Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Luke 3:4-16

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Luke 3:4-6

John's preaching fulfilled the vision of Isa. 40:3-5, which Luke quoted in these verses. The imagery comes from the ancient world's custom of preparing for the arrival of powerful leaders. The city's citizens would go out, expanding and smoothing out the roughness of the roads. This allowed for the visit to begin with greater ceremony and dignity. But the Lord's vision to Isaiah was far grander. Here was a super-highway being greater than has ever been seen before. This was fitting for the Lord's arrival and the spiritual upheaval it would bring as salvation came to the nations (2:26, 30). John called for the hearts of the people to be changed in preparation for his coming (1:17).

Luke 3:4

wilderness. Luke picked up the narrative thread from 1:80. Make ready. The essence of John's role as the Messiah's forerunner (1:17, 76; Acts 13:24).

Luke 3:5

Poetic expressions that point to the total removal of any obstacle to God's salvation for his people. The physical barriers also point to spiritual barriers. The humble and needy will be saved while the proud and idolatrous will be judged (see Isa. 2:6-22; 42:14-17; 57:14-17; 63:11-14).

Luke 3:6

Luke showed the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation (see 2:30-32; Matt. 28:18; Acts 10:34-43).

Luke 3:7-8

vipers. A non-specific word that includes a variety of poisonous snakes. The implication of John's statement is that some in ethnic Israel were living faithlessly as the Serpent's seed (see Gen. 3:15; Isa. 59:5; John 8:44). warned. Like snakes fleeing a burning pile of brush, these were coming for baptism to escape wrath (see Isa. 13:9; 30:27). But they were not sincere. They lacked faith and the fruits of true repentance. children of Abraham. Many of those who went to John had pride in their Jewish heritage and trusted in it to make them right before God (see John 8:39-40, 53). John's harsh message was meant to awaken people to their sin and need to trust God.

Luke 3:9

ax . . . root of the trees. Israel is often pictured as a tree in the Old Testament (see Isa. 10:33-34; Jer. 11:16-17; Joel 2:21-25). John said the tree was so rotted that the divine axe of judgment was lined up and ready to strike at the root (see 13:6-9; Isa. 10:34).

Luke 3:11-14

Genuine repentance is seen in changed behavior (see note on 3:3, 8). John gave specific instructions on what the fruit of repentance looked like.

Luke 3:11

True faith is evidenced by a concern for the poor (see Jam. 1:27). This was clear in the Old Testament (Job 31:16-20; Isa. 58:7; Ezek. 18:7) as a theme in Luke's Gospel (6:30; 12:33; 14:12-14; 16:9; 18:22). tunic. Garment worn against the skin under a cloak. One might wear two for extra warmth weather.

Luke 3:12

Tax collectors. Jews who worked for Rome to collect taxes. They were allowed to collect extra money for their own wages, but many collected far more than reasonable. This made them wealthy at the expense of others. Many despised them as thieves and betrayers of their own people, complicit with Roman oppression. They were considered outcasts to Jewish society (5:27-32; 7:34; 15:1; 18:9-14; 19:1-10).

Luke 3:14

soldiers. Probably local police who worked for Herod Antipas rather than Roman soldiers (see note on 3:1). John called them to balance their authority with compassion and not abuse their position.

Luke 3:16

Though some suspected John was the Christ (v. 15), he pointed away from himself to Jesus as the Christ. Specifically, he emphasized the greater ministry Jesus would have (see note on 1:31-33). powerful. An idea rooted in the Old Testament expectations for the Christ. God himself is a powerful redeemer (Deut. 10:17; Jer. 50:34), and he promises to give strength to Jesse's descendent (2 Sam. 22:33; Isa. 11:2). Jesus would be powerful because he was anointed by God's Spirit (vv. 21-22; Acts 10:38). sandals. The disciples of Jewish rabbis would often become like servants to the rabbis. However, those disciples were not expected to untie the rabbi's sandals. That was considered too demeaning even for a Hebrew slave. Such was the glory of Christ, that John considered himself unworthy the lowliest of tasks for him (see Acts 13:25). baptize . . . Holy Spirit and with fire. Not two, but one baptism. The Spirit and fire together are a reference to Isa. 4:4-5 where Israel was purified. Some were judged and others were made holy to be with God. This promised baptism accomplishes something similar. It would divide people into those who receive the Christ and those who reject him (see 12:49-53; 17:29-30). It brings judgment on some and purification for the others (see v. 17; Isa. 66:24; Joel 2:30; Mal. 4:1).

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