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John the Baptizer

1–2 A powerful message from God came to John, Zechariah’s son, when he was living out in the lonely wilderness.[a] This prophetic commission came to John during the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, son of Caesar. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea at that time. Antipas, son of Herod, was governor over Galilee, Herod’s brother Philip was over the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was over Abilene.[b] This happened during the days of two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas.[c]

John went preaching and baptizing throughout the Jordan Valley. He persuaded people to turn away from their sins and turn to God[d] for the freedom of forgiveness,[e] fulfilling what was written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“Listen! You will hear a thunderous voice in the lonely wilderness telling you to wake up and get your heart ready for the coming of the Lord Yahweh.[f] Make straight every twisted thing in your lives. 5–6 Bring into the light every dark way. Make right every wrong. Remove injustice. Every heart of pride will humbly bow before him. Every deception will be exposed and replaced by the truth to prepare everyone everywhere to see the Life of God!”[g][h]

John kept preaching to the many crowds who came out to be baptized, “You are nothing but the offspring of venomous snakes, full of deception! Who warned you to repent before the coming wrath of God? Then turn away from your sins, turn to God, and let your changed life be proof. Don’t think for a moment that it’s enough to simply be the favored descendants of Abraham. That’s not enough to save you.[i] I’m telling you, God could make more sons of Abraham out of stones if he chose to!

“Even now God’s axe of judgment is poised to chop down your barren tree right down to its roots! And every tree that does not produce good fruit will be leveled and thrown into the fire.”

10 The crowd kept asking him, “What then are we supposed to do?”

11 John told them, “Give food to the hungry, clothe the poor, and bless the needy.”[j]

12 Even the despised tax collectors came to John to be baptized, and they asked him, “What are we to do to prove our hearts have changed?”

13 “Be honest,” he replied. “Don’t demand more taxes than what the law requires.”[k]

14 “And us?” asked some soldiers.[l] “What about us?”

John answered them, “Be content with what you earn. Never extort money or terrify others by threats of violence or be guilty of accusing the innocent.”

15 During those days, everyone was gripped with messianic expectations, believing the Messiah could come at any moment, and many began to wonder if John might be the Christ.

16 But John made it clear by telling them, “There is one coming who is mightier than I. He is supreme.[m] In fact, I’m not worthy of even being his slave.[n] I can only baptize you in this river, but he will baptize you into the Spirit of holiness and into his raging fire.[o] 17 He has in his hands a winnowing fork to clean up his threshing floor![p] He will separate the wheat from the chaff. The wheat he will gather into his barn, but he will burn the chaff in a fire that no one can ever put out!”

18 John used many similar warnings as he preached the good news and prepared[q] the people. 19 He even publicly rebuked Antipas, son of Herod, the governor of Galilee, for the many wicked things he had done. He fearlessly reprimanded him for seducing and marrying his sister-in-law, Herodias.

20 Adding to his many other sins, Herod had John seized and locked up in prison.

The Baptism of Jesus

21–22 One day, Jesus came to be baptized[r] along with all the others. As he was consumed with the spirit of prayer,[s] the heavenly realm ripped open above him and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove[t] and landed on him. Then God’s audible voice was heard, saying, “My Son, you are my beloved one.[u] Through you I am fulfilled.”[v]

The Ancestry of Jesus Christ

23–38 Jesus, whom everyone assumed to be Joseph’s son, was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.[w] Here are the names of Mary’s[x] ancestors, traced from her father all the way back to Adam:

Eli,[y] Matthat, Levi, Melki, Jannai, Joseph, Mattathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai, Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josech, Joda, Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri, Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmadam, Er, Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi, Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahshon, Amminadab, Admin, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Kenan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth, and Adam, the son of God.


