Series: Jesus’s Preparation For Ministry (3:1-4:13)
How can we be sure that Jesus is the Messiah?
It’s a question people have been asking for 2,000 years. Part of what Luke wants to do in this gospel is to show people that Jesus is the Messiah.
In the last passage, the people were wondering if John the Baptist was the Messiah. John told them that one much greater than he was coming.
Now, here, Jesus appears on the scene. But how do we know that He is the real Messiah? Others had claimed to be the Messiah. Luke presents us with two certificates of authentication.
THE DIVINE CERTIFICATION OF JESUS (3:21-22)
Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
21 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν, καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος [being baptized, βαπτίζω, VAPP, SGM], καὶ προσευχομένου, ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανόν [heaven was opened],
Luke 3:22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
22 καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον σωματικῷ [bodily, σωματικός, JDSN] εἴδει [form, εἶδος, NDSN] ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν ἐπʼ αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι, λέγουσαν, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ [in You] ἠυδόκησα [I am well-pleased, εὐδοκέω, VAAI1S].
Notice that Luke, unlike Matthew, barely mentions Jesus’s baptism. In Matthew, we read about how John the Baptist refuses to baptize Jesus, and Jesus insists on being baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14).
Luke was more interested in the Divine confirmation from Heaven that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Notice the other two members of the Trinity are involved in the confirmation.
When politicians begin their run for office, they will often have another well-known politician come and speak on their behalf. For example, the outgoing president will travel around the country vouching for the candidate of their party.
Likewise, the Father and the Spirit make a rare appearance (of sorts) to vouch for their eternal friend in the Trinity—the Son, Jesus Christ.
1) The Holy Spirit’s Certification
“the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him”—
This does not mean that Jesus did not have the Spirit before this event. The Son and the Spirit have been in perfect fellowship for all eternity.
This is a public confirmation of Jesus by the Spirit. That is why the Spirit appeared in the shape of a dove, so that the people standing around could see His stamp of approval on the Son. Visible evidence.
But this was also prophetic evidence. In Isaiah 61, we read what Jesus will quote later in Luke (4:18)—
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek…(Isaiah 61:1)
The appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove on Jesus was a visual representation of the fulfillment of prophecy.
Jesus was no fake Messiah, He really was the promised One to come! This showed that God’s plan of salvation centered on Jesus.
The Holy Spirit confirmed Jesus as the Messiah, but the Father also confirmed Him as the Messiah—
2) The Father’s Certification.
“a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”
Wow! I would have loved to been there to hear God the Father speak from Heaven. Some folks get caught up with the idea that, if God really exists, then He should do something like speak from Heaven. Then they will believe!
But listen, God rarely does that. He only does something like that if He is working out something big in history. He spoke to Moses out of the burning bush when He had determined that it was time to free Israel from their bondage in Egypt.
He speaks here because He wanted to give His approval and confirmation on the ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Father would again confirm Jesus’s ministry with the same words later when Jesus was transfigured.
Why doesn’t God confirm Jesus like that to each and every person? He chooses not to, so that we would have need to trust Him. He wants us to have faith, and faith can only exist when we cannot physically see all the evidence. Paul would say, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Besides, having direct evidence of God’s existence is no guarantee that you will believe in Him. Jesus told the story of the rich man who went to Hell, and when the man begged that someone go warn his brothers of Hell, the response was, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
For us today, it’s the same. Do you believe what is written about Jesus in the Gospels? Do you believe the divinely certified Son of God?
Luke shows us the Divine Certification of Jesus, and he also shows us…
THE LEGAL CERTIFICATION OF JESUS (3:23-38)
Luke 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph [most people thought that Joseph was actually Jesus’s father], which was the son of Heli,
23 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ἀρχόμενος, ὢν [ὡς ἐνομίζετο] υἱός Ἰωσήφ, τοῦ Ἠλὶ,
Luke 3:24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph,
Luke 3:25 Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge,
Luke 3:26 Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda,
Luke 3:27 Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,
Luke 3:28 Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er,
Luke 3:29 Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi,
Luke 3:30 Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim,
Luke 3:31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan [instead of Solomon in Matthew], which was the son of David,
Luke 3:32 Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson,
Luke 3:33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,
Luke 3:34 Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham [Matthew’s genealogy begins here], which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,
Luke 3:35 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala,
Luke 3:36 Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech,
Luke 3:37 Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan,
Luke 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.
Why Are The Genealogies In Matthew and Luke Different?
First, let’s tackle the big problem with this genealogy: it’s vastly different from Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. For example, Luke says that Joseph was “the son of Heli,” while Matthew says that Joseph’s father was Jacob:
16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:16)
So which is it? Is Joseph’s father “Heli” as Luke says? Or is it “Jacob?”
And it’s not just the father of Joseph that’s different. The whole line between David and Joseph is different in Matthew and Luke. Matthew picks up with David’s son, Solomon, while Luke carries on with David’s son, Nathan. Why are they different?
A number of explanations have been proposed:
1) Luke was listing Mary’s side of the family and Matthew was listing Joseph’s side. This is probably the most common explanation among Christians. Why doesn’t Luke mention Mary’s name? One idea is that Mary had no brothers, so when she married Joseph, her father adopted Joseph as a son since he had none of his own.
2) Matthew was concerned about a legal or royal genealogy of Jesus, while Luke was listing the physical descendants.
