Luke also shows that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham, and the son of God, showing His royal lineage, His Jewish heritage, and His Divine sonship, as His lineage ends with God the Father. As such, the occupant of the throne of David filled the office of son of God by serving as the king. In Psalm 2, especially vs. 7, 12, the king was considered begotten by God on his coronation day. This was a common concept among ancient Near Eastern civilizations, as the king filled the office of sonship which meant that the king acted with the full powers and blessing of the god, provided the king properly honored him.

Luke affirms this royal concept of Jesus’ sonship in Luke 3:22; 9:35; 19:38. However, the very beginning of his Gospel goes beyond this traditional meaning of “Son of God” and makes it clear that Jesus’ very nature is from God, cf. Luke 1:35. Keep in mind that John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ relationship with God the Father existed before His coming to earth at Bethlehem, John 1:1-3; 8:58; 17:5. As such, Jesus’ Sonship was and is eternal.

By ending with “son of God,” Luke may also be trying to dispose of the heathen myths about the origin of man and to show that God is the Creator of the whole human race, Father of all men in that sense. No mere animal origin of man is in harmony with this conception.

Further, by presenting the genealogy between the baptism of Jesus and the temptation of Jesus, rather than at the beginning of the Gospel as Matthew does, Luke’s Gospel affirms that Jesus is the Son of God several times in succession, Luke 3:22, 38; 4:3ff., 9ff. There is OT precedent for this positioning in Moses’ genealogy, Ex 6:14-25, which is not recorded at the beginning of his life, but just before he started his ministry. Therefore, Luke looks at the human and Divine nature of Jesus.

“It was natural for Matthew, writing for Jews, to give the legal genealogy through Joseph, though he took pains to show in Matthew 1:16, 18-25 that Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus. It was equally natural for Luke, a Greek himself and writing for the whole world, to give the actual genealogy of Jesus through Mary.” (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament.)

Also of interest is that Matthew employs the word “begat” or “was born,” GENNAO, cf. Luke 1:13; 57, each time when referring to fathers bearing sons, while Luke only uses the article TOU, (HO) and does not repeat HUIOS, “son,” except before Joseph. Yet, for understanding purposes, the translators added “son” to Luke’s lineage. In addition, neither Matthew nor Luke give us a complete genealogy. Sometimes they would skip generations.

Other major differences are:

1. Matthew works forward in time while Luke works backward.

2. The number of names differs, Luke’s list being longer, e.g., Matthew has 41 names from Jesus to Abraham while Luke has 57. Also 38 names are different from David to Jesus, and Luke lists 60 names not found in Matthew.

3. As notes above, Matthew follows the dynastic descent, while Luke traces a more genetic descent. Either concept of “sonship” is acceptable to the ancient Near Eastern mind.

4. Many of the names in the lists are not identical. For example, in Matthew, the Davidic lineage emerges from Solomon and Rehoboam, while in Luke, the line goes through David’s other son Nathan and his son Mattatha.

5. Matthew includes Jeconiah, while Luke does not. Also noted above, this is because of the “Coniah curse,” in Jer 22:24-30; 36:30-31, where God states Jehoiakim would not have a son to sit on the throne. Luke’s lineage rightly places Jesus on the throne of David excluding the line of Jeconiah.

6. Jewish genealogies were constructed primarily to demonstrate the family’s Jewish origins and not necessarily to give an exhaustive accounting of every ancient relative. Yet, it is interesting that Matthew’s genealogy is arithmetically symmetrical between the three major divisions of fourteen in his list, Mat 1:17. Luke has no particular rhythm other than that noted below.

7. Matthew mentions four women in his genealogy, Luke does not mention any women, but the entire line is through Mary.

Now, before Luke gives us the lineage, he makes two statements about our Lord.

Vs. 23

Luke 3:23, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli.”

1. The first statement is that Jesus begins His ministry. Luke makes this statement post Jesus’ baptism and receiving the descending of the Holy Spirit. Matthew states Jesus “began,” ARCHO, ἄρχω, “rule, begin, or reign,” post the wilderness and three temptations by Satan, Mat 4:17. Luke says Jesus “began” His ministry before the wilderness encounter. Notice the potential play on the word ARCHO that also means rule or reign. This begins His rulership as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

2. The second statement is an approximation of Jesus’ age, “about thirty years of age,” HOSEI TRIAKONTA ETOS. Interestingly, the word “ministry” is not in the Greek, therefore, some translate this passage, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age.” This speaks to the entrance into His age, and then the narrative goes on to speak of His ministry. But this is an improbable translation given the word use and context. It better refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

The age of Jesus is important because the Lord had reached the traditional age of maturity; cf. Num 4, when a man attained, “fullness of strength.” In addition, we see the Levite priests entered upon full service at that age, Num 4:3, 23, 30, and in order for Jesus to be our High Priest, He needed to wait until that age to fulfill the Law. Also, we see some allusions to kingship in comparison to David and Joseph, 2 Sam 5:4; Gen 41:46, starting their rulership at the age of 30.