  1. 3:1–2 Some believe that John may have been a member of the Qumran community of Jewish Essenes, who lived in the wilderness because they viewed the Jewish religious system as corrupt.
  2. 3:1–2 Abilene was a region west of Ituraea.
  3. 3:1–2 As the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the prophet John was a hinge of human history who forever changed the world. Luke carefully dates this event by giving us six markers. Historians have dated the reign of Tiberius Caesar as beginning in AD 14. The fifteenth year of his reign would be AD 28–29. Regarding Annas and Caiaphas, never in Jewish history had there been two high priests. The priesthood was corrupt. Even though Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law, was the high priest, Annas remained the real authoritative leader behind the scenes (John 18:13; Acts 4:6).
  4. 3:3 The two concepts—“turning from sin” and “turning to God for freedom”—form the definition of repentance. The Aramaic word has the concept of returning to God, to unite with Unity.
  5. 3:3 John’s message was revolutionary, for the religion of the day taught that forgiveness could only be found by annually offering sacrifices in the temple (Heb. 10:1–4). John, an Essene, told the people that forgiveness of sin was a heart issue, not gained by an animal sacrifice offered in the corrupt religious system of the day. Repentance, which breaks open the heart, is more important than gaining forgiveness by religious acts.
  6. 3:4 Translated from the Aramaic.
  7. 3:5–6 The Greek text, quoting from Isa. 40:3–5, is literally translated “Wake up and make lines for the Lord, make his side alleys straight. Every ravine will be filled, every mountain and hill shall be leveled, the crooked straightened, rough ways smoothed, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Every honest scholar recognizes this as more than a road construction project, implying a spiritual renewal in hearts.
  8. 3:5–6 Translated from the Aramaic. The Aramaic word translated “life” often refers to salvation.
  9. 3:8 God values reformation over ritual. John’s ministry was to prepare people for the appearing of Jesus Christ through repentance and baptism. Repentance breaks open the heart and changes our attitudes toward God. Baptism was a burial of those who repented, preparing them for the germination of Christ coming to live within by the new birth.
  10. 3:11 The Greek text is literally “The one with two tunics is to share with him who has none, and he who has food is to do likewise.”
  11. 3:13 True repentance is tied to actions, a change of heart and deeds, not just words.
  12. 3:14 The soldiers were likely temple police.
  13. 3:16 The word translated “supreme” is found only in the Aramaic text. John was a true prophet who pointed others to the Supreme One.
  14. 3:16 Or “loose his sandal strap,” which only a slave would do.
  15. 3:16 The Aramaic text reads “He will baptize you into the Spirit of the Holy One and in light.” A baptism of light or fire would cleanse and change a life, giving new power to live for God and deal with every issue that hinders love and passion from burning in our hearts. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that all believers need today.
  16. 3:17 The text is literally “in his hand is a winnowing fork.” This was a small pitchfork used to separate the chaff from the grain.
  17. 3:18 Translated from the Aramaic text.
  18. 3:21–22 Jesus identified with sinners, even at his baptism. Although he had no sin, he chose to become one with sinners and was washed by John as a preview of what would happen when he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and was judged for our sins at the cross.
  19. 3:21–22 We read about Jesus praying eight times in Luke’s Gospel. (1) At his baptism Jesus prayed and the heavens were opened, revealing his sonship. Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen him for his wilderness temptations (3:21–22). (2) Jesus prayed in solitude, and miracles broke loose in his ministry (5:16–17). (3) Jesus prayed all night before he chose his twelve companions (6:12–16). (4) Jesus prayed for his apostles to receive the full revelation of who he is (9:18–22). (5) When Jesus was about to be glorified in splendor on the mountain, he prayed, and his face glowed with a flashing light (9:28–29). (6) Jesus prayed that he would be an example to every one of his disciples (11:1). (7) Jesus prayed for Peter’s restoration and future ministry (22:31–32). (8) Jesus prayed in Gethsemane for strength and glory as the terrors of Calvary lay before him (22:41–46).
  20. 3:21–22 What a beautiful picture: a dove resting on a lamb! To have the power of the Spirit (dove), we need to have the nature of the Lamb (Jesus). Although Jesus had the Holy Spirit from his birth, at his baptism he received the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his ministry. God gives more and more of his Spirit to those who love him and obey him.
  21. 3:21–22 The heavenly voice confirms the identity of Jesus as Messiah. God quoted Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1, both of which are considered as speaking of the Christ. God publicly stated that Jesus was the long-awaited and much-loved Son, the Christ. The Trinity is clearly seen in this passage: Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.
  22. 3:21–22 As translated from the Aramaic text. The Greek text states, “in whom I am greatly pleased.” When the presence of the Holy Spirit came upon the Son of God, those around him heard the voice of the Father. We see from this a picture of the triune God, three in one. The Trinity is clearly seen in this passage: Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.
  23. 3:23–38 Old Testament priests could not begin their ministry until they were thirty years old. The number thirty is the biblical number of maturity. Both Joseph and David were promoted to the place of honor when they were thirty.
  24. 3:23–38 Matthew gives us the genealogy of Jesus from Joseph’s family, while some suggest Luke’s genealogy is from Mary’s side. Luke is the only Gospel writer who gives much attention to women. Neither Matthew nor Luke gives a complete genealogy.
  25. 3:23–38 Matthew identifies Joseph’s father as Jacob (Matt. 1:16), while Luke says he was Eli’s (Heli’s) son (Luke 3:23). The ancient world often referred to a man’s sons-in-law as sons. Thus it is possible that Eli was Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law.

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