Epiphany According to Luke (05) - The Proclamation of John
Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20 Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. 21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 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.” Luke 3:15–22
The Gospel text today highlights the first Sunday of Epiphany season which addresses Christ’s baptism. Luke, in a very literary manner weaves several themes together in this pericope. Namely, he addresses the role of John vs the role of Jesus, the coming eschatological judgment, the wickedness of Herod(s), as well as Jesus baptism with the Holy Spirit’s descent on Him and the voice of the Father. Each of these aspects will unfold as we continue to read through Luke-Acts.
As vs. 15 shows, John’s ministry had created an expectation. Would he be the promised deliverer? In only a few months all of Judea, Jerusalem, and the district around the Jordan (Mt. 3:5) had gone out to him. There was clearly a stirring of the Spirit. He proclaimed coming judgment, obedience to the Law (in the previous passage), as well as a message about the coming Messiah. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” We learn that John had stopped preaching and “gone to meddling” in the life of Herod Antipas. He lusted after Herodias, the wife of his brother who happened to be the daughter of Antipas’ half-brother Aristobulus, who had been married to another half-brother. Herod put away his wife for her, violating Lev. 18:16 and 21:21 and about 20 other texts. Luke indicates there was more: “all the wicked things” that Antipas had done.
Luke wants us to have all these things in mind as the setting of Jesus baptism. Finally, Luke explains that the baptism was attended by heaven being opened and the Spirit descending bodily on Jesus in the form of a dove. Even more, a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” This is an extraordinary Trinitarian epiphany. The Son is being baptized and identifying with renewed Israel; the Spirit descends upon Him, and the voice of the Father speaks the word of confirmation. All three persons of the Trinity act in the ministry of Jesus and all three are present in the baptism.
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