Sun, Jan 28, 2007
THE OBEDIENT SON OF GOD
Luke 3.21-4.13 by Lee Tankersley

Any time you approach preaching through a book of the Bible you have to decide how you divide the book, that is, what will be your preaching outline. And it’s a great challenge. There have been times when I have turned to study the next text and thought, “Why did I group all of these sections together?” or “Why did I leave myself only these few verses?” In fact, some of you think these things as well on my behalf. And I can tell you do when you come to me before Sunday and say, “I’ve been wondering what in the world you’re going to do with this text.”

Well, this discussion brings us to our text this morning because it’s obvious that this morning’s text is a combination of three clearly divided sections. First, in 3:21-22 we have the baptism of Jesus, followed in 3:23-38 by the genealogy of Jesus, and then the temptation of Jesus in 4:1-13. And some may be wondering why we are looking at all three sections together. Some have no doubt anticipated giving me a hard time about trying to avoid preaching a genealogy by grouping it with two other sections, but that’s not the case. Rather, I hope that by the end of this morning we’ll see why these three sections are taken together. In fact, I believe Luke wants us to read each of these three sections together as a unit because they tell us something about the person and work of Christ. In fact, one of the themes that unites these three sections is the repetition of on being the Son of God. We see it in 3:22 as God speaks from heaven about Jesus’ baptism. We see it again as the genealogy ends with the words, “son the son of Adam, the son of God” (3:38). And finally we hear it twice in the temptation section as Satan begins his challenge to the Christ saying, “If you are the Son of God …” (4:3, 9).

Therefore, I think we’ll see that there is a reason Luke organizes these sections back-to-back, holding off the genealogy of Jesus, for example, to this point. But why does he do it? I think the answer is that Luke is showing us something about the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is showing us who Jesus is and what he is doing (and indeed must do for us to be saved). Thus, I want us now to turn to examining these details in the text.

As aforementioned, the first section of our text this morning begins with two verses about Jesus’ baptism. Luke writes, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (3:21-22).

Now there are questions that arise when we think of Jesus being baptized. After all, we just said last week that John’s baptism would have served as a public testimony to the fact that one was unclean and in need of the forgiveness that would come through Christ. However, Jesus had done nothing wrong, so why would he be baptized?

I think there are a few reasons why Jesus would be baptized. For one, his baptism shows approval for what John is doing and is preaching. When somebody like Jesus of Nazareth, who Luke has already told us that he impressed the teachers in the temple and had grown in favor with man, comes to be baptized by John, it gives credence to what John is doing. But the greater reason is because this is what righteous obedience demanded of Jesus before the Father. He tells John that in Matthew’s account, saying that this was fitting to fulfill all righteousness. For some reason this is what obedience before God demanded. Perhaps even as obedience would demand that Jesus die for the sins of his people on a cross, so now obedience demanded that he identify himself with those whom he was coming to save. Perhaps, even as Jesus would take our sins on the cross, so now he is demonstrating what would happen. He would take up that sin and punishment that belonged to us. It could be that this is the reason why Jesus is baptized.

But I don’t want us to get caught up in asking that question because I don’t think that’s the intent of this text. In fact, when you compare Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism to the account of Matthew, what’s obvious is how quickly Luke addresses it. Luke simply notes what happened “when Jesus … had been baptized.” He writes, “”When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying …” and then moves us to this main point he wants us to see. It’s as if Luke is saying, “Yes, there is much we could talk about here, but I want to focus us on what happened when Jesus was baptized and was praying, and it is this: “The heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (3:21-22).

What then is Luke showing us? Well, when we consider that what immediately follows our section is Jesus beginning his public ministry, I think what Luke is showing us is that God is testifying before men as to who Jesus is and anointing him with the Spirit and with power to fulfill his ministry.

God declares Jesus is his Son and anoints him with the Spirit (3:21-22)

In a book which has spent much time providing testimony as to who Jesus is, Luke saves the best for last, if you will. As Jesus is baptized by John and is praying (no doubt aware that God is about to testify to him) the heavens open and two things happen. First, the Spirit descends upon Jesus in bodily form, like a dove.

