Advent According to Luke (02) - The Advent of John the Baptist
Luke 3:1–6 - Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. 5 ‘EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; 6 AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.’”
The Lord Prepared the World Historically (v1-2) - Our faith is not a fairytale. It happened in history and Christian faith depends on factual history, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea.” Tiberius was Roman emperor from 14-37 (A.D., anno Domini) which makes this about 28 A.D. Providentially, God prepared the world by a) the political influence of Greek, then Roman civilization: a) Through the cultural and intellectual influence of the Greeks, including philosophical thought and especially a universal language. b) The pax Romana, enforced by the Roman army, as well as the Roman road system. c) Through the religious influence of the Jews: monotheism, Messianic hope, ethics, Scripture (LXX), a linear view of history, and synagogue worship. John the Baptist arises as part of that preparation, son of a priest, and going out to Israel to preach a renewal.
Empires: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome; Charlemagne Holy Roman Empire, Faux Empires - Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (1200’s AD), Spanish and Portuguese Empire in the late Renaissance, then the British Empire which won out in our part of the world, hence English; Sun never set on it in the 19th Century. The Germans attempted an empire (DENIED); the Japanese attempted this beginning in 1868 with the Meiji restoration until 1947 (DENIED). But now who has has risen on the stage of history to become an Empire? Who has tried to meddle in all the world’s affairs; who has become the judge and jury of other nations . . . unfortunately the USA.
The Lord Prepared Israel Prophetically (vv4-6) - Throughout the Old Covenant saga of Israel we find promises of God’s coming of Messiah. As in this text, Isaiah and many prophets promised both the judgment and salvation.
Isaiah 40:2–6 - A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4 “Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A highway for the returning exiles, implying perhaps that it would traverse the desert. This is how powerful Eastern kings did it. When they traveled they sent armies and engineers ahead to clear the way. Israel was to cling to the promises that the way would be “leveled” before them, as well. They would turn from their alienation from and rebellion against God. God would flatten out the barriers (bringing mountains down and raising valleys) to His presence. God removed the temple mountain, earthly Jerusalem and raised the standing of the lowly followers of Jesus. In this set of events, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” God’s salvation would become known to the world through Christ.
God often must clear the way in our lives so that we can experience Christ revealed. He will certainly do this ultimately on the Last Day, but perhaps He has done this in your life. Conversion, renewal, rededication, Epiphany, reset … The Lord does this.
The Lord Prepared His People Spiritually (v3) - The Word came to John in the wilderness (outside of Jerusalem’s temple-system). For those who were spiritually prepared, he preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” The people needed to recognize the corruption of their temple. John led a remnant Israel “beyond the Jordan” in “a symbolic exodus from Jerusalem and Judea” (Colin Brown). John likely stood in the Jordan with a hyssop branch ritually sprinkling the crowds traversing the Jordan to enter the land as a renewed Israel. By this they could know true forgiveness. Apart
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more