10 January 2016

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (v. 22)

Psalm: Psalm 29


Luke's Gospel provides repeated links and parallel stories between John the Baptist and Jesus. John's birth is foretold before that of Jesus (Luke 1:5-24), then John's birth and naming is described before Jesus' in Bethlehem (Luke 1:57-63), and here we have John's ministry being described before Jesus arrives on the scene.

The description of the people listening to John being filled with an expectation that he could be the long hoped for Messiah (verse 15) perhaps explains why the Gospel writer had taken so much time to link the two men. John was clearly a formidable figure and with a significant following. His no nonsense fiery preaching, his willingness to challenge and confront the accepted norms and even his unusual appearance didn't seem to put people off, in fact quite the reverse. People were drawn to this charismatic figure and he carried a degree of authority as a result.

It was therefore important to have John's support and blessing, something the Gospel uses to make a solid foundation for Jesus' own ministry. However it goes further, and makes it clear that Jesus is to be greater than John. Whilst John may use water as the main tool of his trade, for Jesus it will be "the Holy Spirit and fire" (v. 16), and whilst John may receive the assurance of the crowds who come to listen to him and be baptised by him, Jesus receives assurance from the voice of God (verse 22).

The suggestion that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit is a theme that will run through Luke and Acts. Jesus will repeat this promise in Acts 1:5 and it will be seen to be fulfilled for the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), for a group of Samaritans (Acts 8:15-17), for Gentiles (non Jews) in Caesarea (Acts 10:44-48) and even some of John's former disciples who, echoing this reading, had been baptized with water but had not heard about the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7).

To Ponder

  • Jesus became aware of the voice from heaven whilst he was praying, rather than during his Baptism as described in Mark's Gospel (Mark 1:10-11). Is this significant? Why?
  • How can we listen better for God's voice during prayer?
  • What signs have you seen of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of others? And what impact does it have on those around them?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.