In the first 20 verses we have a birds-eye view of the life of John the Baptist.
In the first six verses the beginning of his ministry is mentioned.
The nation was in a mess politically and religiously.
Politically, Israel was strangled by having one emperor, one governor, and three tetrarchs to hold them in subjugation.
Religiously, it was absolute chaos because they had two high priests.
At this time the Word of God came upon John. “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” At this time of religious apostasy, he was the only man to whom God could entrust His message for that generation. Desert: Moses, David, Elijah, the Lord.
On receiving this message from God, he immediately traveled to the area around Jordan. There he called on the nation to repent of its sins, and to show their repentance by being baptized. His ministry was the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. By his ministry John was seeking to prepare the nation for the coming of the Messiah.
John’s ministry was effective - many responded. To the insincere he said that they were “vipers.” Verse 7. They were pretenders, in that they had shown no repentance. Though they claimed to be of the seed of Abraham, yet they stood condemned. Note John’s stinging words; Generation of vipers - wrath to come – axe - hewn down - cast into the fire.
Stung with conviction the people asked for practical suggestions of how to demonstrate the reality of their repentance. Note the three suggestions.
1. Verse 11. Love your neighbor - share your food and clothing with him.
2. Verses 12-13. To the tax gatherers he said be strictly honest in all your dealings.
3. Verses 14. To the soldiers on active duty he said, avoid three sins which were common to military men. Extortion – slander - discontent.
From Verses 15 to 17 John exalts the Messiah. He says, “I am not worthy to untie His shoelace. My baptism is by water—outward—physical.” Christ’s baptism would be “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Christ’s ministry was two-fold.
1. He would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit. Pentecost.
2. He would baptize with fire a symbol of judgment.
In Verse 17, Christ is depicted as a winnower of grain. The wheat He gathers into His granary. The chaff is gathered and then burned.
Verses 18-20. John is imprisoned by Herod. John’s imprisonment took place about 18 months later. John had reproved Herod for living in an adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife.
The Baptism of Jesus. Verses 21-22.
Luke now turns our attention from John to Jesus. At this point the Lord Jesus moves out into His public ministry. The first incident recorded is His baptism. There are several interesting points in this account of His baptism.
First, there is the revelation of the Triune God.
Second, Luke alone records that Jesus prayed at His baptism. This is in accord with one of the dominant themes of Luke’s Gospel.
1. He prayed here at the outset of His public ministry. - Chapter 3:21.
2. Approaching the peak of His ministry, when the crowds were following Him, He prayed. - Chapter 5:16.
3. He spent a whole night in prayer before He chose His disciples. - Chapter 6:12.
4. He prayed alone, prior to Peter’s confession. - Chapter 9:18.
5. He prayed on the mount of Transfiguration. - Chapter 9:28.
6. He prayed in the presence of His disciples. - Chapter 11:1.
7. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. - Chapter 22:41,44.
Thirdly, Jesus’ baptism was one of three times when God spoke from heaven, and commended the Lord for His ministry. The other two times were The Mount of Transfiguration, Luke 9:35; and when the Greeks came to see Jesus, John 12:20-28.
The rest of Chapter three is taken up with the genealogy of Jesus traced through Mary. On the other hand Matthew traces Christ’s genealogy through Joseph.
Notice the phrase in Verse 23. “And Jesus began to be about thirty years of age.” This denotes maturity.
Gen 41:46 “Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh.”
2 Sam 5:4 “David was thirty years old when he began to reign.”
Emphasize the importance of waiting—learning—training—maturing.