That which marked out God’s chosen vessels for tasks in the Old Testament was the Spirit coming upon them. In the Old Testament the Spirit is not working in the exact same way he does in the New Testament. In the Old Testament the Spirit does not indwell every believer as he does in the New Testament. That is something that is fulfilled only after Jesus is glorified. But there were a select few whom God would put his Spirit on as an act of anointing them for a task. The Spirit was upon Moses to serve as the prophet of God’s people, the same is true of Samuel, serving as a prophet and priest. And even Saul had God’s Spirit upon him. In fact, the way God displayed that Saul was no longer the one to serve as his king was by taking the Spirit from him. And the way he showed that he had chosen David was by allowing the Spirit to come upon him. Again, only a select few individuals in the Old Testament had the Spirit given to them to anoint them for service.

However, there was anticipation of a savior coming, the servant of God who would save God’s people. We’ve said already in our study through this book that he must be Abraham’s son, be David’s son, be born of a virgin, be born in Bethlehem, and live forever. Luke has testified to these things in the life of Jesus. But one thing that was equally anticipated of God’s servant who would serve as a savior of his people is that he would be anointed with the Spirit of God. God declares of this servant in Isaiah 42:1-4, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.”

Clearly this one spoken of is great, being able to bring justice to the nations and establishing justice in the earth. But again, what must be true of him is that God has put his Spirit upon him. How would God perform such an anointing? It appears that Luke’s answer is: God did it at Jesus’ baptism. No doubt the Spirit was upon Jesus prior to this, but on this occasion God publicly displayed the Spirit-anointing of Jesus so that men my see that he is God’s chosen servant. And by publicly anointing Jesus with the Spirit he empowered him for ministry, even as Luke will later tell us through the mouth of Peter as he proclaimed, “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:37-38).

Then, in case anyone has missed God’s testimony to Jesus as his servant, a voice comes from heaven as God himself speaks, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” God had identified Jesus as the one who is his Son, the one in whom he delights. Again, we remember from Isaiah 42 that God had referred to his servant as the “one in whom my soul delights.” Therefore, Luke wants us to see in verses 3:21-22 that Jesus is nothing less than the Spirit-anointed servant and Son of God in whom his souls delights. God testifies to Jesus before he begins his public ministry.

Then, however, Luke begins Jesus’ genealogy over the next sixteen verses. Matthew also records Jesus’ genealogy, showing us that Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David, as the Messiah must be. Well, Luke shows us the same, nothing that Jesus came from the line of David and the line of Abraham. But what’s interesting about Luke’s genealogy when compared with Matthew’s is that whereas Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus only goes back to Abraham, Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Adam, the first man, who had no human father. Therefore, Luke ends the genealogy writing “the son of Adam, the son of God.”

When we hear the words, “Adam, the son of God” it should bring grief to our hearts. For, as we mentioned a few weeks back, to be the son of one as much of a functional label as anything. The son was to function as a reflection and resemblance of his father. Therefore, as God made Adam, his son if you will, and made him in his own image, Adam was to serve as king over all the earth in God’s place. He was to reflect God’s glory to the world. This is why Paul will later write to the Corinthians that man “is the image and glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7). Yet Adam sadly failed to reflect God’s glory. Instead, he disobeyed him, eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

From that point forward Adam was corrupt, and all who were born after him were corrupt as well, even as Paul writes in Romans 5, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin … as one trespass led to condemnation for all men … [and] for as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (vv. 12, 18-19). Therefore, a reminder that Adam was God’s son is a saddening reminder. But why does Luke give us this note?

I think it’s because he is showing us something about Jesus. You see, first Jesus is proclaimed the “son of God” in 3:22, and then Adam is declared “son of God” in 3:38. And we know the role Adam played for us. He represented all those in him (namely, every person born from man) before God and sinned so that condemnation came to all of us. And yet now we have another one who is spoken of as God’s son who though he is fully human, born of the virgin, is not corrupt with Adam’s sin. Luke is showing us, I believe, that just as Adam represented all those in him (i.e., those who would come from him) before God so God has provided one who will represent all those in him before God.

