Tonight, several youth groups in and around Wichita will be convening on Wichita State campus for a lock-in. From 10PM tonight until 6AM tomorrow morning, these youth groups will have be locked in to play, eat, and fellowship with each other. Among the activities scheduled will be basketball, pool, air hockey, racket ball, possibly some Guitar Hero or Rock Band on the X-Box 360 – typical youth group activities.
It seems appropriate that the day Kim and I accompany the youth on the lock-in is the day we get to the beginning of John the Baptists ministry. Even before conception John was “locked in” to his calling. He was to be the one who was to prepare the way for the Lord (cf. Luke 1.17). And now in Luke 3, John is locked in to begin his ministry as a voice crying in the wilderness.
The Historical Setting
As is his custom, Luke couches this account in a real historical setting. The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar most scholars agree is AD 27-28. It is AD 27 if Luke goes by one calendar and AD 28 if he goes by a Roman calendar. At any rate, all the men were reigning in their respective capacities when John begin preaching in the wilderness. Coincidently, every name on this list (v.1-2) has been confirmed by archaeology lending further credence to the historical reliability of this gospel. Luke records true history and his meticulousness concerning historical matters should bolster his accounts concerning the miracles, signs, wonders, and claims performed and made by Jesus and his disciples. Luke recorded accurately real historical events that surrounded a Nazarene named Jesus in the first century AD. And if these accounts are true, and the claims made by Jesus are true, supported by an historical resurrection proving that Jesus was (and is) who he claimed he was (namely, the Son of God), then Luke’s gospel holds heavy implications for every person on the face of the planet.
The Prophet and His Message
Onto the stage of history steps one of the most charasmatic and odd characters: John the Baptist. Luke spends no time discussing his appetite or wardrobe but you can check Matthew 3.4-6 or Mark 1.6 for this information. Luke drives right to the point of John and his ministry. After centuries of silence from heaven, God is once again bringing his word to mankind. Luke uses some of the same language used of the Old Testement prophets concerning when they got their message (i.e. attaching a time in history to it) and from whence their message came (that is, God). Compare the language of Luke in verses 1-2 with Isaiah 1.1; Jeremiah 1.1-3; Amos 1.1, etc. John is a prophet after the order of the Old Testament prophets and Luke brings that to light superbly.
He preaches a message of repentance and baptizes for (Gk. eis, or unto, for) the remission of sins. Most people say John’s baptism was unto Jesus’ baptism which I don’t really understand. What I know was that these people’s sins were forgiven by God. This was manditory for the generation John preached to in order that he might prepare them for the one who was to come after him. The person subjecting themselves to John’s baptism needed to repent, that is turn from their life of sin to God, and receive baptism to obtain forgiveness from God.
However, John’s baptism must not be confused with the “one baptism” of Christianity. John’s purpose was to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord and the salvation he brought. It should also be noted that these people who received John’s baptism did not receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it was necessary for Paul to baptize the disciples he found in Ephesus into the name of (or into the possession of) the Lord Jesus (see Acts 19.1ff) because they had not received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28.18-20, the baptism he commands (into the possession of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) takes presidence over the baptism of John. Now that the people are ready, reap the harvest. Perhaps someone else can clarify this even more.
All of this, John’s coming, preaching, and baptizing, were in conjuction with the word of God previously spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Luke, as well as all the other gospel writer, perfectly interpret the prophecy of Isaiah for us, telling us John is final fulfillment of the word spoken by Isaiah. Luke, though, quotes more of this passage than the other writers in order to emphasize the universality of the salvation Jesus brought with him. It was and is for “all mankind.”
The coming of John demonstrates for us the faithfulness of God to his people. For centuries, the Israelites have been waiting for the coming of the Lord. And just as God said it would happen, he sends them a prophet in the succession of the great prophets of Israel with the word of God in mouth and heart. John the baptist is on the scene commanding repentance and baptism to make ready a people for the Lord.