The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry[a]
The Ministry of John the Baptist. 1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias[b] was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,[c] the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He journeyed throughout the entire region of the Jordan valley, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
and every mountain and hill shall be leveled;
the winding roads shall be straightened
and the rough paths made smooth,
6 and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
7 He admonished the crowds who came out to be baptized by him: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Produce good fruits as proof of your repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 9 Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 When the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 he said to them in reply, “Anyone who has two coats must share with the person who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors were coming to him to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He answered them, “Cease collecting more than the amount prescribed.” 14 Some soldiers also asked him, “What about us? What should we do?” He replied, “Do not extort money from anyone, do not falsely accuse or threaten anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
15 As the people began to experience a feeling of expectancy, they all wondered in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. 16 John answered, telling them all: “I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is more powerful than I am. I am not worthy to loosen the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
19 But Herod the tetrarch, after having been rebuked by John because of his affair with Herodias, his brother’s wife, in addition to all the other evil deeds he had done, 20 added still this, that he put John in prison.[d]
21 The Baptism of Jesus.[e] After John had baptized all the people, and while Jesus was engaged in prayer after also having been baptized, heaven opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein, the son of Josech,
the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan,
the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua,
the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah,
the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David,
32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab,
the son of Admin,
the son of Arni, the son of Hezron,
the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah,
36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem, the son of Noah,
the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel,
the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.
- Luke 3:1 The word of God finds expression in the history of humankind. By listing the many temporal rulers and religious authorities, Luke enables us to date John’s activity as occurring between the fall of A.D. 27 and Passover of 28. But he also wants to contrast these earthly rulers and religious authorities with the sovereignty and authority of Jesus. The deeper movement of history does not take place at the level of official appearances; in fact, it is Jesus who is fulfilling the destiny of the world by giving history its true meaning.
Luke sums up in a single passage all the information that he intends to offer on the work of John. More than the other evangelists, he stresses the point that salvation is offered to everyone; in his citation of Isaiah he highlights the final verse, thereby underscoring the thought that the new age is meant for the authentic children of Abraham and not solely for the chosen people. At the end of the passage he immediately jumps ahead to the imprisonment of John, of which Mark and Matthew speak at a later point and at greater length (Mt 14:1-12; Mk 6:14-29). His intention is to make a clear distinction between the Jesus movement and the Johannine movement: when the time of Christ begins, that of John, the forerunner, is finished.
- Luke 3:1 Lysanias: an unknown governor. Abilene: a region northeast of Damascus.
- Luke 3:2 Caiaphas was the current high priest (A.D. 18–36). Annas, that is, Ananiah, had preceded him from 5 B.C. to A.D. 15. He is named here because he still exercised considerable influence.
- Luke 3:20 John’s imprisonment occurred sometime after the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (see Jn 3:22-24). Luke mentions it here to bring his section on John’s ministry to a conclusion before starting his account of that of Jesus (see also Mt 4:12; Mk 1:14). Later he alludes to John’s death (Lk 9:7-9). See also note on Mk 1:14.
- Luke 3:21 Jesus here shows himself to be in solidarity with sinners by receiving the bath of repentance. But a unique event also takes place: The Messiah receives his investiture from heaven. The Holy Spirit will be present in him (see Isa 11:2); over him are pronounced the words used in consecrating kings (Ps 2:7), but here they attest that he is the Son of God in a sense hitherto unsuspected (see Lk 1:35).
- Luke 3:23 Luke gives a genealogy that is meant not as a historical document but as the assertion of a legal status. Jesus is linked to Joseph, even though it was known that the link was not one of blood; the reason for doing so is that at that time only men and not women had rights. The genealogy then moves back to David, without following the line of kings. From that point it continues again, not only as far as Abraham, but—and this is the chief novelty of the passage—as far as Adam, who comes from the hand of God. Luke’s intention is to stress the point that Jesus belongs not only to the chosen people but to the entire human race, which he has come to save.
Whereas Matthew specifically mentions three groups of 14 generations, Luke lists 77 names, according to a scheme of sevens. From the beginning of the human race until Jesus there are eleven series of seven (11 x 7). Jesus comes as Messiah in the eschatological stage of history (see 4 Esdras 14:11).
- Luke 3:23 It may be helpful to record another interpretation of the difference between this genealogy and that of Matthew: in virtue of the law of the levirate, Joseph (it is said) had two fathers, one biological (Jacob), the other legal (Heli); thus two different lists are used as far back as Shealtiel.