Week of September 20
Jesus begins his earthly ministry, foreshadowed by the preaching of John, then led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness. After beginning his ministry, Jesus proclaims not only is he to be about preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, but that he is also proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.
Luke chapter 3 begins what we most often call the “earthly” ministry of Jesus.
John the Baptist serves as a precursor to the ministry of Jesus, calling people to repentance and baptism, before baptizing Jesus himself. It is during and because of this baptism that we see Jesus identified as the Son of God through both the descending of a dove on him and a voice (the voice of God) proclaiming him as God’s son.
Not only do these supernatural events identify Jesus as God’s son, but Luke can also point to the genealogy of Jesus as a proof of his “Son-ness.” Luke’s genealogy is backwards, starting with Jesus and working back to God and unlike Matthew’s version, the listing of fathers goes all the way back to God. (Matthew’s stops with Abraham.) Luke is showing, as has been mentioned, that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
Jesus is immediately taken full of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Notice that this was a divine action—the Spirit led him. Any time we see the Spirit in Luke-Acts, take notice. Luke is very careful to mention the action of God through the Spirit and so his inclusion in this and any story is not incidental, nor accidental.
While in the desert, Jesus fasts for forty days, an action common to individuals preparing for a big event, such as a life of public ministry. It is because of this fasting that at least the temptation of turning rocks into bread would have been a difficult one to overcome. (Notice Luke tells us Jesus was hungry.) This temptation may have been even greater than just the need for food. Imagine the accolades and followers Jesus would have received if he could give people food whenever he wanted to. This is probably why the people come to find him later in chapter 4 – he was providing them something they needed and wanted, that is, healing. The other two temptations fit in with this idea of Jesus proving himself powerful or perhaps spectacular. As Jesus begins his earthly ministry, is surely must have been a temptation to shortcut his way into gaining the following of the world through powers the people were impressed with as opposed to following the way of God. This is also why his response in Scripture is key: Jesus understood his role was not simply to gain followers, but for himself to follow what God called on him to do.
Jesus’ first teaching moment in the gospel of Luke gives us a preview as to the direction and understanding Jesus has of his earthly ministry. Rather than coming to affirm the religious folk, he has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In practical terms, this means the blind see, the oppressed are freed, etc. Jesus identifies himself as the one to provide this release for those who are oppressed. I believe there is much to be said about our own view as to how we go about following Jesus as his church when we examine carefully this passage.
Our section closes with two stories of Jesus actually going about doing some of the things he said he was going to do. First, he drives out a demon. Notice that the demon has a very clear understanding of who Jesus was. Everyone else may have a question, but the demon does not. Jesus also heals many, but emphasizes the importance of proclaiming the kingdom of God to everyone. While healing those who are sick is important, it is the result of the good news of the kingdom, not the cause of the kingdom. That kingdom is to be proclaimed, both by Jesus and by us, as well.
Every week our lessons will include seven questions (really question sets) that you may either pick and choose those questions that best suit your family unit, or you may use one question set for each day.
- We are told in Luke 3.3 that John went preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Why do you think this was the message he told the people? What other message might you have expected from someone like John? How does this message compare to what we read in Isaiah 40.3-5, quoted here? Why do you think it was easy for the people to assume John was the coming Messiah? What does there assumptions say about their expectations of the Messiah? (Luke 3.1-20)
- Compare Luke’s description of Jesus’ baptism with the other gospel writers. Why do you think Luke chose to tell of the baptism in this manner? Why do you think the dove came down upon Jesus? What might the purpose of this sign have been? Do you think it was a necessary sign or just an added bonus? Why? Notice that Luke does not say the voice from heaven was from God, but there is little doubt who was speaking. Why was this affirmation an important part of Luke’s story?(Luke 3.21-22)
- We normally find genealogies terribly boring. Why do you think Luke includes this genealogy here? What is unique about this genealogy and why is it important? What stands out to you in this list? (Luke 3.23-38)
- How comforting is it to you that Jesus was tempted? In what ways do you think these temptations were real struggles for Jesus? In what ways have you been tempted in ways that could be considered similar to Jesus’ own temptations? (Luke 4.1-13)
- What does the passage Jesus chose to read from Isaiah tell us about his understanding of his role on earth as Savior? Are you surprised to see these things listed? What might you have thought a better list of things for a Messiah to do on earth? In what ways can you be about some of the things Jesus has listed here? (Luke 4.14-30)
- Should we be surprised the demons that possessed the man found in this section knew who Jesus was? Why is it the demons have no trouble identifying the “Holy One of God” when his disciples and followers seem to miss who Jesus really is? Why do you think the people were amazed at Jesus’ words? What about them proved his authority and power? (Luke 4.31-37)
- Jesus demonstrates the power to heal those who are sick, but does not seem to focus solely on this act. Why do you think this was the case? Why did Jesus seek a solitary place? Why did the people seek to draw him back to their towns? What does it mean to you that Jesus sees his role to be proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns and peoples? When you look at the life of Jesus, how does the truth that he came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom affect how you see the kingdom of God? (Luke 4.38-44)
Every week this section will list possible activities you and your family unit can do. You may pick one or perhaps do several during the course of a week. All are intended to be suitable for any age.
- In what ways do we find a dove used in Scripture? How would the original readers of this gospel have understood the image of a dove, based on what you find.
- Look up other genealogies we find in Scripture and compare them to what we find in Luke 3.23-38. What similarities exist and what differences? Why do you think these are important?
- How does Jesus use Deuteronomy 6 and 8 to battle the temptations the devil throws at him? How do these passages that Jesus quotes compare to how they are originally used in the book of Deuteronomy?
- Use the prophecy of Jesus quoted by him in Luke 4.18-19 to draw a word picture of Jesus and his activities on earth. Use additional pictures, along with the descriptions we read from Isaiah.
- Make a list of passages that you can read and reread so as to give you a foundation to resist temptation in your own life. What passages mean the most to you as you face temptations? Why?
- In what ways does your life proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God? In what ways should your life proclaim this good news? What is one thing you can do this week to proclaim that good news more? Do it.
Find lessons, posts about the passages we are studying, and more information at 1homebiblestudy.org.
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This work by South Plains Church of Christ and Robert A. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.