The difference in fathers for Joseph could be explained by Levirate marriage, or even that they were half-brothers.
3) Other scholars simply admit that we don’t have enough information to explain the differences in the genealogy.
But whatever explanation you choose, what’s important to understand is that Luke and Matthew are not in contradiction with one another.
Think about it. Would the early Christians have allowed contradictory genealogies to be passed on? No. If Luke had included a false genealogy, they would have quickly refuted it.
The early Christians must have understood the reason that Luke and Matthew had different genealogies better than we do. That said, we can look at some of the differences between the genealogies and learn a few things.
The Unique Features Between Matthew And Luke’s Genealogies
1) Matthew starts with Abraham (because he was writing to a Jewish audience, he connects Jesus to the Jewish race), and in groups of fourteen, moves to David, then to the exile in Babylon, then to Christ. He moves from the past to the future.
Luke, on the other hand, starts with Jesus and works backward in time, but he doesn’t stop at Abraham (where Matthew starts), instead he goes all the back to Adam (thus connecting Jesus to the entire human race, not just Jews), and ends with these thrilling words, “the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
2) Matthew’s genealogy is very much focused on showing that Jesus is the son of David. You can’t miss it, he even begins with a reference to David before jumping back to Abraham: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Then, in the next sixteen verses, David is mentioned four more times.
However, Luke only mentions David once, because his genealogy is more focused on showing that Jesus is the Son of God. He “sandwiches” the genealogy with mentions of God.
In verse 22, the verse right before the genealogy, we have the Father speaking from Heaven and saying that Jesus is “my beloved Son.” The genealogy ends, as we just mentioned, with the words, “the son of God.”
What Is The Purpose Of Luke’s Genealogy?
Recently, one of my daughters asked if we could watch the movie about Secretariat, the racehorse that won the Triple Crown in 1973. That got me interested in horse racing (but not betting on horses!) and I started to read an online racing horse magazine.
I’ve learned a few things, and one of them is that just about everything you read about a race horse mentions something about his genealogy. I read, for example, about a horse named Smarty Jones, who very nearly won the Triple Crown in 2004. His sire was a horse named Elusive Quality, whose sire was Gone West, who came out of a mare named Secrettame, who is the daughter of Secretariat.
Horse racing enthusiasts are as interested in genealogies as the Jews were back in Bible times. Why? Because the genealogy is something of certification for the horse. Are they going to be good? The genealogy tells you.
Secretariat’s father was Bold Ruler, and was known for his speed. Secretariat’s mother was Somethingroyal, who was known for her stamina. That combination enabled Secretariat to win the Belmont Stakes by the yet unbroken record of 31 lengths and 2 and 3/5’s seconds.
That’s what Luke is doing here. The genealogy of Jesus that he gives us certifies Jesus as being the Son of God and the promised Messiah. Luke’s genealogy also connects Jesus with the entire human race by going back to Adam.
Finally, Luke’s genealogy places Jesus firmly in history. He isn’t a mythical figure or a fairy tale that someone made up. You can’t trace Snow White’s family tree—there ain’t one. But you can trace Jesus’s family tree, because He is a part of real history!
Race horses have papers that certify their pedigree, and in the same way, Luke’s genealogy is the paperwork that gives us the legal documentation that Jesus is the certified Messiah.
How do we know if Jesus is the Messiah? By looking at the evidence that the careful historian, Luke, shows us here. But how do we know that what Luke says is accurate?
Well, we can look the stacks of manuscripts that exist, we can consider the reasonable character of the writing, we can look at the positive effect that the Bible has had on people through the centuries.
We can look at all the physical evidence and still doubt. As we read earlier, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
How can we know for certain? Over in Hebrews 11, we find the definitive biblical answer: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Do you see what that is saying? We seen in Luke a divine certification of the Messiah from the Father and the Spirit. We’ve see a legal certification of the Messiah from His genealogy. But here in Hebrews, we see that faith is also a certification of the Messiah!
How can faith certify anything? The same way your eyes certify something that you see. One person put it this way:
Faith is a kind of spiritual “sixth sense”…The eye takes hold upon the light waves that pulsate through space and make real to a person the things he sees. The ear picks up the sound waves and translates them into hearing…
Faith reaches out into the spiritual dimension and gives form and substance to heavenly and spiritual realities in such a way that the soul can appreciate them and grasp them and live in the enjoyment of them. (John Phillips, Hebrews 11:1)
How do we get faith? By hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). In other words, God gives us faith when we respond to the invitation found in His word.
Adoniram Judson was the first American Baptist missionary to Burma in 1812. The first thing he set out to do was to learn the language and to translate the Bible. He knew that no one could come to faith without the Bible in some form.
One of the evangelism tactics he used was to sit outside his home and call out biblical invitations to people passing by on the road—“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1). If they responded, he’d share with them more of the Word of God.
Adoniram Judson understood that the Word of God was necessary for faith to be born, so he proclaimed it wherever he could, praying that it would fall on good soil.
If you don’t have faith in Christ today, or you feel that your faith is weak, I’d like to challenge you to go to the Word of God. Sit down sometime, shut out the distractions—mute the phone, etc.—and read, slowly and thoughtfully, the Gospel of Luke.
When faith comes, it will be like a light bulb coming on that says, “It’s true, it’s all true!” Faith will be your certification.
Phillips, John. Exploring Hebrews: An Expository Commentary. The John Phillips Commentary Series. Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009.