Luke 3:1-13

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

June 21, 2000

:1-6  John’s ministry begins

:1  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar

Tiberius Caesar was the adopted son of Augustus Caesar (2:1) and reigned from AD 14 to AD 37, making this the year AD 29.

Luke is trying to nail down the time when John the Baptist began his public ministry.

:1 Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea

Pilate was the Roman prefect, or governor, of Judea.  He was appointed by Tiberius in AD 26. He was in charge of the army of occupation, kept the taxes flowing to Rome, had power of life and death over his subjects, appointed the high priests, and decided cases involving capital punishment.

:1 Herod being tetrarch of Galilee

This is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great (Mat. 2:1).  He ruled from Tiberius over Galilee from 4 BC to AD 37.

tetrarch – ruler of one-quarter of a Roman province.

:1 his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis

Philip was another son of Herod the Great.  He ruled from 4 BC to AD 34.  He was married to Herodias’ daughter, Salome.  This was actually Herod Philip II, and he had a brother Herod Philip I who was married to Herodias, who was his own niece. Herod Philip built the city of Caesarea Philippi.

The family of the Herods were a strange bunch, marrying each other within the family.  Reminds me of that old Hillbilly song, “I am my own grandpa …”

Iturea was an area NE of Galilee, on the other side of the Jordan river.

:1 Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

Abilene was a small kingdom on the E slope of the Lebanon mountains, NE of Damascus.

:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,

Annas was the high priest from AD 6-15, and father-in-law to Caiphas, and still carried some weight.  He was deposed by the Romans and replaced by Caiphas, though even afterwards, the Jews still considered him the high priest.

Caiphas was the ruling high priest from AD 18-36, appointed by Rome.

Annas and Caiphas had made the priesthood a prosperous business.

:2  the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

The word of God didn’t come to Annas and Caiaphas in the temple.  It came to John in the wilderness.

It’s been a long time since there was a prophet, something like 400 years.  It reminds me of the time of Samuel:

(1 Sam 3:1 NASB)  Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.

God is looking to use those who will be open to Him.

:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

all the country about Jordan – it’s possible that John chose this area because he will be identified in some fashion with Elijah, and it was here that Elijah spent his last moments on earth, near the Jordan and near Jericho, before being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire (2Ki. 2:1-13).


When a non-Jew wanted to become a Jew, he would not only have to be circumcised and offer a sacrifice, but he would be baptized as well.

In a sense, baptism was a way of a person identifying with the message that was being given.  To be baptized by John meant that you were going along with the things John was saying.

John didn’t have any “church” for people to join, and the people he baptized were already Jewish, yet in a sense he was acting to bring the people back to the heart of Judaism.

of repentance

repentancemetanoia a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done.

The idea here is that the “baptism” was a way of showing a person’s “repentance”.

for the remission of sins

remissionaphesis release from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty

The idea is that when a person is truly repentant, they will receive forgiveness.

It’s not the baptism that brings forgiveness, it’s the repentance.

:4  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

This is quoting from Isaiah 40:3-4.

The picture is that of getting things ready for the coming of a king.  The idea is to fix the roads and spruce things up for the king.

John didn’t come to prepare an actual road, but to prepare hearts.

:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

The roads might be leveled out for a visiting king, filling in valleys and moving mountains.

Spiritually, it speaks of taking the lofty, proud people down, and bringing up the lowly, humble people.

We’re going to see these things in John’s message.


Are you ready for the King?

If your heart is lifted up with pride, you’re going to have a problem.
God may need to bring you down a few notches.
If your heart is too depressed, you’re going to need to be lifted up a little.

:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

The salvation of God is in Jesus.

:7-14  John’s message

:7  O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

warnedhupodeiknumi to show by placing under (i.e. before) the eyes.  Who made it so obvious to you???

Vipers – snakes.  It doesn’t sound to me like John was a very tactful person.

Do you think that Jesus was a little sweeter?  He said to the scribes and Pharisees:

(Mat 23:33 KJV)  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance

He is telling the people that if they are truly repentant on the inside over their sins, then it will show up by their outward actions.

People can get caught up in the emotions of a meeting.  God doesn’t care as much for your emotions as much as He does for a true change in you.


God is immensely practical.

Sometimes we can get the idea that being “religious” is just some kind of attitude, or that it’s something that we can just reserve for Sunday mornings.
In God’s sight, if you are truly getting to know Him, you are going to find that He will begin to change just about every aspect of your life.

:8  and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father:

Don’t be too proud of your spiritual heritage.  It means nothing to God if you don’t have a personal relationship with Him.

:9 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Unproductive trees are cut down.

The warning is to the people to bring forth good fruit.

There is a kind of paradox here.

Your outer actions don’t save you.  Being a part of the nation of Israel doesn’t save you.  Only inner repentance saves you.
But inner repentance isn’t genuine if it isn’t reflected by outer actions.

:10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

The people want to know what genuine repentance is going to look like.  They want to know what “fruit” looks like.  John is going to give them practical answers.

Keep in mind, these outer actions wouldn’t mean anything if there were no inner change.

:11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

This is very parallel to the passage we’ve been looking at in Isaiah 58:

(Isa 58:6-7 NASB)  "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? {7} "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

The word “divide” (Is. 58:7) means to “break in two”.  In Isaiah 58, the “true fast”, the kind of religious things that God desires, are very practical, sharing what you have with others.

A word of caution from Sunday morning – the phrase “hide yourself from your own flesh” (Is. 58:7) seems to speak about neglecting the needs of your own “kin”, your own family.

Sometimes we can get zealous about meeting the needs of others, but end up neglecting our own family.  God wants you to meet your family’s needs.

:12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

publicans – these were Jewish tax collectors who worked for Rome.  They were required by Rome to collect a certain amount from each person, but were also allowed to require people to pay whatever more then felt like charging.  They were then allowed to keep everything above what they were required to hand over to Rome.  They weren’t very well liked by the common Jewish person.

I wonder if the “publicans” of our day are wondering what they ought to do?  Would they even know who they could come and talk to?

:13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

appointeddiatasso to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order

It wasn’t wrong for these tax collectors to collect taxes.  It wasn’t wrong for them to earn an income to support their families.  But it was wrong to go over what was fair just to make a buck.


Be careful about wanting to be rich.

(1 Tim 6:9-10 NLT)  But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. {10} For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
How many of us have heard things like, “Rich people aren’t truly happy”, or, “True happiness isn’t found in money”.

Yet does that stop us from wondering what we would do if WE were worth a million dollars?

A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie. The genie says, “Thank you for freeing me from the bottle.  In return I will grant you three wishes.” The man says “Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want.  First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account.” Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand. He continues, “Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here.”  Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him.  He continues, “Finally, I want to be irresistible to women.” Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.