Luke 3-4

Luke opened his Gospel in a scholarly fashion. In Luke 1:1-4, he told Theophilus that he used sources and did research to present an orderly account of Jesus’ life and the events that had been fulfilled among them. Luke’s idea of fulfillment included Old Testament predictions of the Messiah. References to the Old Testament in Luke 3-4 authenticated Jesus as the devoted Son of God, the Messiah of Israel according to the expectations established in the storyline of Scripture.

(1) In Luke 3:4-6, Luke proposed that the ministry of John the Baptist fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a voice crying in the wilderness, one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. John prepared the way for the Messiah by filling the valleys, leveling the mountains, straightening the crooked paths, and smoothing the rough ways (Matt 3:1-6//Mark 1:2-6//Luke 3:1-6//John 1:19-23), metaphorical descriptions of how John’s preaching called people to rearrange their lives in accord with Isa 40:3-4. According to John, God’s gift of salvation was to be expressed in fruitful living—like generosity to those in need and fair government/business practices—as opposed to simply claiming a lineage to Abraham (Luke 3:7-14). John’s teaching was so profound that many thought he was the Messiah, but John said, “I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

(2) In Luke 3:23-38, Luke recorded the genealogy of Jesus so as to highlight Jesus’ messianic status. In accord with Matt 1:1-17, Luke wrote that Jesus’ line included such figures as David and Abraham. But Luke went further back than Matthew and traced Jesus’ lineage to Adam and God. Luke’s genealogy demonstrated that Jesus’ coming had an historical significance for all humanity.

(3) In Luke 4:1-12, Jesus employed the Old Testament to rebuke the Devil during the period of temptation in the wilderness. As in Matt 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13, Luke wrote that after John baptized Jesus, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. At each point of temptation, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6-8, Moses’ injunction for Israel to obey God in faithfulness. Jesus did not rebuke the Devil based on His powerful status as the Messiah by quoting Psalm 2, 45, or 110, but rather upon His humble attitude as Son, One utterly devoted to God the Father.

(4) In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus announced that Isa 61:1-2 had been fulfilled in His arrival. Having returned to the region of Galilee following the temptation experience in the Judean wilderness, Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth. One Sabbath when Jesus was at the synagogue, He found Isa 61:1-2 and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). As He read it, Jesus said that He had fulfilled the Scripture, but the people scoffed. They knew Jesus as the son of a carpenter, a commoner. Jesus responded by stating that just as God withheld blessing from Israel during the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17-18) and Elisha (2 Kings 5), God’s favor would be hidden from many in Israel during His ministry. This prospect so enraged the synagogue crowd in Nazareth that “they got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff” (Luke 4:29).