Luke then begins the lineage by stating in essence that people thought, believed, or “supposed,” NOMIZO, νομίζω, cf. Luke 2:44, Jesus was Joseph’s son. We know that Jesus was not his blood related son, but was his adoptive son.

Next, Luke states the father of Joseph as ELI, who is actually Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law. Luke does not use HUIOS or “son” here, but only the article TOU that Luke uses going forward to represent sonship in the generations.

Eli in the Greek is HELI, ῾Ηλί, that means, “ascending or climbing.” An interesting play on words, as the lineage of Jesus goes up from here. Heli is only used here in the NT.

Vs. 24-38

Here, we have Luke’s genealogy. The genealogy contains 77 ancestors. Of those, 36 are unknown in the OT. Many of the others are note in Gen 5:1-32; 11:10-26; 1 Chron 1-3. The exact arrangement of generations, in contrast to Matthew, is uncertain. The intended pattern may be:

  1. Jesus to exile, (3 x 7 generations).
  2. Exile to David, (3 x 7 generations).
  3. David to Abraham, (2 x 7 generations).
  4. Abraham to Adam, son of God, (3 x 7 generations).

Like Matthew’s, we see multiples of 7, i.e., Spiritual perfection.

Luke writes to show that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God and that His claim is fulfilled through His mother, Mary. This helps make sense of Gen 3:15 and Isa 7:14, where we read that the offspring of the woman will “strike the serpent’s head,” and “the virgin will conceive and have a son.” Luke’s genealogy shows that Jesus fulfills all the criteria necessary for being Messiah. His claim is legitimate. The genealogy makes His claim a matter of public record.

Since 70 A.D., no one else can establish their descent from David.  That is because in 70 A.D., the Roman army destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. They conquered and

scattered Israel into captivity. The records of the genealogies and lines of descent were destroyed. Only here in the Gospel of Luke, in the genealogy of Chapter 3, do we receive the definitive evidence that the Messiah, the anointed one of God, is none other than Jesus Christ.

So, we see that the overall intention of Luke’s list is clear. He wants to show Jesus’ connection to David, to Abraham, to Adam, and to God. Each connection allows a point to be made about who Jesus is and whom He is qualified to serve.

1. The connection to David establishes His rights as regal heir; Jesus can be King of Israel. “Son of God,” in this sense involves the right to rule as the Promised One, the Son of David, Luke 1:31-35; cf. 2 Sam 7:6-16. And remember, the promised King of Israel is also the head of the human race. God’s promise to Israel becomes the Church Age believers’ promise in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile.

2. The connection to Abraham links Jesus to the national promise and hope.

3. The connection to Adam allows Luke to argue that Jesus represents all humanity.

4. The connection to God the Father shows that Jesus is the Son of God while also being the Son of Man.

So in Jesus, God has carefully designed affairs so that as Son He can realize both the hope of the OT and the hope of creation.

We also see in this list, that there are some who walked closely with God and some whose walk was uneven. In a sense, Jesus represents them all, much as He does us. In other words, Jesus represents both the sinners and the saints. In the list, is also a variety of humanity. Some of the people are well-known OT people who made a great mark; others are known to us only in this listing. Jesus represents both the well-known and the unknown of the world; i.e., the small and the great.

It is important to appreciate the uniqueness of this list. We all have genealogies, but none of them qualifies us to be God’s chosen Son. We receive our role in God’s family through Him. In a sense, the only genealogy that counts for us is the one that connects us to Jesus, for His work makes our biological roots less relevant. He makes His children out of Jews and Gentiles, males and females, Gal 3:29.

Finally, “Luke reveals Jesus Christ as the Son of Man and the Savior of the world. His line does not stop with Abraham, but goes all the way back to Adam who was the first “son” of God — the created son of God. But he fell from that lofty position when he sinned. Jesus Christ, the last Adam and the Son of God, is come to bring mankind back into that relationship with God which Adam formerly had and lost. This relationship is accomplished through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee).

Therefore, in proof of Jesus as our Savior, Luke / God provides us with this lineage.

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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:

#19-054 & 19-055 & 19-056 & 19-057

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If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.

Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.

So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:

“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”

If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!

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