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Disc. Luke 3:15-22


Leader Guide

Participant Guide

Luke 3:15-22 –With the Holy Spirit and with Fire

Lesson Focus:

We are called to live into our baptism by sharing in Jesus’ mission to bring healing and salvation to our broken world.

Lesson Outcomes:

Through this lesson students should:

Recognize that in Jesus’ baptism he is confirmed as God’s Son who is to embark on God’s mission of redemption and salvation for the world.

Recognize that as Jesus has been sent through his baptism, so we have been sent through ours.

Seek to live into his or her baptism by finding ways to practically participate in Jesus’ mission of redemption and salvation for the world.

Catching up on the story:

John was the last of a long line of prophets who proclaimed God’s message to Israel prior to Jesus. For a long time, no prophets have spoken to Israel. John’s dress and his behavior indicated to those who heard and saw him his status as a prophet. Since there had been such a long time since Israel had seen a prophet he would have caused quite a stir. Which was indeed the case.

At this time Israel had been under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. The people of Israel often formed armed resistance groups to throw off the yoke of the Romans in an attempt to bring about a restoration of Israel as a kingdom. John’s proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is near would have conjured up visions of open rebellion against Rome. Current Jewish thought looked for a visitation of God’s wrath that would fall upon the Gentiles. Instead, John turns the wrath upon the Jews who will not repent.

Previously, John the Baptist has been about proclaiming the good news concerning the coming Messiah. He has also been about baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins so that they might be ready for the coming Messiah and begin to bear good fruit. John is very careful to remind his listeners that those who do not begin to bear good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. John is faithfully fulfilling his call to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Jesus will now make his first public appearance as an adult.

The Text:

Fire Not Water: 3:15-17

John has finished baptizing the people and has left them with a sense of awe and wonderment as to his true identity. The people wonder if John might truly be the one for whom they have waited, the Messiah. John very clearly states that he is not the one they have been waiting for; rather the one for whom they have been waiting is about to arrive.

He goes on to say that his baptism is one of water for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism was not unknown in John’s day. Indeed, it was practiced as a ritual for cleansing and purification. It was not a one-time event, as we understand baptism today, but a ritual that could be repeated. The one who is coming, however, is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Of course, baptism with the Holy Spirit will become significant in Luke’s follow up work, Acts. Because we know how the story continues, we can understand what John the Baptist is getting at. The Messiah will come and God’s Holy Spirit will fall on those who come to Jesus to cleanse and empower them. John the Baptist’s original audience knew of the Spirit of God, but the Spirit was given to specific people at specific times to accomplish God’s saving mission for Israel. In the Old Testament, we are told that the Spirit of God falls on people like Samson, David, Elijah and Elisha. The one who is coming will give the Spirit to all who believe.

Fire, on the other hand, here symbolizes purifying and cleansing. As we have said, Israel was expecting judgment, and fire, as Luke uses it with John, is a symbol of sweeping judgment. Only, there is a sense here that the judgment that Jesus’ baptism will bring is one that will be directed at those who claim to be religious but who fail to bear the kind of fruit John, and later Jesus, will talk about.

In Prison: 3:18-20

Here we have a narrative break in the action. The chronology might be a bit misleading, but Luke includes this snippet about John the Baptist being locked up by Herod as a way to wrap up this particular story line so that the focus could shift to Jesus. Just because Luke has placed this story here does not mean that John gets put in jail and then released to baptize Jesus. The major part that John has played in the Gospel so far has all but concluded. We now move on to the