Jesus is our representative before the Father (3:23-38)

I think this is exactly why Luke moves us from the Father’s words, “This is my beloved son” to the genealogy in which he notes that Adam was the son of God. He is reminding us that Adam has failed as our representative but that God has provided another to represent us before him. He has given us a second Adam, Jesus of Nazareth. He is God’s son, the Spirit-anointed Messiah. He is our representative before the Father.

Therefore if we have understood what Luke is communicating to us in this text accurately, then the obvious question we should have next is, “Then how did he do at representing and reflecting God? Did he obey God or fall prey to the temptations of the evil one?” And I believe we have understood what Luke is saying correctly because Luke moves us immediately from this odd-placed genealogy to the temptation of Jesus.

In 4:1-13 Luke gives us the temptation of Jesus. After the Sprit comes upon Jesus at his baptism he leads him into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. Luke also adds that during those forty days Jesus ate nothing and was hungry when those days were ended. Therefore, Satan seizes the moment to tempt him.

Now, first of all we can compare the settings in which Adam and Jesus were tempted. Adam was in a garden where he had everything he needed. He was well-taken care of, and there is no mention that he had gone without food. He was in paradise with everything great around him. Jesus is in the wilderness, is hungry, has gone without food for forty days, and was alone. And the enemy attacks.

Satan tempts Jesus with three specific temptations. First, Luke writes, “The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread’” (4:3). Now, at first it might seem that this would not be sin at all. After all, Jesus would later perform a miracle to turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed 5,000 people and have much left over. So, why would turning a stone into bread be sin?

But I think focusing merely on that act misses what was going on here. Notice that God had declared Jesus to be his Son, placed his Spirit on him, and then led him into the wilderness where he had fasted forty days. That is, notice that God was leading Jesus to do everything he had done to this point. Jesus wasn’t merely wondering out on his own. He had arrived at this point where Satan is tempting him by obeying the Father under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So I think that highlights what Satan is saying here. By saying, “If you’re the Son of God, turn this stone into bread” Satan is saying, “Doubt God’s provision. He may testify to the fact that you’re his Son. But now obedience to him has left you hungry. God’s not caring for you like you could care for yourself. God is leaving you without basic needs. That’s what following God’s leadership and the Spirit’s guidance has led to, Jesus.”

Jesus responds, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’” (4:4). What’s interesting about this response is not simply that Jesus quotes Scripture but that he quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. And what’s interesting about that is that Deuteronomy 8 is a chapter in which God is saying to the Israelites, “I have brought you thus far, trust me to provide for you there. Do not forget your dependence on me.” Therefore, with that in mind Jesus answers Satan by saying, “I have a greater need than bread. I need to depend on and obey and trust God’s Word, knowing he’ll provide what I need as I obey him.”

What a lesson for us. Isn’t it easy to think that our priority focus must be finding a way to make sure all will be well in our lives, that we’ll have everything we need? But Jesus says we have needs greater than the basic things for life. We need to obey, depend on, and trust God. In fact, in Matthew 6:33 Jesus will tell us not to consume ourselves with our needs but to make our priority how to expand and build up the kingdom of God, and we can know he’ll provide what we need. Jesus is illustrating that obedience in this temptation. Therefore, let us begin to ask, “What does obedience before God mean?” instead of “How will this work out for me?” Our job is to obey and trust God’s Word. He will give us what we need.

Then another temptation comes. Luke writes, “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. I you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (4:5-7).

Satan says to Jesus, “Look, simply break away from your devotion and worship to God and worship me. If you do, I’ll give you all the earth.” Now, we could debate whether Satan had the authority to make this offer, but perhaps we should hold off on that a minute. Satan was saying to Jesus, “You can go the route laid out by your Father, or you can simply worship me.”

