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Ministry of John the Baptist: 3:1-20

We do another big jump, about 18 years.  Think of this like Part II of the gospel of Luke (if the introduction is left as an introduction and not a part).  Luke starts this next section of narrative like the others, giving us, the reader, a specific time and place in which the narrative is set. It seems tedious, but it is important for reminding us that this happen within history, and not apart from it, as a fiction. His insistence on specifics makes me wonder if some of the gospel accounts floating around in those days were being read and interpreted as fiction instead of as a history.

We start this section in seemingly the same places the Gospels of Mark and John start, with John the Baptist. We learn quite a bit about John here, although different things than the other gospels. We don’t learn a whole lot about what he wears or eats or even really where he spends the majority of his time (it tells us he traveled around the Jordan, and lived in the wilderness before that).  But we learn a lot about his theology, and what he was telling people. We even hear some echoes of his father Zechariah, specifically the idea of preparing ways for the Lord, which Zechariah refers to as the way of peace.  (read text here)   We hear about the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and we hear about the vision of level places, that echo the words of Isaiah. This fits well into the emerging theme of Luke addressing the inequality found in the Roman Empire and the profound ways that God is challenging the status quo (think King of Kings being born in a manger, in a barn).

Beyond theology, we also get some practical specifics, like sharing your extra coat or food, avoid fraud or exhortation or threats, and to be satisfied with what one has. Typical revolutionary language is the opposite of this, it seeks to be disruptive, and there were surely those that went into the desert thinking John the Baptist would give them encouragement to try and over throw the government, as the zealots were preaching at the time, but John is telling them to be satisfied with what they have, to share with one another the extra you have, to be kind to strangers. This would have been a shock to those dissatisfied with the Roman Empire. This is surely a very different path to the consolation of Israel then what the revolutionaries of Israel (the zealots and/or Maccabees, the multitudes proclaiming themselves messiahs) would have envisioned.  I am left to wonder how many would have been disappointed by the message of John the Baptist.


  1. Can Gospel’s message of a path of peace still be disappointing to some today?  If you were wishing for the change of an unjust system, would you be disappointed by leaders proclaiming things like “be satisfied with what you have” and “share with one another”?
  2. Why is John the Baptist so important to the Gospel narrative, important enough to be found in all 4 gospels?
  3. Why do you think Herod was so frightened of John the Baptist, specifically if we was preaching about being satisfied with what you have and sharing with one another?


Baptism of Jesus: 2:21-22

We hear nothing from Jesus, if anything this is a rather abrupt telling of Jesus’ baptism following the detailed narratives of Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, Simeon, Anna along with the nativity accounts of both Jesus and John the Baptist. Add on top of this how much we hear from John the Baptist in the preceding paragraphs, and one could almost miss Jesus’ baptism if one was reading too quickly.  No account of what John and Jesus said to each other, no account of John recognizing Jesus, or of John telling the people that Jesus is the one. Its almost as if Jesus is just another member of the crowds.  Luke also lacks details about who was able to hear the voice of God, was it only Jesus, could the whole crowd hear, could John hear?   And what would it look like to have the holy spirit come down like a dove? Would the people in attendance have been able to understand what the significance of the dove? Or would people just thought it was interesting that a dove showed up for that one guys baptism over there? We could just add the information from the other gospels to fill in the blanks, but Luke would have heard all the same stories, he could have added the detail if he wanted.


  1. Why didn’t Luke include all the details of the Baptism that are found in the other gospel accounts?
  2. What is the sparse nature of Luke’s account tell us about what Luke wants us to know about God and the way God interacts with the world?
  3. Based on your reading of all the gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, how would you tell this particular story?