You see, for Jesus obedience to God meant that he would ultimately die on the cross. There would be much suffering for the Son. Again, Satan is trying to get Jesus to turn from the suffering that comes with obeying God while holding out the promise of the earth.

Now, let’s look at whether Satan can really make this offer. He is called the “god of this age,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and the “ruler of this world.” However, he also is one who is limited by God, evidenced even from the story of Job where Satan must ask permission to do anything. It seems, therefore, that even though Satan’s power is great, this offer to Jesus was a puff of smoke.

And Jesus answers, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13 saying to Satan that his allegiance is to God alone. That is, I will serve him and trust him to do whatever is best. And we know what God planned to do. He had already made it known years earlier as the psalmist had written of God speaking to his son in Psalm 2:7-8, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the ends of the earth our possession.”

God’s goal throughout and before history was to give all the earth to his Son. Everything that has been created has been created by, through, and for him, including the earth. Therefore, what Satan was offering Jesus was not real and meant disobedience before God while obedience to God, while it meant suffering, also meant the reality all authority. Therefore, it is fun to imagine Satan’s thoughts as Jesus says to his disciples after the resurrection, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). That’s the result of obedience before God.

And again, is this not a lesson for us? How easy is it for us to be deceived into thinking there is greater gain in disobedience to God than obedience? How easy is it to think we are wiser than God? The man who commits adultery falls prey to this thinking. He thinks there will be greater pleasure in that act than in obedience. The person who cheats or steals thinks the same. So with the person who lies. In fact, every sin is our attempt at being wiser than God, thinking we know what is best for us. Each time we sin we say, “Yes, we do want that,” and then when we run to it, it is like a cloud of smoke disappearing in our midst while God offers us real joy. Therefore, let us trust God to hold out our greatest good as we obey him.

Finally, Luke writes, “And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone”’” (4:9-11).

At this point Satan decides that he will quote Scripture as well. He points out that Scripture speaks of God’s care for the Messiah. So he says, “Throw yourself down off this temple and let God illustrate.”

Now, at first, it may seem that there is nothing wrong here. After all, this is what Scripture says. However, we need to see that it reflects a lack of faith in the promises of God. Instead of saying, “God, I’m going to obey and I trust you will care for me” throwing himself off the temple would have said, “God, I am going to make you prove it, for I don’t really believe.” It would be to test God even as the Israelites did in the wilderness as they cried out for greater provision after God had sent them manna.

Therefore, Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (4:12). Again Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6, the wilderness wonderings. He says, in essence, I will not show my disbelief in God as the Israelites did in the wilderness, testing him with their “Prove your care to me attitude” but will simply trust him to care for me as I obey him.

And again for us, this is a good reminder that God’s promises are true. Resist the temptation to want proof from God, just trust and obey him, even when you can’t see what’s in front of you. After all, to do otherwise would be nothing less than disbelief in the word of God.

But the priority of this text is not necessarily how we can fight temptation. Rather, Luke is showing us that as our representative before God, even as Adam as, Jesus is obedient.

Unlike Adam, Jesus is obedient before God as our representative (4:1-13)

Whereas Adam had sinned in the garden and Israel had sinned in the wilderness (both called God’s “son”) Jesus is the true Son, and Luke wants us to know that he was obedient before God in every way.

See, just as we need Jesus to pay for our sins, we equally need him to be righteous for us. When we place our faith in him, not only is his payment for our sins applied to us, but his righteous life is credited to us. We need both to be justified before God. We need Jesus to be obedient as our representative before God, and he was indeed obedient, resisting sin and obeying God.

Luke ends the section, writing, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time” (4:13). Thankfully, though Satan came to tempt him again and again, the result was always the same. Satan was defeated and the Son obeyed his Father. And we should be thankful because though we battle against sin, we must all admit that we sin, and we need one to be righteous for us. Jesus is that one. He is God’s Son. He is our representative. And he was obedient before God.

Let us then celebrate who Jesus is and what he did as we come to the table. Amen.